Book Review: “Science & Development of Muscle Hypertrophy” (Brad Schoenfeld)

September 7, 2016

brad schoenfeld book review nicola joyce
When Human Kinetics asked if I’d like to review Dr. Brad Schoenfeld’s new book – “Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy”, I didn’t hesitate. Brad is one of a small number of people in this industry who I trust as an authoritative voice. He’s one of my go-to sources for research and smart discussion around the science of gaining muscle.

I interviewed Brad ages ago for Muscle & Fitness magazine and have followed him (online, not literally, that would be weird and impractical) ever since.

“Science and Development…” is Brad’s latest book. It’s the ultimate resource if you’re interested in the current research behind muscle hypertrophy. But before I get into my review – and why you really need to get a copy of this book – here’s how to follow Brad so you can stay up to date with what he has to say. >> Brad Schoenfeld PhD on Facebook and on his website/blog.

What is muscle hypertrophy? It’s the fancy name for increasing muscle size. So this book is essentially about the Science of Swole.

The book is exhaustive. It covers every factor which could influence muscle hypertrophy, including training, nutrition, genetics, gender, and age.

It’s divided into seven chapters:

Hypetrophy related responses and adaptations to exercise stress
The mechanisms of hypertrophy
Role of resistance training variables in hypertrophy
Role of aerobic training in hypertrophy
Factors in maximal hypertrophic development
Program design for maximal hypertrophy
Nutrition for hypertrophy

As you’d expect from Brad Schoenfeld, the book is a compilation of the latest science-based principles, research, and meta analyses. It’s got more than 825 references. And the most important thing (IMO)? It’s written in a very accessible, applicable way. It’s research, but it’s practical too.

Put it this way, the last time I “did science” was at GCSE (which is longer ago than I care to admit). And I can understand it just fine!

If you’re a strength, power, or physique athlete (or someone who enjoys training with weights but doesn’t compete), or if you are a coach or PT, you need this book. Anyone who is interested what happens to our bodies when we train to gain size will find it useful.

Here’s just a taster of what you’ll find in the book:

– how the body structurally and hormonally changes when exposed to stress
– ways to most effectively design training programs
– current nutrition guidelines for bringing about hypertrophic changes
– the specific responses and mechanisms that promote muscle hypertrophy
– how genetic background, age, sex, and other factors affect the hypertrophic response to exercise

There are even sample programmes to help you design a three or four-times a week undulating periodised program or a modified linear periodised programme.

As far as I can see, it leaves no muscle hypertrophy stone unturned. And if there’s one person I’d trust to do a great job on this topic, it’s Brad.

What more do you want, people? Get it, read it, apply it. πŸ™‚

You can get the book (hard copy, PDF, eBook) from Human Kinetics or from Amazon.

Book Review: “Science & Development of Muscle Hypertrophy” (Brad Schoenfeld) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Stealth Cardio Tactics (No Treadmill Required)

June 23, 2016

Cardio doesn’t have to be a dirty word. It’s been a long time since I was involved in endurance sport, but I still enjoy cardio*. However, I don’t often fancy the idea of plodding on a cross trainer for half an hour.

(*I realise that i might be kicked out of the bodybuilding “fam” for admitting this.)

So I employ Stealth Cardio tactics.

If you enjoy working up a sweat, but don’t want to do “traditional” gym indoor cardio, here are my 4 current favourites.

nicola joyce on a bike
Cardio disguised as commuting
I’ve been riding my bike to the gym (and back, obvi) a couple of times a week. Only when it’s sunny, mind. It’s not far – maybe 4 miles each way – but it involves a steep hill whichever way I go. (The gym is in the “East Cliff” part of town which should tell you something). So there’s 30+ minutes of cardio right there.

Only it doesn’t feel like cardio because 1) I like riding my bike, 2) it’s serving a purpose to get me to the gym and back again and 3) there’s plenty to see.

