What Are Feeder Workouts?

Typical resistance-training recommendations are as follows:

  • Train a group of muscle intensely and don’t train it again for another 48-72 hoursOR
  • Assault one muscle group with everything you have and don’t train it again for another 5-7 days, or until you’re not sore.

No doubt you’ve heard these same recommendations, or something very similar to them, at one point or another in your lifting career. The reality is, neither of these recommendations hold much water and these “rules of lifting” may actually be holding you back from bigger and better muscle gains.

What if you could actually work the same muscle group(s) on consecutive days and have it not inhibit recovery, but actually promote growth?!

You’d probably think we were crazy.

Well, there’s a little something called feeder workouts, and it may be just what you need to bring up those lagging body parts once and for all!

What are Feeder Workouts?

Feeder workouts are “mini” workouts completed completely separate from your regular workout. In other words, the day after a heavy lifting day, you do a separate workout later that day or, ideally, the following day targeting those exact same muscles you hit on the previous day but for only 3 sets using very light weight and lots and lots of reps.

For example, let’s say on Monday you trained your pushing muscles (i.e. chest, shoulders, and triceps). Then, on Tuesday, before or after your normal training routine you do your feeder workout for chest, shoulder, and triceps. This feeder workout would contain primarily isolation exercises that allow you to really concentrate on the target muscle using very strict form and high reps.

An example feeder workout for your push muscles would be:

  • Pec Dec = 3 sets, 50-100 reps
  • Lateral Raise = 3 sets, 50-100 reps
  • Dumbbell Skull-Crushers = 3 sets, 50-100 reps

Now, jumping right out of the gate performing 50-100 reps in a single set, even using very light weight is incredibly taxing both mentally and physically — the burning sensation that sets in during feeder workouts is unlike anything you’ve experienced before!

The goal of these feeder workouts isn’t to pulverize the muscle and blast it into oblivion. These mini workouts should be looked at low intensity pump work, with the goal being to drive as much nutrient-rich blood into the muscles you trained the previous day. Remember muscle grows when stimulated, not annihilated, no matter what the gym bros tell you!

Why Feeder Workouts work?

  • Extended Protein Synthesis

    Feeder workouts prolong, or extend, the amount of time increased muscle protein synthesis occurs in a muscle group. Normally, when a muscle group is trained, protein synthesis is elevated for roughly 24 hours and returns to normal levels around the 36-hour post training mark.

    By performing another mini workout 24 hours after the first one, you prolong the increased protein synthesis occurring in your muscle by another 12-24 hours.

    The catch here, is that growth will only occur if you’re fueling properly. You’re only going to grow and promote repair and recovery if you’re consuming ample protein and eating at a caloric surplus.

  • Improved Mind-Muscle Connection

    Simply put, the human body gets better at things it does frequently. If you want to get better at pull ups, you need to start doing pull ups more often. The reason for this is that you’re increasing training volume, which your muscles adapt to by growing bigger and stronger, but in addition to getting stronger, you also establish a stronger mind-muscle connection, or an increased “awareness” of which muscle should be working during a given exercise.

    Feeder workouts are especially great if you struggle feel certain muscle groups firing during a lift. For example, don’t feel your lats working while doing pull ups (along with the other muscles of the back), performing a feeder workout the following day of straight-arm lat pulldowns may strengthen your mind-muscle connection to your lats, which translates to better lat recruitment during your subsequent pull up workouts leading to better workouts and bigger gains!

  • Shoring up Weaknesses

    Following your heavy lifting day, the trained muscles are incredibly responsive to less intense or traumatic training methods, i.e. light weights, high reps. This is great for bringing up lagging muscle groups that may be holding back your heavier compound movements.

    For example, if you struggle with the lockout portion of a bench press or overhead press, performing lighter weight, higher rep tricep work the day after your heavy presses, using very strict form while focusing on the contraction, will bring strengthen your triceps and translate to better performance in your heavier compound lifts.

Feed to Grow!

Feeder workouts are rarely discussed when discussing muscle growth. However, they represent an incredibly effective way to increase training volume without overtaxing your central nervous system (CNS) or muscles the way that high volume, high frequency heavy lifting programs can. Remember to keep the feeder workouts light and high rep but limit each exercise to 3 sets and only ONE exercise per muscle group. Coupled with a proper muscle-building diet, you’ll be astounded at how quickly your weak points become your best assets, all thanks to feeder workouts!

How to Optimize Muscle Soreness

We’ve all felt the thrill (and relief) after crushing a workout. You hit PRs, you made gains, and worked up one heck of an appetite. You feel large, in charge, and on top of your fitness game; that is until, the debilitating soreness from that intense workout slams you in the face!

Yes, the feeling of utterly dominating your workout is indescribable, but those miserable DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) are accompanied by some many expletives that even a sailor would blush.

Isn’t there some way you can rock a hardcore workout, yet still be able to get out of bed without feeling immense soreness in the days after? Of course there is! It’s all about optimizing recovery!

Ahead, we’ve got several tips and tricks for you to crush soreness just like you crushed your workout. With these tips, you’ll recovery faster enabling you to get back in the gym day after day and keep those gains coming.

First Things First

Before we get to the recovery hacks, it’s important for us to stress that these recovery hacks won’t be nearly as effective as they could be if you’re not already doing the things you should be doing. We’re talking about eating the proper amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats your body needs to repair and build muscle along with getting a full 8-9 hours of sleep each and every night. Without those two things, the rest of these tips won’t do much good.

