Monthly Archives: February 2016

Benefits Of Creatine

Whether you are relatively new to the fitness scene, or a seasoned powerlifter or bodybuilder, odds are that you have heard of creatine. It is also likely you have heard both good and bad things about this notorious supplement. The purpose of this article is to provide information on creatine, its efficacy and/or benefits, the types of creatine available, some debunking of media propaganda, and proper dosing protocols.

 

WHAT IS CREATINE?

I am sure even the biggest couch potato has at least heard of the word creatine. But what is it? The word creatine is derived from the Greek word for meat, and was first discovered by a French scientist by the name of Michel Chevreul in the 1800s.5

Creatine is a naturally occurring nitrogenous organic acid found in the skeletal muscle of vertebrates.About 95% of the creatine found in the human body is located within the skeletal muscle. Creatine is produced from amino acids, L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine to be exact, and the process is performed mainly in the kidneys and liver.2

Most of the creatine found in our bodies comes from the foods we eat. Unless you are a vegetarian, up to half of the creatine that is stored in your body can come from meat.5

 

WHAT IS CREATINE’S FUNCTION, AND WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SUPPLEMENTATION?

Without getting too scientific and technical, creatine is stored in the muscles and is used as a form of energy called phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine is associated with power output in prolonged muscle use. When this is depleted within the muscle, muscle fatigue is triggered. Increasing creatine within the body has been proven to help increase phosphocreatine output during anaerobic activity. This is known as the ATP-CP energy system within the body.6

 

As briefly touched upon, increasing the creatine content within the muscles helps prolong the depletion of phosphocreatine. This in short means an increase in muscular endurance, as well as an increase in strength and power.6

 

Another benefit of creatine is that it helps muscles look fuller due to the fact it actually draws water within muscle cells, increasing the volumization of muscles. This has shown to have quite beneficial anabolic effects, since it increases protein synthesis. The increase in the volume of the muscle cell signals that it has grown. Consequently, that muscle cell responds by increasing its production of vital proteins, or simply put, an increase in the efficiency that protein is utilized.4

 

Creatine has also been shown to buffer lactic acid build up. This means the “burn” you feel during a given exercise may not be as intense, or may be blunted, possibly resulting in more reps.3

 

TYPES OF CREATINE AVAILABLE:

 

Since creatine was discovered in the fitness world as a beneficial supplement, supplement companies have been trying to manipulate the chemical structure to produce a better version. While there are brief studies that show some newer versions tend to be slightly absorbed better than the original version, creatine monohydrate, which was first introduced by EAS in 1993, the exorbitant costs these companies are charging for these “super creatines” is probably not worth it.

Without getting into detail of the advantages/disadvantages of each, below are a few examples of available creatines today. Keep in mind creatine monohydrate has been proven time and time again as safe and effective, and supplement companies are constantly trying to “reinvent the wheel” so to speak in order to make money with the reintroduction of various types of creatine.1

  • Monohydrate
  • Ethyl Ester
  • Tri-Creatine Malate Buffered
  • Creatine Liquid

CREATINE AND THE MEDIA:

As with anything that yields results, the media has placed blame on creatine for some bad things that have happened to athletes over the last few years. There are countless studies, articles, etc. to debunk some of the propaganda the media associates with creatine, which are mainly kidney issues. Here is a summary taken from a study posted on T- Nation.

The research unequivocally states that creatine is safe in the measured parameters (7, 12, 15, 20, 22, 23), although some people are quick to point out that no long-term studies (i.e. 10+ years) have been performed. Interestingly, so much research on safety has come out in the last few years that a couple of complete literature reviews have been performed on the topic (1, 31). For those who question the long-term effects on kidney and liver function, we have to think that if five straight years of use has zero negative effect, then the negative effect we’re waiting for just won’t ever happen

Any time athletes suffer from dehydration, the media is quick to blame creatine. They often quote high levels of creatine were found in tests in individuals who suffered dehydration. First off, creatine cannot be detected in a user through tests, meaning it is virtually impossible to detect if someone is supplementing creatine. Moreover, the media often mistakes creatine with creatinine, which is a totally different substance that will be elevated due to dehydration. Creatinine is not creatine, but a breakdown product of creatine within skeletal muscle.

There is no proof to show creatine dehydrates an individual, and in fact, the facts state otherwise. A study posted on T-Nation quoted from Dr. Richard Kreider:

We did several studies back in the mid-90’s that measured and monitored injuries, cramping issues, heat illness, fluid shifts, etc. The studies generally showed that there was no negative effect at all from creatine usage or there was a slight hyper-hydration where you have some fluid retention, so core temperature is lower when exercising — a benefit. Athletes using creatine actually had lower instances of cramping.

There are literally thousands of cases, studies, etc. on creatine’s safety, but the ones posted are just examples of some that can aid in getting rid of the negative connotation that often accompanies creatine.8

HOW SHOULD CREATINE BE DOSED?

