Quick and efficient lower body burn-out

Yes, you do have time for your leg workout! The key? Well, pulsing and supersets, of course! You’ll see (and do) them all over this workout! 🙂

The Warm-up

Dynamic Stretching 5 min.

Jumping Jacks 10 reps.

Narrow to Wide Squat Jumps 10 reps.

The Sweet, Sweet Burn-out
  1. 3-pulse Jump Squats 5-8 reps, 3 sets.

Deep squat, pulse 3 times, jump. You can also add the barbell (resting on your traps, not your neck), but make sure it’s not too heavy as this exercise is quite tough.

  1. Cable Squats Circuit (superset then rest for 45 sec. to 1 min. between circuits) x3
  • 2-pulse Wide stance cable squat 8-12 reps.
  • 2-pulse Narrow stance cable squat 8-12 reps.
  1. Glute Bridges Circuit (superset then rest for 45 sec. to 1 min. between circuits) x3
  • 10 sec. hold Weighted Glute Bridge (hold your position at contraction point for around 10 sec. for every repetition) 10 reps.
  • Singe-leg Glute Bridge 10 reps. each leg
  1. 2-pulse Side Leg Lift 15 reps., 2 sets each leg
  1. Leg extensions 15 reps., 3 sets
  1. Hamstring Curls 20 reps. each leg
The Cool-down

Stretching (Hamstring stretch, Calves stretch, etc.)

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Aerobic vs. Anaerobic

Aerobic and anaerobic exercise – the yin and yang of fitness, if you will. Cardio vs. strength, spinning vs. gym, cutting vs. bulking, each its own. But what exactly makes an exercise aerobic or anaerobic?

Aerobic exercise means involving or improving oxygen consumption by the body and sends to cardiovascular exercise, i.e. keeping your heart rate up through exercises such as walking, running, jogging, cycling, and swimming. Most aerobic exercises are lower in intensity and muscular contraction than anaerobic exercises. Anaerobic exercise is a high-intensityphysical exercise that last for a few seconds to up to 2 minutes (and gets those muscles burning).

Let’s say you’re doing some HIIT, for example. At some point when you exceed ~90% of max. heart capacity, you would’ve just went from an aerobic exercise to an anaerobic one. For what concerns strength training, it usually involves at least a minimum amount of purely aerobic exercises for warm-up or endurance purposes, like those 10 minutes on the treadmill for example. But what does really differentiate an aerobic exercise from an anaerobic one?

Why, how, what?

Anaerobic and aerobic exercises differ in the sense that the anaerobic ones are intense enough for lactate to form, while the latter are not.

When you’re performing a challenging exercise, the glycogen in your muscle cells breaks down to produce glucose, which undergoes glycolysis – a metabolic pathway (a fancy way of saying linked series of chemical reactions within the cell) that converts glucose into pyruvate/ pyruvic acid. When oxygen is present (aerobic), pyruvic acid supplies energy to the cells. When oxygen is lacking (anaerobic), pyruvic acid ferments to produce lactate.

  • When oxygen is present in the muscle cells ⇒ cellular respiration (aerobic)
  • When muscle cells are starved of oxygen ⇒ a metabolic process called lactic acid fermentation (so an anaerobic fermentation reaction) through which different hexoses (sugars) are converted into cellular energy and lactate.

So, when you’re training hard and depriving muscle cells of oxygen and causing this anaerobic fermentation reaction which produces lactate, you’ll begin to feel the effects of the lactate build-up. We might not know about lactate, but we all know the burn and the subsequent nausea. At this point you’re going to have (and want) to stop and allow the lactate to clear from the bloodstream.

So be careful, don’t exhaust yourself, train and eat smartly, set specific goals, find a balance and enjoy!

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Resources:

  1. Aerobic exercise
  2. Anaerobic exercise
  3. Glycolysis
  4. Fermentation
  5. Lactic acid fermentation
  6. Lactic acid

Muscle hypertrophy ¦ Process and Training

If you are training to gain, the goal of your training is to increase muscle mass. Increased muscle mass is achieved through the process of muscle hypertrophy, i.e. an increase in dimension of individual muscle fibers. Challenging training will cause the skeletal muscle to adapt to the workload, thus increasing muscle fiber capacity.

Process

Don’t have time for technical jibber-jabber about muscle fibers? Skip to Quick recap!

Skeletal muscle fibers composing the muscle tissues have metabolic (relating to the biochemical and energetic transformations) and mechanical (relating to movement) differences, therefore being classified into 3 different types: slow-oxidative fibers, fast-oxidative fibers and fast-glycolytic fibers.