So, make sure to properly fuel your body before and after training. And, make sure to get a solid night’s rest every night. Those two things go a long way to ensuring adequate recovery, but for those days when you really take it to your muscles at the gym, these tips will be a life saver.

Recovery Hacks to Crush Soreness

  • Ice Baths

    Following a grueling workout, you’re drenched in sweat. What better way to kick start the recovery process, and cool off at the same time, than taking a dunk in an ice bath?! The reason ice baths accelerate recovery is that immersing your body in ice cold water constricts your blood vessels and reduces swelling. Once you get out of the ice bath, your body immediately begins to warm up, blood vessels dilate, and fresh nutrient rich blood rushes into your muscles, delivering the essential amino acids they need to repair and grow while simultaneously removing metabolic waste products. Research confirms this too, noting that cold water therapy aids recovery and reduces markers of muscle damage. [1]

  • Foam rolling

    Foam rolling, a.k.a. self-myofascial release (SMR), is a fancy way of describing a self-administered remedy for sore muscles. Utilizing anything from a tennis ball to a PVC pipe, foam rolling works by applying pressure to the “trigger” points in your muscles that are causing the aches and pains. “Rolling” over them, or remaining on those painful spots until they loosen, helps restore the smooth, supple, elastic nature of the muscle.

    Exercise breaks down and knots up your muscles. Foam rolling is used to return them to normal. You can do foam rolling before or after your workout, or the days following your workout for when those knots that accumulate during the week.

    Just be careful if you’ve never done any sort of foam rolling before, it can be rather excruciating at times. For this reason, it’s best to start with the softer foam rollers and tennis ball and gradually work your way up to the lacrosse ball and PVC pipe.

  • Massage

    Similar to foam rolling, getting a deep tissue or sports massage can do wonders for relieving muscle soreness in the days after a tough workout. Make sure drink plenty of fluids following your massage, as deep tissue massages in and of themselves can leave you just as sore as your workout did!

  • Compression Gear

    No doubt when watching sports, you see athletes of all kinds wearing compression sleeves on their arms and legs. You’ve probably wondered why in the world, they have these goofy looking sleeves on.

    It’s because compression sleeves (“garments”) can aid recovery. They also can boost performance too. The reason these sleeves work is that they increase circulation by squeezing and compacting (“compressing”) the muscles in your arms and legs. Doing so delivers more oxygen and nutrients while aiding waste removal. Research has shown benefit to using compression garments, but there’s also so showing it doesn’t offer too much benefit. [3,4,5]

    If you’ve exhausted all other options for enhancing recovery, then compression sleeves might be just the thing you need.

  • Active Recovery

    While the thought of doing additional exercise while your crippled with soreness sounds as pleasing as a root canal, doing some form of light exercise the day after your workout can help offset soreness. Performing light, active recovery activities such as hiking, walking, or even yoga can help promote increased blood flow, which helps flush out soreness.

    Bear in mind though, that you don’t want to push the envelope too hard with these active recovery days. The goal is to just get moving, get the blood flowing, and mildly elevate your heart rate. You’re not trying to break any records here, folks. Going too hard on your active recovery activities only serves to hinder the natural recovery processes of the body, prolonging the amount of time you’re sore.

  • BCAAs

    We mentioned food being a critical component of optimizing recovery up top, but we need also need to discuss the role supplements can play in alleviating muscle soreness. One of the most well-researched and proven supplements you can use to stave off soreness and accelerate recovery are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).

    BCAAs are a special group of amino acids primarily responsible for stimulating protein synthesis in the body. Numerous studies have shown that consuming BCAAs around your training can limit exercise-induced muscle damage, promote muscle protein synthesis, and accelerates recovery. [6,7] BCAAs can also help preserve lean muscle while training, due to the fact that exercise breaks down muscle tissue. This makes BCAAs all the more vital to optimal performance, recovery, and growth!

Accelerate Recovery with Steel Fuel

Recovery needs to be taken just as seriously as your training. Choosing the right recovery tools and supplements can be the determining factor in avoiding or facing soreness. Steel Fuel provides 5 grams of BCAA per serving in the research-backed 2:1:1 ratio that boosts endurance, reduces fatigue, supports muscle repair. Combined with a host of vital electrolytes, Steel Fuel provides the required fuel your body needs to perform and recover to the max!

References

  1. Ingram J, Dawson B, Goodman C, Wallman K, Beilby J. Effect of water immersion methods on post-exercise recovery from simulated team sport exercise. J Sci Med Sport. 2009;12(3):417-421. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2007.12.011.
  2. Engel FA, Holmberg H-C, Sperlich B. Is There Evidence that Runners can Benefit from Wearing Compression Clothing? Sports Med. 2016;46(12):1939-1952. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0546-5.
  3. Born D-P, Sperlich B, Holmberg H-C. Bringing light into the dark: effects of compression clothing on performance and  recovery. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2013;8(1):4-18.
  4. Hamlin MJ, Mitchell CJ, Ward FD, Draper N, Shearman JP, Kimber NE. Effect of compression garments on short-term recovery of repeated sprint and 3-km running performance in rugby union players. J strength Cond Res. 2012;26(11):2975-2982. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182711e0b.
  5. Stickford AS, Chapman RF, Johnston JD, Stager JM. Lower-leg compression, running mechanics, and economy in trained distance runners. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2015;10(1):76-83. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2014-0003.
  6. Negro M, Giardina S, Marzani B, Marzatico F. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation does not enhance athletic performance but affects muscle recovery and the immune system. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2008;48(3):347-351.
  7. Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012;9:20. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-20.