PS That photo is not recent. But it makes me laugh because it’s me, riding my bike, apparently to swimming club (note the 80s towelling swimming bag).

dog in a kayak
Cardio that’s funny
If you only need to do cardio for general activity levels, then the best kind is the funny kind IMO. Frankie thefitdog would agree. Here we are, attempting to paddle about together in a sea kayak. Quite possibly I found that funnier than he did. But you get my point. Challenge your kids to some sprints around the local playing field. Go and play badminton (or whatever sport you used to love) with a mate. Cardio can be fun, honest.

tabata on concept2
Cardio that’s so tough you can’t think about it til later
When I do cardio at the gym, my new favourite is the rowing machine. I’ve had some great advice from my fellow writer friend Patricia Carswell of Girl On The River, who’s a Proper Rower. I don’t know why I love the Concept2 so much, but I do! I think it’s because it’s proper hard cardio which makes me sweat buckets and feel like I might die a bit. (Don’t forget, I come from a very “ultra distance” endurance sport background).

I’ve mainly being doing “a href=”https://www.tabataofficial.com”>tabata on the rowing machine. If you’re not sure what tabata is, it’s a structured form of intense interval training. One “tabata” is 8 rounds of 20 seconds HARD work/10 seconds recovery (4 minutes). I do 2 Tabatas – 16 rounds, for a total of 8 minutes.

I’ve also done a couple of 5000m rows, and a 2000m row just to see how long it would take me. Point being, if you choose a form of cardio that’s so challenging that you can’t zone out or get distracted, you might actually feel more inclined to do it. Maybe. If you’re weird like me!

Cardio that’s so short you don’t notice it til later
Finally, this is something I’ve been doing once a week: adding 1-minute bursts of cardio in to my weights workout (as giant sets). At first I wasn’t sure if this would actually feel effective. Erm… I can report that it definitely does.

The idea of course is to make the 1-minute bursts hard, so your heart rate stays high and you break a sweat. You could do this by hopping on a piece of cardio equipment, or by using a skipping rope, or doing any kind of bodyweight move like burpees. If your gym has conditioning kit (battle ropes, sled, prowler) or strongman events equipment (farmers walk handles, tyres to flip) then that would work, too. You can easily add 20 minutes of cardio to your day by doing it this way. 20 x 1-minute feels more manageable – and more fun – than 20 minutes of zombie mode on the cross trainer.

Do you do any cardio at all? What’s your favourite approach?

Stealth Cardio Tactics (No Treadmill Required) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


I’m 6 Years Old (So I Guess I Should Actually Blog…)

April 26, 2016

WordPress informed me today that this blog is six years old. In blog terms, that’s positively elderly. But a blog isn’t a blog if it’s not actually updated… so here goes!
the fit writer blog nicola joyce 6 years birthday

I’m not sure I’ve got a lot to say…

…so – for anyone still out there and interested – here’s a stream of disconnected ramblings about training, food, and my newest bits of home fitness kit.

My most recent blog posts were about powerlifting. Specifically the BDFPA full power Nationals in February (so long ago already?) where I squatted 105, benched 60, deadlifted 150 (but I’d like it to be known that I got 160 to my knees!) You can read about that comp by clicking the clicky <<< .

Directly after that meet, I really wanted to do more powerlifting. I had grand plans:

1) the BDFPA single lifts nationals (initially just deadlift, but then I fell in love with squatting and decided to both deadlift and squat)
2) a BDFPA qualifier, ideally with my girlbro Charlie, to qualify early for 2017 nationals
3) nationals in 2017

But then various annoying logistical issues got in the way – travel, dog sitters, accommodation – and I had to make an executive decision.

I decided to shelve my powerlifting for the year (I’m happy enough with the progress I made between my qualifier and Nationals), and to revert to plan B: get back to training, do a late qualifier (Jan/Feb 2017) and see how I get on.

What am I up to now, then?

TRAINING

I’ve brought more bodybuilding aspects of training back into my life (although my training has definitely altered since my time focusing on powerlifting). I’m enjoying doing a wider variety of exercises, and paying attention to body parts I didn’t have the time (or the need) to train as a powerlifter.

Remember “notch watch” from way back when? (No, nor do I really and I wrote it.) Well, that belt has long since been thrown in the bin (it perished – literally – after languishing in the boot of my leaky car). But I still wear my Inzer belt for heavy squats, and I’m down 3 “notches” on it since the start of the year.

