Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mind Over Matter?

We’ve all heard the phrase “mind over matter,” and we’ve all had moments when our mental powers were the only thing that got us to the end of a tough set. But in these desperate spots under a heavy bar, we have to ask: Was it really “mind over matter” that got us through – or something else?

Researchers wanted to find this out by looking at the effects of using attention span as a way to change the perceived difficulty of a workout. In other words, they wanted to see if changing the way that you use your attention span changes the levels of mental stress and perceived difficulty of a hard set, allowing for better performance and greater gains.

They found that although directing your attention outside of yourself is effective at increasing performance at low to moderate exercise intensities, it becomes less so as your body approaches its physical limits at greater intensity levels.

So here’s your FUSION FACTOID: The next time you’re about to load up a heavy bar and bust out a heavy set, take a realistic look at the situation and determine if you’re actually able to do the work, or if you’re just trying to convince yourself. To tell the difference, sit down for thirty seconds and close your eyes. If they spin or you feel burned out, your nervous system has reached its limit and no amount of mental trickery will get you safely through the set. The fact is, mental tricks work to get you in the gym and to get you momentum, but as you get more fatigued, they lose effectiveness. At this point, if you keep pushing yourself, you’ll get hurt. So know your limit, and bodybuild within it! Reject inappropriate mind-over-matter strategies. This will help keep you growing and prevent you from becoming an injury statistic.

Source: Lind E, Welch AS, Ekkekakis P. Do ‘mind over muscle’ strategies work? Examining the effects of attentional association and dissociation on exertional, affective and physiological responses to exercise. Sports Med. 2009;39(9):743-64.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Now that’s muscle memory.

Scientists have found the earliest evidence of animal muscle on 565 million-year-old rocks bearing the marks of animal locomotion. On Canada’s east coast, 150 kilometres south of St. John's, the fossilized trails of soft-bodied creatures predate modern animals by 30 million years. It’s suspected that even these earliest bodybuilders at one point had posters of Arnold on their bedroom walls.

Source: CBC News

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eating a medium pizza instead of an extra-large is not a diet

As bodybuilders, we know what it takes to diet down: dedication, eating clean and training hard. Of course, there are many different methods and styles of gettin’ it done. Just some examples include carb cycling vs. carb reduction, as well as no cardio vs. intervals vs. living on the treadmill. Though we debate over which is the “best” way, we can respect each other’s opinions.

But we have to draw the line somewhere, and I think I’ve found that line: the diet plan of Paul Mason, the fattest guy in the world. I recently came across this story in English tabloid The Sun

The article begins with an intriguing lead: “The world’s fattest man is set to reveal his weight-LOSS tips – as he writes his autobiography.” But here’s the line that really gets me: “He used to gorge on 20,000 calories a day – EIGHT times what the average man eats.”

Sure, this guy lost 280 pounds and is down to a slim and trim 700. But at that weight, just walking to the washroom has to burn some serious calories. So what insights can he offer? Forgive me, Paul Mason, but I think I’ll be spending my time eating protein and sweating instead of reading your book.

Posing for Wii posers

There are hundreds of video games out there – some good, some bad – but a new game for the Wii makes you wonder what the heck they were thinking. It’s called Muscle March, and it’s a Japanese hole-in-the-wall game in which you control bodybuilders who have to hit the proper bodybuilding poses to make it through – you guessed it – holes in the wall.

Here’s the official blurb:

The official Muscle March™ is a quirky Japanese action game stuffed full of macho bodybuilders. The all mighty protein powder has been stolen so it’s up to Tony and his muscle-bound crew to catch the thieves. Choose from a variety of perfectly molded superstars and bring these terrible villains to justice. As each thief attempts his escape, he will smash through walls while making a variety of poses. You must match these poses to fit through the holes and catch up to the thieves. The protein powder will be yours again!

Now, you know I love my protein powder, but this game looks horrible. At least it gave me a laugh. Hope it gives you one too.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Get Enough?

Did you know that the amount of time you should rest between sets depends on your specific training goals? It’s true. A new study by researchers in Brazil makes it clear that, depending on your goal, you want to alter the rest times between sets.

Researchers wanted to analyze the effects of taking different amounts of rest time between sets as a way of trying to get a specific training outcome – i.e., muscle growth, strength gains or enhanced endurance.

The researchers split subjects into groups and had them do a workout. The results of the study show that in terms of acute responses, with training loads of 50 to 90 percent of one-rep max (1RM), a rest period of 3 to 5 minutes was best because it allowed for more repetitions over more sets. It was found that 3 to 5 minutes of rest between sets also increased greater absolute strength, which was a function of the increased intensity of the training. In terms of power, subjects who did multiple sets with 3 to 5 minutes in between sets had higher levels of muscle power over those sets than people who waited only one minute between sets. The researchers also found that if muscle growth is the goal, 30 to 60 seconds is the best rest period, as it keeps growth hormone (GH) levels higher, and that 20-second to one-minute rest periods are best for endurance during high-intensity endurance exercise.

So here’s your FUSION FACTOID: When designing a training program, factor in your intra-workout rest times and design them to give you the biggest bang for your buck – muscle growth, strength gains or enhanced endurance. By both working and resting for the same goal, you’ll be one step closer to taking your physique to the next level!

Source: de Salles BF, Simão R, Miranda F, Novaes Jda S, Lemos A, Willardson JM. Rest interval between sets in strength training. Sports Med. 2009;39(9):765-77.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Professional Physique...Professional Genetics?

For decades, professional bodybuilders have sworn by genetics as the factor most responsible for success. Others, however, have rightly noted that performance-enhancing drugs have substantially contributed to professional physique development in the past decades.

Still, genetics are the overriding regulator of size, density, hardness and other muscular qualities, even if you use steroids and other performance-enhancing products, including supplements. In fact, you could say that there’s been a shift in our understanding of the body. No longer are we in a simple macronutrient mode in which we simply feed the body a generalized diet or give it a single training method. We’re now in the era of genetics.

This was recently confirmed by the development of new genetic-testing kits that have hit the market, promising individualized “genetic supplementation.” Beware these! Although legitimate genetic testing is being done, nothing is yet available to consumers. The science simply isn’t that developed yet.

Recent research at the University of Sydney confirms that many interacting genes are involved in athletic performance, and that the presence of one single gene isn’t meaningful or predictive of present athletic performance or future performance expectations.

So here’s your FUSION FACTOID: Your genetics are important, but they’re not the only game in town. The bottom line, at least for now, is that the science isn’t yet sufficiently developed to offer meaningful and reliable home scientific genetic tests. In other words, if you’re thinking about getting a genetic test – especially if it’s online or through the mail – don’t. Save your money and buy some protein instead. Those genes will make good use of it!

Source: Trent RJ, Yu B. The future of genetic research in exercise science and sports medicine. Med Sport Sci. 2009;54:187-195. [Epub 2009 Aug 17]