Muscle Pumps – More than Just Aesthetics

The Pump is the stuff of legend. Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger first mentioned its existence, the pump has been the goal of any individual who embraces a life spent with the iron.

While there’s no denying the pleasure and appeal of the pump, a debate has erupted between bros and science buffs as to whether or not getting a pump rolling during your workout actually has any benefit aside from inflating your ego.

So, does a pump help build muscle, or is it all show, no go? Let’s discuss!

Vasodilation

When pursuing the ever-elusive pump, lifters are ultimately concerned with enhancing vasodilation, the widening and relaxing of blood vessels. This widening or enlarging of blood vessels expands the diameter of the blood vessel and leads to some pretty incredible things. All of which are important for muscle building!

  • Increased Blood Flow

    A wider, more dilated blood vessel allows for greater blood to flow through it, which means more nutrient rich blood is transported to your muscles, delivering the essentials it needs to repair and grow.

  • Improve Nutrient Delivery

    Compounding off the previous point, blood carries with it essential nutrients used by your muscles to function, repair, and grow. With more blood reaching your muscle, more of these critical nutrients are supplied at a faster rate, leading to greater performance, endurance, and recovery.

  • Greater Oxygen Delivery

    Oxygen is one of the critical nutrients carried in the blood and used by your muscles to break down glucose and create the energy source for your muscles to perform known as ATP. More blood flow, leads to more oxygen delivery, supporting increased energy production during training for superior performance.

  • Massive Muscle Pumps

    The pump is a result of increased blood flow to muscle cells, which increases intracellular pressure. The result of this increased pressure is muscle cell enlargement manifested as sleeve-busting muscle pumps.

  • Improved Waste Clearance

    In addition to delivering oxygen and nutrients to working muscles, blood is also tasked with the duty of removing metabolic waste products (carbon dioxide, urea, lactic acid) that accumulate as a result of physical exercise. Increased blood flow helps clear these byproducts more effectively, leading to better endurance and decreased recovery times while training.

  • Enhanced Hormone Transport

    Blood also delivers important muscle-building hormones like IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), Growth Hormone, and testosterone to skeletal muscle cells during and after exercise. If you’re keen on making gains, you want more of these hormones delivered to your muscles!

  • Core Temperature Regulation

    Last, but certainly not least, blood flow also improves core temperature regulation. This helps prevent you from becoming overheated or dehydrated while training, ultimately enabling you to perform better for longer periods of time and make more gains!

Pumps and Hypertrophy

Building muscle (i.e. hypertrophy) is extremely dependent upon the net protein balance in the body, meaning, protein gain must be greater than protein loss in order for muscle growth to take place.

Remember that getting a pump increases blood flow, oxygen transport, and nutrient delivery to working muscles, which supports and enhances the natural anabolic processes of the body. Therefore, it stands to reason that increasing blood flow (getting a pump) may enhance protein synthesis and combat muscle breakdown, resulting in superior muscle growth.
But there’s more.

The body sees muscle cell expansion (increase in size) as a threat to the cell’s survival. The body responds by reinforcing the structure of the cell, which leads to increased size and strength.

As you can see, getting a massive pump while lifting is far more than purely aesthetics…it’s helping to grow too! In fact, research confirms this: “In summary, the results of our study demonstrate that net protein synthesis during amino acid administration can be doubled by previous performance of heavy resistance exercise. Moreover, the data suggest a link between the stimulation of protein synthesis after exercise and an acceleration in amino acid transport. The greater rate of transport after exercise may be due to the increase in blood flow.” [1]

What the researchers concluded is that physical activity (such as weight lifting) improves delivery of amino acids to your muscles, enhancing repair and growth. It stands to reason that further increasing blood flow, as a result of getting a pump, you can increase that amino acid delivery even more, leading to bigger and better gains that you would had you not gotten a pump.

Last but not least, getting a pump increases your mood, self-confidence, and motivation. There’s no denying the pleasure you feel from getting a pump rolling during your workout, don’t kid yourself. In your effort to maintain and increase your pump even more, you may find yourself grinding extra hard during your workout, which could lead to moving more weight or doing more reps, which leads to muscle growth!

Ways to Achieve a Pump

Yes, the pump is truly awesome, and for a number of reasons. There’s a number of things you can do heading into the gym to ensure that you’re guaranteed one monster pump while training.

  • Pre-Workout Supplement

    Heading into your workout, you need to be focused on making every rep count, squeezing the muscle as hard as you gain to drive as much blood as possible into the muscle and creating a powerful muscle pump. It’s not always easy to train this hard and with this much intensity day after day. That’s where pre-workouts come in. They provide everything you need to get focused and have a terrific workout. There’s no better option than SteelFit® Steel Pump™.

    Steel Pump™ includes a potent trifecta of ingredients to help you achieve and sustain a raging muscle pump all workout long. Utilizing proven pump-powering compounds including citrulline malate, glutathione, and grape seed extract, Steel Pump™ turbocharges nitric oxide production, blows open blood vessels, and gorges your muscles with blood making for some of the largest pumps you’ve ever experienced!

  • Carbs are you friend

    Carbs are often demonized in today’s nutrition landscape, but for hard-training athletes, they’re absolutely essential. Your body uses carbs to generate glycogen, which is the stored form of energy your muscles use during high intensity activities, such as weight lifting or running. When your body stores glycogen, it also stores some water along with it, which enhances muscle fullness and gives you more shapely and rounded muscles.