EATING

Things got a little wild there out in the hinterland of powerlifting, so yes I am dieting, but very slowly and extremely “flexibly”. No meal plan, no eating out of tupperware, and no cutting carbs (indeed no cutting anything). I’m just paying attention to what I’m eating, tracking it, and working to macros. Carbs are lovely and high, and I’m loving life! I’m dieting to macros, rather than to a meal plan, but it’s a very “flexible dieting” type approach. Carbs are no lower than 180, and I got above 200 twice a week. I think I might turn into a rice cake soon!
rice cakes bodybuilder
MOVING

Cardio has made a re-appearance, partly to support the slow diet and partly cos it’s Summer and it’s a lot nicer to ride my bike and pull my sled around the field in this kind of weather.

(Sled from Celtic Strength)

Bit of sled work out on the field tonight with my push/pull sled, handmade and custom painted by @simoncelticstrength πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ

A video posted by Nicola Joyce βœ’οΈπŸ’ͺ🐢✌️ (@thefitwriter) on Apr 13, 2016 at 2:45pm PDT

No plans for events/comps/meets just yet. I’m really enjoying getting some structure back into my nutrition and training, and seeing where it leads me over the next few months. If I end up in shape, I have the option of UKDFBA (bodybuilding) later in the year. To all UKDFBA competitors and the general UKDFBA “fam” – I will be at as many qualifiers as possible this year, and I can’t wait to see you!

I’m better at updating my social media…

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

I’m 6 Years Old (So I Guess I Should Actually Blog…) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Latest favourite training, nutrition, health podcasts

October 26, 2014

It’s been a while since I listed the podcasts I am currently enjoying. I listen to tons (as well as audiobooks) because I walk so much (dog owner living in a beautiful part of the country!)

This will be the third of these types of blog posts I’ve written; my previous podcast recommendations are here:
favourites from last year
more from 2013
and podcast recommendations from 2011 (many of which are no more)

cover170x170
The Ben Pakulski Podcast
For those who don’t know who he is, Ben Pakulski is an IFBB Pro bodybuilder (he was in Generation Iron). I came across his podcast when Mark Coles of M10 (whose social media content I absolutely love) was a guest. I listened to that podcast episode, applied some of the ideas to my next leg session, had DOMS for about a week, and was hooked. Ben and co-host John Meadows interview athletes, coaches and experts in bodybuilding, strength and muscle hypertrophy about practical applications and ideas in various areas.
Ben Pakulski podcast on itunes

cover170x170-3
Elite Muscle Radio
Phil Graham is another guy whose social media content I really enjoy, and now I can listen to his podcast too. The Elite Muscle Radio podcast explores nutrition and training in pretty high-end detail but does so in a way that won’t leave you feeling lost (or bored). I was once stuck in traffic on the M25 and listened to almost 80 minutes all about dietary fats and insulin sensitivity for sports performance and body recomp. I’m not a prep coach nor do I have a scientific mind but those 80 minutes were fascinating and I was grateful for the traffic jam. All of the episodes are similarly interesting. I truly feel like I’m “getting my learn on” when I listen.
Elite Muscle Radio on itunes

cover170x170-2
Physique Science Radio
I’m sure you’ve heard of Layne Norton. Well, here’s his podcast. He co-hosts with Sohee Lee, a smart woman who has just released a reverse-dieting book. Layne and Sohee are known for their work on flexible dieting, reverse dieting and health-based contest prep and off-season nutrition. Expect lots of evidence-based nutrition and training advice.
Physique Science Radio on itunes

cover170x170-1
Real Nutrition Radio
I really like this nutrition podcast, hosted by Clinical Sports Nutritionist, Martin MacDonald and his co-host, Mike Sweeney. Between the two of them, they are able to discuss and dissect nutrition topics from two angles, bringing loads of experience not just from academic study but “from the trenches” of actually treating people. It’s not all fat loss and contest prep, either, which I really like. They set out to dispel myths and misconceptions and bring real talk about nutrition for health, sports performance, muscle gain and body composition.
Real Nutrition Radio on itunes

Do you have any podcast recommendations for me?

Latest favourite training, nutrition, health podcasts is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Getting started (or starting over)

February 11, 2014

I’ve been away from the gym for a week or so (I injured my back… no, not lifting weights, but congrats to the few people who gave it some variation of “it’s because you do too much exercise”… πŸ˜‰ )

Being injured is pretty humbling.
Overnight, those things I do with barely a second-thought (putting a loaded bar on my back, walking out, and squatting; sitting under a vertical leg press loaded with plates and unclipping the safeties…) seemed terrifying. Impossible, even.