When an exercise is performed, we need to recruit (activate) motor units in order to produce the force demanded by the exercise. A motor unit is composed of an efferent neuron (a neuron that carries motor impulses) and all the same-type muscle fibers it innervates. As we can see in the table below, the smaller the neuron size (hence motor unit size), the easier to excite and therefore recruit. However, it isn’t an easy come, easy go type situation, as the easiest fibers to recruit are the hardest to fatigue and vice-versa.

 

Type I 

Slow-oxidative

 Type II

Fast-oxidative

 Type III

Fast-glycolytic

Resistance to fatigue

High

Intermediate

 Low

Motor unit (innervating neuron) size

Small

 Intermediate

 Large

Recruitment

First

Second

Third


Quick recap. Muscle growth (muscle hypertrophy) implies an increase in the size of muscle fibers. The 3 types of muscle fibers are innervated by motor neurons thus composing motor units, which are recruited to produce the force needed to perform during training. During a challenging exercise, recruitment happens gradually between the 3 types of muscle fibers until achieving complete muscle fatigue (failure). The muscle fibers will subsequently increase in capacity and size up in order to adapt to the workload.

Training

So basically what we need in order to achieve muscle growth is to fatigue the muscle to the point of failure so that we make sure we’ve put all those muscle fibers to work. Here are four examples of how to do that, for you to choose the method you are most comfortable with and enjoy the most.


DROP-DOWNS (Drop sets)
  • Decreased weight per set;
  • Same number of repetitions.
You gradually decrease the weight per set, doing the same number of repetitions.
Choose the no. of reps so that you don’t compromise proper form, but you do achieve failure by the end of each set.
Drop-downs imply reaching failure and decreasing the weight a minimum of 3 times (triple-drops), which should do the job. They can be performed with both weight machines and free weights, such as dumbbells.

However, drop sets greatly fatigue the muscles, that’s why it is recommended to do only one drop set per muscle group. Drop-downs are great for stimulating muscle hypertrophy, just be careful and don’t over-train.


REVERSE PYRAMID
  • Decreased weight per set;
  • Increased number of repetitions;

Reverse pyramid training implies going heavy for the first few reps and then decreasing the weight and increasing the no. of reps throughout the following sets. Reverse pyramids also promote hypertrophy and it’s usually the go-to method when training for size.


SUPER-SETS

Super-setting simply means that you perform two exercises in a row, without resting in-between. For example, you go from the bench press straight to lat pull-downs, forgoing any rest between the two.


GIANT-SETS

Following the same principle as super sets, giant-setting implies performing three exercises in a row, without stopping in-between.

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Resources

Muscle Fiber Types

Top 5 Ab Exercises

Effective, fun and easy on the lower back… that’s a lot to ask from an abdominal exercise. However, this is a list of 5 ab exercises that I find to meet the desired criteria and truly exhaust the abdominal muscles.


As with all exercises, keeping proper form is key. Two things to remember:

  1. Form & Movement. You don’t want incessive, uncontrolled movement. An effective movement implies contraction (achieved at the slightest curvature of the back), keeping form at contraction point, then repeating. Bringing you head/ legs all the way up as fast as you can won’t do you any good and it may leave you with lower back pain.
  2. Focus. Truly focus on the abdominal contraction so you isolate the lower back and avoid pains.

My top 5 Ab Exercises

1. Plank (yes, yes, the almighty plank)

  1. Assume the push-up/ press-up position. Your hands should be straight, directly under your chest, and shoulder-width apart. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles, so keep your bellybutton sucked in (keep your abs contracted) and don’t let your backside hang down.
  2. Keep this position for at least 20 seconds and gradually increase your planking time as your core becomes stronger.

2. The Mountain Climber

  1. Assume the plank position;
  2. Alternating the legs, aim for your knee to come as close as possible to the chest.
  • Do not lose proper form in order to touch your knee to the chest;
  • When you come to be in good control of the movement and desire to increase difficulty, you can add ankle weights if they feel comfortable.

3. Seated Flat Bench Leg Pull-In

  1. Sit at the end of a flat bench, hold the sides of the bench with your hands and suspend your (crossed) legs until they are parallel to the floor.
  2. Pull your legs to your torso by bending the knees.

4. Knee to Elbow Decline Crunch

  1. Lie on a declined ab bench with your hands to your head.
  2. Crunch (slight curvature of the back until contraction point) while aiming with one elbow to the opposite knee.
  3. Alternate elbows.

4. Kneeling Cable Crunch alternating with Knee to Elbow Kneeling Cable Crunch

  1. Kneel before a cable-weight set.
  2. Grab the handle above your head and pull down as if you’re aiming to touch your elbows to your knees.
  3. Alternate this movement (both elbows to both knees) with the Knee to Elbow variation (elbow to opposite knee).