  • Don’t skimp on the salt

    Much like carbs, salt (sodium) is heavily criticized these days for all sorts of reasons. But, it’s one of the most critical minerals in the body. Sodium affects everything from nerve function to hydration and even muscle contractions. As such, it plays a vital role in getting a sleeve-busting pump.

    Having a salty snack pre-workout helps your body hold onto more water, which drives more fluid into your blood system, yielding bigger, better, and badder pumps!

  • High Rep Training

    Low rep training is great for increasing pure strength, and can even benefit hypertrophy, but when it comes to getting your pump on, high rep training is what your focus should be. Training in the higher rep ranges (8-20 reps) keeps the muscle under tension for longer periods of time, driving more and more blood into the muscle (along with extra nutrients), creating a towering pump.

Get you Pump on with Steel Pump!

The Pump isn’t just for looks, it’s a valuable weapon in the quest for gains! The only way to ensure you get a pump each and every time you step foot under the bar is with Steel Pump™.

It’s an essential pre-training fuel the provides everything the mind and body needs to perform at its best no matter what the circumstances may be. One scoop of Steel Pump and your muscles will have everything they need to blow up and create a massive pump that will have you looking swole and making those epic gains you’ve always wanted!

References

  1. Biolo G, Tipton KD, Klein S, Wolfe RR. An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein. Am J Physiol. 1997;273(1 Pt 1):E122-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9252488

Electrolyte Role in the Human Body

The words hydration and electrolytes are thrown around an awful lot in the fitness and nutrition industries. Athletes are often recommended to properly hydrate and also replenish electrolyte stores in the human body, but have you ever given any thought as to what electrolytes actually do in the body, and what is their role in regard to athletic performance?

We’ve got all those questions answered and a lot more up ahead as we dive headfirst into the world of electrolytes!

What Are Electrolytes?

In the simplest sense, electrolytes are salt ions dissolved in a fluid that enables the fluid to conduct electricity. There are several electrolytes present in the human body, but the four we’re most interested in, particularly in regard to performance, are sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

Sodium

Sodium (“salt”) is used first and foremost for the regulation of blood pressure and blood volume. It also maintains fluid balance and is vital to muscle function. Neurons and muscle tissue are stimulated by sodium activity, which means if you’re sodium-deficient, your muscles are sluggish to respond, fatigue sooner, and will inevitably cramp.

Humans require a bare minimum of ~500mg / day of sodium in order to function properly, yet most individuals consume roughly 3,000-4,000mg / day. The American Heart Association (AHA) salt intake be limited to 2,300mg or less, and ideally suggests adults consume no more than 1,500mg / day.

While it’s often reported that excessive sodium intake will lead to high blood pressure and assorted other cardiovascular issues, recent research indicates that high intakes of sodium may actually lower blood pressure. [1]

However, sodium requirements for athletes and lay people are vastly different, and if you’re training intensely, you definitely do NOT want to limit sodium!

Studies conducted in high-level athletes documents that they can lose as much as 8,500mg of sodium in two hours of training. Unconditioned individuals may lose even more when training in the heat.

The bottom line is if you’re training vigorously multiple times per week you’re burning through sodium reserves at a rapid rate and replenishing them is a must if you want to continue to perform at a high level!

Magnesium

Magnesium may be the least understood and discussed electrolyte in regard to the overall function of the human body. It’s the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is involved in more than 300 different reactions. Magnesium also happens to play a key role in DNA and RNA synthesis too.

Additionally, magnesium is also required for optimal nerve and muscle function, bone and teeth formation, immune system function, and maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Plus, it’s vital to maintaining a regular heartbeat and energy transmission in the body.

Magnesium can easily be obtained through the diet and is found in large amounts in nuts, leafy greens, tea, and coffee.

Potassium

Think of potassium as the “sodium balancer”. Whereas sodium is located outside cell walls, potassium is the primary electrolyte within your cells. Potassium is crucial to controlling heartbeat and muscle function. It also forms the other half of the electrical pump that regulates the balance of electrolytes in the cell and allows for conductivity. Due to this critical function, potassium also plays a role in neurotransmission, supporting communication between nerves.

Similar to sodium, potassium is significantly depleted during intense training. If you think it’s important to replenish sodium during/after training, potassium is as important as sodium, and potentially even more important since to regulates muscle contraction and neurotransmission. Potassium deficiencies can lead to cramping, fatigue, and injury, which further highlights its importance in regard to performance. Plus, potassium also helps your muscles store carbs for energy, which will certainly come in handy to longer and more intensely you train.

Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant, and well known, electrolyte, rivaled in notoriety only by sodium. You’re well acquainted with calcium’s role in regard to bone health and development, but you may be surprised to learn it also impacts your performance.

More specifically, calcium is vital to nerve impulse transmission, blood clotting, and muscle contraction. If blood levels of calcium are low, your body then leaches calcium from your bones, which can eventually lead to brittle bones and osteoporosis.

Electrolyte Consumption for Performance

Proper hydrated is always important, but even more so when talking about athletic performance. Did you know that even as little as a 2% drop in hydration levels can result in fatigue, cramping, and impaired brain function?

It’s true, which is why you absolutely must be properly hydrating around the clock, and especially in the time before, during and after your workout. Following are some guidelines to help you stay properly hydrated at all times

30 minutes Before Training

Step on a scale and weigh yourself, remember this number, you’ll see why in a moment.

Consume 16-20oz of fluid + carbohydrates and electrolytes from food or in the form of a sports nutrition supplement such as Steel Fuel™ All-In-One BCAA + Hydration Formula.