Not much has changed in the method of dosing creatine in the last decade. Some people choose to go through a “loading phase” which is in fact just that. Basically it saturates the muscles quicker, and the effects are believed to be seen at a faster rate.The loading phase usually consists of five days, supplementing about 20 grams per day. Each dose should be about 5 grams, and doses should be spread throughout the day.  After the “loading phase,” supplementing 5-10 grams per day is shown to produce optimal results.7

 

Many people choose to cycle creatine as well. As with anything, the body can become accustomed to it over time and it can lose its efficacy. Consequently, it is common to take creatine for 8-12 weeks, followed by a break of 8-12 weeks. The process can be repeated. Cycling is optional, but is a common practice.

Another common practice proven to be effective is to supplement creatine with a simple carbohydrate such as grape juice. The simple carbohydrates help create an insulin spike, and this helps deliver the creatine to the muscles at a much faster rate for quicker and more efficient absorption.

Also keep in mind, due to its nature creatine is most effective when staying fully hydrated. It will not be beneficial if you are not drinking plenty of water.7

CONCLUSION:

If you are looking for a safe, proven, effective supplement to help you get that extra rep in the gym, then creatine is for you. Keep in mind, creatine is simply a supplement, which means it should supplement a good diet and training routine; there is no supplement that can replace either. However, if both are spot on, you can expect a nice boost from this naturally occurring supplement.

 

Read more at: BreakingMuscle

Strength Training For Real Strength

Too many trainees and athletes are quick to overlook (and sometimes forget) about body weight training. Even so, you can become very strong when training with just your body weight.

Body weight training is all about the basics and the truth is, no matter how advanced you are, your body will always fall back on its base level of strength. Your overall body weight strength will always serve as the foundation and bridge to your other strengths.

When it comes to the basics of body weight training, you should be familiar with all of the essential movements: squats, lunges, push ups, pull ups, rows, and plank variations. You should also have the ability to climb, crawl, sprint, and jump. These are primal movements.

Obviously there are hundreds, if not thousands of different variations for each of the basic body weight training movements out there, but no matter what, all of them come back to being able to perform the basics.

Body weight training serves as your foundation and is the driver of all of your other strengths and skills. Strength tools such as kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, and sandbags are useless without having the proper body weight strength and conditioning foundation.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when young athletes or new clients come into my gym and they get frustrated when I don’t quickly put them under a heavy barbell to see how much weight they can lift.

Most of my clients (and even advanced athletes) have HORRIBLE form and technique when they first come in; this is totally normal, and quite frankly, all too common.

I’ve always made it a point to go body weight training first and to make my clients prove to me and themselves that they are strong enough to handle their own body weight correctly and efficiently before using other strength tools extensively.

Body weight Workout Program for Strength and Conditioning: Body weight Standard

The rule of thumb I have for my clients and athletes is that they have a solid level of body weight strength before they go on to any external types of resistance. You should easily be able to perform the following:

1. Standing Poses – Build leg strength as well as flexibility in the hips and hamstrings.
2. 25 “Ass to Grass” Body weight Squats.
3. 5 Chest-to-Bar Pull Ups (any variation).
4. 25 Chest-to-Deck Push Ups
5. 25 Lunges per Leg Non-Stop.
6. 3 Handstand Push Ups OR 5 Pike Presses.
7. 20 Recline Rows.
8. 10 Hanging Knee Tucks.
9. 90 sec Basic Plank Hold.

The Bodyweight Gauntlet

Basic to Beast Complete Bodyweight Workout Program
One of the best types of tests that I like to put my athletes and clients through challenge their general body weight conditioning and strength levels is the Body weight Gauntlet.

I’ve always been a huge believer of training aggressively and pushing your body to the limit in order to take your results to the next level. Yes, there are progressions to follow, but the bottom line is that in order to get the best results possible, you must attack your workouts relentlessly.

Basics are always important, but intensity and focus should be number one over everything else!

The Body weight Gauntlet features four essential movements:

1. Push Ups – any variation

2. Strict Pull Ups – all grips and variations 

3. Squats – ass to grass only!

4. Burpees  – chest to floor with a jump at the top

Perform an all out, three minute set of each exercise and keep track of all of your reps.

For a beginner, this can get brutal real quick. As a person progresses overtime, they’ll start to see the differences in strength and overall conditioning quickly.

I don’t recommend an absolute beginner to take this on. I’ll usually have a complete beginner progress through each of the four basic movements first to get a solid base of bodyweight strength and conditioning built up before I let them loose on the Body weight Gauntlet.

While this may look like nothing more than a simple conditioning test, the real key to success is having a solid base of body weight strength to begin with. From there, it’s all about improving on this strength and increasing your efficiency of each movement over time.

Try it out and take the test to see where you’re at. Are you as BEAST or just a Proven Soldier? Leave your comments and score!

Beyond Body weight Training Basics

Now, beyond the basics of body weight training, you must understand that in order to get stronger with your own body weight, you must start to progress in difficulty.

