I hear a lot about "training to failure". Is this the approach I should be taking?
I am often saying that the one place that it is ok to "fail" is in the gym. Personally I am a fan of training to failure. How "hard" you work out or the amount of effort that you put into your training is also sometimes referred to as "intensity". If you have selected the right weight, and you are training hard enough, the last two or three reps in your set should be damned difficult. You will often feel the pain of the lactic acid build up, also sometimes referred to as the 'burn". This is not to be confused with the pain of injury. There is the pain of training until it hurts...or injurious pain. The pain of the burn and complete muscle fatigue is actually considered to be good pain" by bodybui9lders. If you complete your set of say 6-12 reps and it felt easy, then I'm afraid to say the weight you chose was too light. Don't baby yourself.
If you have selected the appropriate weight you should reach a point where you momentarily cannot do another repo. That point in bodybuilding is known as reaching 'failure" Whether you push yourself this hard is another topic of great controversy. However among champion bodybuilders and fitness competitors, there's no question-every set is taken to failure, or close to it.
That's why it's so handy to have a PT or a training partner-to keep you safe and spot you on that last one or two to ensure that you have totally maxed out.
I believe in training hard with high intensity, and that means often training to failure or just short of failure. I don't believe in stopping a set when I really feel that if I dig deep I can get three or four more reps out. Push yourself- you are supposed to be out of your comfort zone.
Although most bodybuilders train to failure the majority of the time, there's one more thing more important than going to failure- that is progressive resistance which I have often written about as the key to bodybuilding. Just because you didn't train to failure doesn't mean that your workout was somehow unproductive.
For example say you do Bulgarian split squats for 3 sets of 8 repetitions with 70 kg's on your back. If you stop short of failure on those three sets that fine. But what you MUST do is perform at least 9 or 10 reps with 70 kg's in your next workout. Then your next workout you build to 11-12. This way you are ensuring progressive resistance and above all else this is what makes muscles grow!
Are diuretics necessary in order to compete? And what exactly do they do?
Firstly diuretics are banned in most federations and aren't legal and certainly aren't necessary in order to get up on stage! Diuretics are drugs that promote the formation and excretion of urine. Clinically they are used in the treatment of hypertension, fluid retention, and congestive heart failure. Side-effects from their use include dehydration, hypertension, muscle cramps and electrolyte disturbances.
Athletes use diuretics in order to lose weight rapidly prior to competition in sports where weight limits are set, or in the case of bodybuilding to obtain that very hard, dry look. The use of diuretics can be used in combination with other techniques such as the use of the sauna, exercise in hot conditions and food and water restrictions 9again which a lot of bodybuilders practice leading up to a show). These practices may result in rapid dehydration and electrolyte in balance, which may be harmful to the bodybuilder, particularly if practiced on a regular basis. Diuretics are also used to aid the excretion or dilute the presence of illegal substances in the urine. The use of diuretics is banned by the IOC.
I have a nasty hamstring strain in my left hamstring and any kind of hamstring exercise seems to aggravate it. Any ideas on how I can make a quick recovery to hamstring training?
You don't mention whether you did this in the gym or playing a sport where hammy tears are common such as football, sprinting or hockey. There are a number of possible predisposing factors to a hamstring injury such as what I mention below:
• poor hamstring flexibility
• hamstring weakness-concentric or eccentric
• inadequate rehabilitation of previous injury
• reduced hamstring muscle endurance
• muscle imbalance (quads to hamstrings)
• lumbar joint stiffness
• sacroiliac stiffness
• increased neural tension
• inadequate/cold warm up
• Biomechanical factors such as excessive anterior tilt.
Really the only things I can suggest is immediate treatment largely by using the RICER protocol. Then stretching, which should begin with static stretches in order to encourage full range of pain-free movement. Then depending upon the appropriate time and severity of the injury, soft tissue techniques can be used in the treatment of hamstring strains.
Strengthening of the hamstring muscles in as essential component of rehabilitation and may be commenced immediately post injury. The functional level of the injury will determine the intensity and volume of the strengthening program that may initially be in the form of isometric exercises and progress to concentric exercises, then eccentric and then ultimately to a more functional strengthening program. I would be working closely with a doctor and rehab specialist and or physio to help sort you out and give you practical guidelines.
WILL HIGH REPETITIONS HELP ME BURN MORE FAT?
Really, I can't believe this question still gets asked. It is a myth that high reps burn more fat. In fact, quite the opposite is true. If a high lean mass means burning more fat at rest because of a higher basal metabolic rate, wouldn't you want to be using the rep range that builds the most muscle???
The actual performance of a repetition is not what burns fat. Calories are burned with every repetition, of course, but the fat burning process from weight training comes into play after the exercise from the increase in post workout calorie expenditure (EPOC) and the increase in BMR from having more lean muscle mass.
Weight training burns the most fat after the workout. Cardio training burns the most fat during the workout. The real fat burning value in weight training is the increased metabolic rate after the weight training workout, which has absolutely nothing to do with the number of repetitions that you perform. Building more lean mass increases your metabolic rate and keeping your repetitions in the 6-12 range appears to be the most efficient way to build lean mass.
What would your best 'blueprint" be for building maximum amount of muscle in minimum time?
Because program design is a science within itself and is such a complex subject what I would rather do is give you a list of excellent training resources that I can only urge you to read as I have. As you begin your quest for further knowledge, read the books with an open mind and never feel that you have to accept any one teaching uniquely completely or REJECT IT. Take what you feel is relevant to you and your unique goals and body type and test it.
Keep what works for you and throw away the rest!
The Poliquin Principles by Charles Poliquin
Modern Trends in Strength Training by Charles Poliquin (A technical look at sets and reps)
Understanding bodybuilding Nutrition and Training by Chris Aceto
Beyond brawn By Stuart McRobert (the best explanations of progressive training you will ever find)
Hardcore bodybuilding a Scientific Approach By Fred Hatfield
Unleashing the Wild Physique by Vince Gironda
High performance Bodybuilders by John Parillo
Designing Resistance training Programs fleck and Kraemer (textbook and reference guide)
Encyclopaedia of Modern Bodybuilding
Super training by Mel Siff (a long and challenging read; worth the effort!)
There are some examples of some super books with a wealth of knowledge, motivation and technical expertise, happy reading!