During Training

Consume 6-8oz of liquid (from water alone or mixed with BCAAs such as Steel Fuel™) for every 15-20 minutes of activity and remember to consume approximately 30-60g of carbohydrates for every hour you’re training.

Post-Workout

Weigh yourself again and subtract this new number from your initial pre-training weight.

For every pound of water weight lost during training, consume 16-24oz water along with some electrolytes, which can be found in Steel Fuel™.

Wrap Up

Hydration isn’t just important in the hours pre and post training, it’s important in the days and weeks leading up to your big day of competition. Far too many times, athletes make the mistake of only slamming water in the hours leading up to the big game, and what they fail to realize is that your nutrition and fluid intake in the days leading up to the competition are as important as what you do immediately before the game.

No athlete wants to suffer the effects of hyponatremia, during or after competing, which is why this quick-reference guide was created. Use the information contained in here to fuel up properly and ensure your electrolyte stores never bottom out when you need them most!

References

  1. Moore LL, Singer MR, Bradlee ML. Low Sodium Intakes are Not Associated with Lower Blood Pressure Levels among Framingham Offspring Study Adults. FASEB J . 2017;31(1 Supplement):446.6-446.6. http://www.fasebj.org/content/31/1_Supplement/446.6.abstract.

HIIT vs. LISS – Which Form of Cardio to Perform?

There is an endless debate going around the fitness community about which form of cardiovascular training is superior – High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Low Intensity Steady State (LISS). Proponents on both sides of the aisle aggressively defend their style of cardio as the best.

We’re here to explain the differences between the two, and which form you should be using to maximize your gains in the gym.

Low Intensity Steady State (LISS)

Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) is a low-intensity cardio workout usually calling for 30 to 60 minutes of exercising at approximately 60% of your maximum heart rate, a.k.a. Your “fat burning” zone. Advocates of LISS promote the idea that training in this manner promotes greater fat burning, increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles, and accelerates recovery.

The advantages of LISS is that it’s safer for out of shape trainees and comes with less strain on your joints, ligaments and connective tissue, and therefore a lower risk of injury. Additionally, LISS is easy to do basically anywhere. You can go walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or if you’re at the gym, you can use the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike.

The downsides to LISS is that it’s incredibly time-consuming and something your body adapts to overtime, meaning that in order to get the same calorie burn from it, you’ll have to eventually increase the amount of LISS that you do. Plus, when dieting, LISS is more catabolic as opposed to high intensity interval training

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a more demanding form of cardio training that alternates between periods of all-out maximum effort and low-to-moderate effort. Maximum effort intervals generally fall between 10-45 seconds, while the low-to-moderate “rest” intervals last between 30-60 seconds. These rest periods allow for complete replenishment of the Adenosine Triphosphate-Creatine Phosphate (ATP-CP) system.

The advantages to HIIT is that it’s incredibly time-efficient and great for not only stimulating muscle fibers in a similar manner as to that of weightlifting, but also enhances muscle building and preserves muscle better during periods of dieting. Compared to LISS, you’ll experience a greater metabolic boost for longer periods of time and burn a lot of calories for very little time.

The disadvantages to HIIT is that you cannot perform it every day like LISS. It’s simply too taxing to your body and CNS and can inhibit recovery and muscle-building if done too often. Moreover, not everyone is in good enough physical or cardiovascular condition to handle HIIT and there’s a greater risk of injury too., by doing high intensity work you are activating muscle fibers and anytime you activate muscle fibers you are primed for growth

Which Form is Superior?

Generally speaking, there isn’t one “best” form of cardio for all populations. Both have their place in a proper muscle-building, fat-shredding training program. HIIT is superior for fat loss and muscle retention during dieting and saves a lot of time. LISS is a great “alternative” to use in between resistance training sessions and HIIT session to still get some extra calorie burn without impairing CNS and muscle recovery. Plus, it’s also good from increasing blood flow to previously worked muscles and is an ideal form of “active recovery” to be used on rest days.

In the end, a combination of both HIIT and LISS can be used to promote body re-composition. How you blend the two ultimately boils down to your individual training and recovery capacity as well as your nutrition and performance / physique goals.

Nitric Oxide and Its Role in Training

Every lifter has heard of, chased after, and, at one time or another, attained a raging muscle pump. First popularized by the great Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Pumping Iron”, the pump is a phenomenon sought by many and achieved by only the most deserving.

One of the foundational components to achieving a massive muscle pump during training is ample amounts of nitric oxide (N.O.). This molecule is much more than a pump enhancer though, it carries with it a number of benefits that enhance training, overall function, and even health!

Read on to see what this all-important molecule is and how it can benefit all aspects of your life.

What is Nitric Oxide?

Not to be confused with nitrous oxide (“laughing” gas), nitric oxide is an essential signaling molecule composed of nitrogen (N) and oxygen (O) present in numerous tissues throughout your body. It’s plays a role in all facets of life, including:

  • Regulating cell life & death
  • Neurotransmission
  • Nutrient transport
  • Immune system response

Benefits of Nitric Oxide

As a key regulator of blood flow (via vasodilation), nitric oxide plays a critical role in nutrient and oxygen delivery, glucose uptake, power output and velocity. Due to the range of actions N.O. performs, it’s no surprise that it offers a slew of benefits:

  • Increased Vasodilation:

    Nitric oxide’s most well-known benefit is in its role as a powerful vasodilator, which causes blood vessels to dilate (“relax”), promoting greater blood flow throughout the body, especially working muscles. [1] Greater blood flow to your muscles increases vascularity, fullness, and some monster-sized pumps.