Being able to bang out squats, push ups, lunges, and pull ups by the dozens or even hundreds is pretty good, but to what point? This will indeed help you achieve more conditioning-wise, but overtime, you won’t get that much stronger maximum strength-wise.

In order for your training to be truly effective in helping you gain more strength, you must start to build more strength with more progressed movements over time.

This is where different forms of advanced body weight exercises come into play.


You should also have the ability to climb, crawl, sprint, and jump. These are primal movements. Obviously there are hundreds, if not thousands of different variations for each of the basic body weight training movements out there, but no matter what, all of them come back to being able to perform the basics.

A great way to enhance your training and make it more advanced is to make it explosive by increasing the speed of the movement.

While this won’t work strength directly, it will help the body move with more force and speed which will ultimately crossover into helping you increase in overall strength. The faster you can move, the better.

One of my main coaching cues to my athletes and clients is to always be as explosive as possible with your movements during the concentric phase. I want my people to be thinking about lifting fast, never slow.

Obviously, I want people to be under control during the eccentric portion of the movement, but when it’s time to contract, you must contract with speed!

An example of this would be the push up. Imagine yourself at the top of the movement; as you descend down into the push up, you want to keep your whole body tight from head to toe (core especially).

A key point is that your whole body should work as one solid unit, never in parts, so keep your whole body engaged throughout the movement. As you come down you want to be in control.

You don’t have to go slow, but make sure to be under control. This is the eccentric portion of the movement. Now, as you come back up, you want to imagine moving your body as fast and as explosively as possible.

This is the concentric portion of the movement and you always want to focus on moving as fast as possible here.

Once you start to really slow down with your movement and you can’t move as fast as you know you can, (i.e. you start to grind out your reps), that’s a good point to stop your set.

This is known as “submax” training and this is a very important key to focus on to help increase body weight strength overtime. I refer to this point a lot when training push ups, pull ups, and rows.

I see too many people do these movements to failure, and when you train like this all the time, you fry out your central nervous system.

To make a long story short, it takes your central nervous system a lot longer to recover than it does for your muscles, so whenever you train to failure, it’s going to take your body a lot longer to recover from your workout.

Recovery and Body weight Training

Basic to Beast Complete Bodyweight Workout Program
Getting stronger requires your body to recover, and if you’re always cashed out from taking all of your movements to clear failure, you’ll be struggling at getting stronger, faster.

The overall point of this is to focus on being FAST with your movements and avoiding taking your sets to failure most of the time. Be efficient and crisp with your movements and you’ll continue to progress. Just think: quality over quantity.

Another way to increase your overall strength is to use advanced variations of movements. Obviously, if you’re not someone who can do advanced movements, you need to work through your progressions.

When it comes to building up more strength via body weight movements, it should be a no-brainer to make the movement harder.

One of the simplest ways to make a body weight movement more advanced is by moving the positioning of your feet or hands.

I’ll use the push up as an example again: a simple beginner’s push up would be your regular push up from the floor, the next level would be a push up with your feet elevated on a box.

You could also implement the use of a suspension trainer and do push ups while holding the straps or having your feet suspended in the straps. You could also do extended range of motion push ups with your hands on medicine balls or boxes.

There’s pretty much a limitless amount of things you can do to progress.

You can implement speed and power into the mix by doing explosive plyometric push ups which would be another way to make your normal push ups even harder.

One of the top progressions would be to totally remove the opposite arm out of play and perform single arm push ups.

The point is, there are literally thousands of ways you could progress your different body weight training movements to make them harder. The harder you make them, the more strength you’ll build up in the end.

Switching over to the lower body, another example would be squat progressions. Obviously, you would start off with your basic body weight squat, making sure to always get your “ass to the grass” first and then progress from there.

One of the first things you could do to make it more difficult is to add an explosive jump at the end of your squat. This would be another example of manipulating the speed of your movement.

You could also hold your hands overhead in a prisoner position or an overhead position to make it more difficult. To take things up another notch, implement the single leg squat (also known as a pistol squat).

Body weight Standard Tips and Tricks

Basic to Beast Complete Bodyweight Workout Program
1. Focus On The Basics First

Master your basic squat, push up, pull up, row, lunge, and your abilities to sprint, jump, climb, and crawl. Once you get those down, you can then move on to the more advanced movements.

2. Train FAST

Focus on performing your movements as crisp, clean, and explosive as possible.

3. Avoid Failure

Grinding out reps by going to complete failure will have you regressing in the long run. Leave a few reps left in your tank each set. This will keep you fresh and allow you to train aggressively more often.

4. In Reference To The Body weight Gauntlet

Make sure you only do this type of challenge every 4-6 weeks since you will be pushing yourself beyond failure when doing so. Doing the Body weight Gauntlet or a similar type of extreme workout too much and too often will result in a decrease in overall results.

Remember, it’s about the quality and balance of your workouts! Compromising your muscle’s ability to function is antithetical to a healthy, lean, and strong body!