  • Enhanced Oxygen and Nutrient Transport:

    Compounding on the increased blood flow comes increased delivery of oxygen and other essential nutrients (such as amino acids) which enhances performance, recovery, and muscle growth.

  • Decreased Fatigue:

    Nitric oxide also helps avoid premature fatigue, enabling you to train for longer, and reap more gains from your workout. During high-intensity exercise, such as weightlifting or sprinting, oxygen is depleted, leading to an accumulation of lactic acid, often felt as a “burning” sensation in your muscles, forcing to end your set.

    Nitric oxide boosting supplements, such as citrulline malate, can offset this fatigue and improve “athletic performance in high-intensity anaerobic exercises with short rest times and to relieve post exercise muscle soreness.”[3,4]

  • Quicker Recovery:

    One of the most crucial factors in accelerating recovery is flooding your muscles with the essential nutrients it needs to repair the damage done by your intense workout. How freely and easily blood flows throughout your body is the determining factor in how quickly those nutrients get to where they need to be.

    Nitric oxide increases blood flow to the muscles and their surrounding tissues[4], which means more blood gets to your muscles quicker, supplying your muscles with the valuable muscle-building nutrients they need to GROW!

    Faster recovery also comes with the added benefit of allowing you to train more frequently, leading to bigger and better gains in strength and size.

  • Enhanced Glucose Utilization:

    Arginine is the amino acid that fuels nitric oxide production in the body. Research has shown that L-Arginine supplementation significantly improved the rate of glucose appearance, disappearance, and[5] Researchers conducting the experiment attributed this improved glucose utilization to increased nitric oxide production.

    As you’re probably aware, L-Arginine isn’t the most beneficial nitric oxide elevating compound in supplements; it offers terrible bioavailability. That’s why SteelFit includes Citrulline Malate along with Grape Seed Extract and Glutathione, three incredibly bioavailable compounds that support and enhance nitric oxide production.

  • Improved Cognitive Functioning:

    Over the past few years, nitric oxide has received greater attention for its role in enhancing cognitive function. More specifically, scientists are investigating N.O’s impact on neurotransmitter production. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that relay signals between nerve cells in the brain to the muscles in our body.

    Research published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research concluded that nitric oxide has a direct impact on the brain’s computational abilities of the brain. And, it also had an effect on memory formation and learning. [6] Basically, greater levels of nitric oxide resulted in heightened cognitive function and faster reaction times when performing mental tasks.

    It’s also been suggested that increased nitric oxide production could play a contributing role in the prevention of cognitive decline, as well as Type II Diabetes. More research is needed to confirm these suspicions though.

  • Cardio Protection:

    Cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest, and most concerning, health problems facing adults, both young and old, today. In addition to nitric oxide relaxing blood vessels, it also relaxes the smooth muscles of the heart, which causes a reduction in blood pressure, thereby supporting cardiovascular health and function. [7]

    Having a healthy heart is also vital to exercise, as the healthier your heart is, the harder you can push yourself while training, leading to better performance and results in the gym.

Maximize Your Nitric Oxide Output

It’s clear that nitric oxide is a powerful ally for all aspects of your life — health, performance, recovery, and cognitive function. To make the most of your workouts, you must maximize your body’s natural nitric oxide production, and the best way to do that is with Steel Pump™.

Each serving of Steel Pump™ delivers proven nitric oxide boosting compounds, including Citrulline Malate, Grape Seed extract, and L-Glutathione, to improve blood flow, enhance performance, and generate some massive pumps. Don’t fall for another gimmicky NO-booster that’s laden with ineffective arginine. Invest in Steep Pump™ for the most epic pumps and performance you’ve ever witnessed!

References

  1. Harris MB, Mitchell BM, Sood SG, Webb RC, Venema RC. Increased nitric oxide synthase activity and Hsp90 association in skeletal muscle following chronic exercise. European journal of applied physiology. 2008;104(5):10.1007/s00421-008-0833-4. doi:10.1007/s00421-008-0833-4.
  2. Bailey SJ, Winyard PG, Vanhatalo A, et al. Acute L-arginine supplementation reduces the O2 cost of moderate-intensity exercise and enhances high-intensity exercise tolerance. J Appl Physiol. 2010;109(5):1394-1403. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00503.2010.
  3. Perez-Guisado J, Jakeman PM. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J strength Cond Res. 2010;24(5):1215-1222. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cb28e0.
  4. Alvares TS, Conte CA, Paschoalin VMF, et al. Acute l-arginine supplementation increases muscle blood volume but not strength performance. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab = Physiol Appl Nutr  Metab. 2012;37(1):115-126. doi:10.1139/h11-144.
  5. McConell GK, Huynh NN, Lee-Young RS, Canny BJ, Wadley GD. l-Arginine infusion increases glucose clearance during prolonged exercise in humans. Am J Physiol Metab. 2006;290(1):E60-E66. doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00263.2005.
  6. Paul V, Ekambaram P. Involvement of nitric oxide in learning & memory processes. The Indian Journal of Medical Research. 2011;133(5):471-478.
  7. Lewis SJ, Bhopatkar MY, Walton TM, Bates JN. Role of voltage-sensitive calcium-channels in nitric oxide-mediated vasodilation  in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Eur J Pharmacol. 2005;528(1-3):144-149. doi:10.1016/j.ejphar.2005.10.056.

Must Have Pre-Workout Ingredients

It’s a situation all gym goers have encountered before and will inevitably face it again. You’ve just finished up another tub of pre-workout, and it’s time to get a new one. Now, you could keep using the same old, worn out tired brand of pre-workout you’ve been using for the past few months, but you’ve soured on its taste, and it doesn’t seem to have the same “pop” it used to.

So, rather than force yourself to double or triple scoop that same product to get any noticeable effect from it, why not spend a few minutes doing some searching for a superior option?

Sounds easy enough doesn’t it, just head down to your local supplement shop or pull up your favorite internet retailer and pick one out. The problem is, there are literally thousands of options for you to choose from when selecting a pre-workout, and no shortage of poorly formulated, overpriced ones waiting to steal your hard-earned money.

That’s where this article comes in. Ahead, you’ll find out why most other products on the market fail to do what a pre-workout should do (enhance your performance) and what are some “must have” ingredients you should be looking for the next time you go to drop some dough on a new performance enhancer.

Where Most Pre-Workouts Fail

There’s no shortage of reasons why certain pre-workout supplements seemingly have little to no effect whatsoever on your mood, focus, energy, or performance. Those reasons include:

  • Under-dosed ingredients
  • Ineffective ingredients (i.e. ingredients that don’t belong in pre-workouts)
  • Too many stimulants (i.e. feeling “cracked out”)
  • Not enough stimulants (no “kick in the pants” factor)
  • Clumpy powder due to poor shelf stability of ingredients
  • Terrible flavor (yes, how products taste does matter these days! There’s far too many great-tasting pre-workout that are equally effective for you to have to choke down some nasty powder.)
  • Overpriced

There’s a slew of other reasons why 99% of all pre-workouts you see on store shelves are downright terrible, and note worth the plastic they’re packaged in. But while we could go on forever about what’s wrong with the majority of pre-workouts, let’s get refocused on why you are here — to find out which ingredient you absolutely should have in your pre-workout!

Including these ingredients will have an immediate and noticeable impact on your workout, so without further ado, let’s dive into the essential pre-workout ingredients you MUST HAVE before hitting the gym!

Essential Pre-Workout Ingredients

Caffeine:

Any pre-workout worth its salt must have caffeine. It provides the foundation from which all the other components of a pre-workout expand upon. Caffeine has stood the test of time and is renowned for its ability to increase energy, focus, mood, and motivation. But caffeine is much more than an effective central nervous stimulant, it’s also a valuable performance enhancer. Numerous trials have shown that caffeine improves endurance, stamina, time to exhaustion, strength, power, and pain tolerance. [1,2,3]

The key to caffeine is in finding the right dose for you. Pre-workout doses can range anywhere from 150mg all the way up to 600mg in a single scoop! The “sweet spot” for caffeine for most trainees tends to fall in the 250-300mg range. Find a pre-workout in that range, and you’ve taken your first step towards finding a great pre-workout. Steel Pump™ packs 300 mg Caffeine Per Serving.

Citrulline Malate:

Nitric oxide is a highly important signaling molecule that improves blood flow via vasodilation (widening of blood vessels). With greater blood flow comes increased nutrient delivery, improved waste removal, better performance, and bigger pumps!

The premier nitric oxide boosting compound on the market is citrulline malate. Formed from a combination of l-citrulline and malic acid, citrulline malate is a proven nitric oxide boosting ingredient. It’s even more effective than the old “go to” NO-booster L-Arginine. [4]

Citrulline malate has been heavily studied and shown to boost athletic performance, energy production, and endurance all while reducing fatigue. [5,6]

Peak ATP:

A vastly underutilized ingredient, Peak ATP is an exogenous form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) developed by TSI USA, Inc. that’s been shown to actually enhance cellular levels of ATP! Now, supplemental ATP is nothing new to pre-workouts, but the vast majority of these forms offer poor bioavailability, rendering them essentially ineffective. Peak ATP, however, has been shown research trials to be incredibly bioavailable and increase ATP levels. [7]

Studies demonstrate that Peak ATP provides a readily usable fuel source for muscles, improving their ability to contract with less fatigue. [8] Additional studies note improved body composition and lean mass as well as increased vasodilation (a.k.a. PUMPS). [9,10] Steel Pump™ contains 450 mg Per Serving, the clinically proven dosage.

Alpha GPC:

To get the most out of every rep of your workout, you need to be focused. Without focus, you’re mindlessly going through the motions, never really get the most bang for your exercise buck. Alpha GPC solves your focus follies by providing the body with a highly bioavailable source of choline.

Choline is an essential nutrient that’s used in a number of way by the body, but none is more important than supporting acetylcholine (the “learning” neurotransmitter). With more acetylcholine, you’ll have that dialed in feeling while training and a much stronger mind-muscle connection. [11]

Your Pre-Workout Solution

There’s a lot that goes into formulating an effective pre-workout. Don’t get duped into buying a product merely for the cartoon label or bargain bin price. Select a pre-workout supplement formulated by researchers who know the ingredient you need (and the doses needed) to produce results.

Steel Pump™ supplies the ingredients you must have in your pre-workout to enhance performance and set the stage for a PR-shattering pre-workout.

References

  1. TREXLER ET, SMITH-RYAN AE, ROELOFS EJ, HIRSCH KR, MOCK MG. Effects of coffee and caffeine anhydrous on strength and sprint performance. European journal of sport science. 2016;16(6):702-710. doi:10.1080/17461391.2015.1085097.
  2. Graham TE. Caffeine and exercise: metabolism, endurance and performance. Sports Med. 2001;31(11):785-807.
  3. Richardson DL, Clarke ND. Effect Of Coffee And Caffeine Ingestion On Resistance Exercise Performance. J strength Cond Res / Natl Strength Cond  Assoc. February 2016. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001382.
  4. Curis E., et. al; “Citrulline and the gut;”; Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care; September 2007
  5. Bailey SJ, Blackwell JR, Lord T, Vanhatalo A, Winyard PG, Jones AM. l-Citrulline supplementation improves O2 uptake kinetics and high-intensity exercise performance in humans. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2015 Aug 15;119(4):385-95
  6. Pérez-Guisado J, Jakeman PM. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 May;24(5):1215-22.
  7. Lu N, Wang B, Deng X, Zhao H, Wang Y, Li D. Autophagy occurs within an hour of adenosine triphosphate treatment after nerve cell damage: the neuroprotective effects of adenosine triphosphate against apoptosis. Neural Regeneration Research. 2014;9(17):1599-1605. doi:10.4103/1673-5374.141811.
  8. Rathmacher JA, et al. Adenosine-5’-triphosphate (ATP) supplementation improves low peak muscle torque and torque fatigue during repeated high intensity exercise sets. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012, 9:48.
  9. Wilson JM, et al. Effects of oral adenosine-5’-triphosphate supplementation on athletic performance, skeletal muscle hypertrophy and recovery in resistance-trained men. Nutrition and Metabolism. 2013, 10:57.
  10. Lowery RP, et al. Oral ATP administration improves blood flow responses to exercise in both animal and human training models. Presented at 10th Annual ISSN Conference. Colorado Springs, CO. June 2013.
  11. Marcus L, Soileau J, Judge LW, Bellar D. Evaluation of the effects of two doses of alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine on physical and psychomotor performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2017;14:39. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0196-5.

What is Blood Flow Restriction / Occlusion Training?

The field of sports science is a constantly evolving one, with new discoveries made everyday in our quest to understand the inner workings of the ultimate machine — the human body. For the longest time, it was thought that the only way to get bigger and stronger was by lifting heavier and heavier weights.

While it is true that you can get incredibly big and strong lifting progressively heavier weights, every natural athlete has a ceiling they hit. At some point, you’ll simply reach a plateau and any further gains will be minimal at best.

Does this mean that you’re forever stuck at a certain size and strength level?

Not even close, as modern research has unveiled a new method of weight training that allows you to get bigger and stronger using lighter weights than you’re used to.

It’s called BFR training, and if you’re not familiar with it, stick around to learn a thing or two!

What is BFR / Occlusion Training?

Blood flow restriction (BFR) training, also known as occlusion training, is a newer training methodology using cuffs or wraps placed around a limb during weight training. These wraps allow for arterial inflow of blood into the working muscle with inhibiting venous return. BFR training forces blood to stay inside your muscles longer than normal, which influences muscle physiology in several ways.

During weight training, metabolic waste products accumulate in your working muscles. Blood is responsible for clearing these metabolic byproducts from your working muscles and supplying them with oxygen and nutrients to allow them to continue functioning at a high level. BFR training slows the rate at which these waste products are cleared from your muscles, allowing them to stay around longer, thereby eliciting a more greater anabolic effect in your body.[1] In other words, by restricting blood flow, you’re amplifying the effects of metabolic stress in your muscle cells, which results in better growth after training.

Research has shown that BFR training increases mTOR and lowers myostatin levels in the body which creates an environment that is ideal for muscle growth.[2,3] In case you weren’t aware, myostatin is a protein that inhibits muscle cell growth and differentiation. By rendering myostatin inert, you’re removing another impediment on the pathway for making gains in size and strength.

Resistance training also forces cells to swell and expand with nutrients and fluid, which also happens to be another signal for muscle growth in your body. Occlusion training increases this “cellular swelling” and lengthens the amount of time your cells stay swollen, which tells the body the muscles need to grow bigger to adapt to the increased metabolic stress.

BFR Training How-To

BFR training can be done with weight lifting, walking, jogging, or really any other training modality. Simply take a some form of pressure cuff, wrap or ace bandage that can be used to wrapped around your limbs. SteelFit® offers our own Blood Flow Restriction Training Sleeves that also retain heat while stimulating growth and aiding in recovery. Tighten the bandage (or SteelFit® BFR Training Sleeves) so that it’s at a 7 out of 10 tightness (10 being as tight as possible). Make sure to wrap the bandage/cuff/ BFR Training Sleeves around the top of the muscle. If the wraps are placed too low, venous occlusion isn’t optimal and you won’t get the full intended training effect from blood flow restriction.

Don’t wrap the bandage so tight as to induce tingling or numbness — the bandage is too tight then. Wrapping the bandage too tight cuts off blood flow to the muscles, which defeats the purpose of what we’re trying to accomplish with BFR training. When starting out, it’s better to err on the side of a bit too loose than too tight until you get the hang of things.

BFR Training Benefits

  • Train with Lighter Loads (20-30% of 1RM)
  • Increased Muscle Size and Strength
  • Good for Rehabbing Athletes
  • MASSIVE Pumps
  • Great for Muscle Gain

References

  1. Gentil P, Oliveira E, Bottaro M. Time under tension and blood lactate response during four different resistance training methods. J Physiol Anthropol. 2006;25(5):339-344.
  2. Fry CS, Glynn EL, Drummond MJ, et al. Blood flow restriction exercise stimulates mTORC1 signaling and muscle protein synthesis in older men. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2010;108(5):1199-1209. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.01266.2009.
  3. Laurentino GC, Ugrinowitsch C, Roschel H, et al. Strength training with blood flow restriction diminishes myostatin gene expression. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012;44(3):406-412. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e318233b4bc.