It gave me an insight into how it might feel to be a complete newbie to strength training. And made me realise why people respond the way they do when us muscle-heads talk so easily about lifting big weights.

It’s not the norm, it’s not easy, and it’s not second-nature. It just becomes that way over time.

Being away from training – particularly due to injury – opens your eyes to this. And returning to training puts you back, if not back to square one, then certainly back to a place where you need to think, rather than just “do” out of habit.

So, as I prepare to finally get back into training (hooray!) I thought it might be useful to write about how to get started, or how to start over. After all, social media is great about giving us people’s “fitness journeys”, “before and after” transformation photos, and the A-Z. Rarely do we hear about the B, C and D. The less glamorous, more workaday aspects of forming new habits. The important bits which build momentum… and enable people to get all the way to “Z”.

Start simple
There are dozens of approaches you could take to training and nutrition when you start out. It’s highly unlikely you’ll choose the absolute optimum one first time. It takes a while to get to know your body (and mind). So just get started. Make it very simple. Don’t ask too many people for advice (they’ll all give you a different opinion!) Read, research and listen, but don’t give yourself a case of paralysis by analysis. And don’t sweat the small stuff. Get a basic, simple training plan in place (from one trusted source) and make common sense changes to nutrition, lifestyle, sleep and stress management.

Get into a routine
Keep your gym bag packed and by the door. Keep your sports kit where you can see it (lay it out near your bed if you’re an early-morning exerciser). Have all your supplements and shaker bottles within easy reach. Get yourself into a routine so that, over time, going to the gym or going to training, eating well, going to bed at a reasonable time (etc) become second nature. When I had my little hiatus from the gym, obviously I got out of the habit of picking my gym bag up, checking my training plan and heading out the door (via Waitrose for my free pre-workout espresso LOL – it’s all part of the “routine” πŸ˜‰ ) I had to actually think back and walk through my little routine because I thought I’d forgotten it (!) Needless to say, a regular routine comes back quickly if it’s something which was previously well bedded-in!

Make it easier to do than to resist
Become aware of your areas of resistance. Do you find it hard to get up in the morning to train first thing? Or is it really hard to get home from work and then have to go out again to get to the gym? Do you find it hard to eat well in the evenings? Make it difficult to make poor choices. And make it much easier to make the better decision. Keep healthy food in the house which you know you’ll actually like eating, and keep it at eye-level so it’s easier to grab than the stuff you’re trying to cut back on. Find a training partner so those early morning sessions become more fun. Go to the gym on the way home from work. The best training routine is… the one you feel you can do (and enjoy). Don’t make it more difficult than it has to be!

Wish me luck with my return to training! πŸ˜€

Getting started (or starting over) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


What’s in your gym bag? (Here’s mine + a few reviews)

January 21, 2014

What do you keep in your gym bag? Besides the obvious (shaker bottle, training log, headphones etc).

IMG_6627

I’ve told the silly story of my actual bag before so we won’t go into all that again (just in case the Boots Parenting Club people are reading… )

Here’s a glimpse into what I’ve got in my gym bag at the moment:

IMG_6628

“Figure of 8” type lifting straps from Legacy
I don’t use straps much, but when I do it’s for pull ups and rows – I find these straps really quick and easy to use

Fat Gripz lifting aids

I love these for bicep training and any pulling exercise. You put them round the bar to basically create a thicker bar, to increase muscle activation and train your grip.

Symagrips
You can’t see these in the pic – they are a pair of rubber grips you put round barbells, dumbells, even ropes and other cable attachments so you can brace your hands during the movement and activate the muscle slightly differently (also adds a layer of “Steritouch” protection between your hands and particularly grotty gym kit!)

Liquidgrip liquid chalk

I do like to use chalk particularly for deadlifts, but quite a lot of gyms don’t allow it (!), so Liquidgrip is good to have in your bag just in case!

Smartshake shaker/storage bottle
I’ve blogged before about my love of Smartshake bottles before (I do particularly love the neon ones though)

Paraben-free deodorant Bionsen
(so fresh, so clean… πŸ˜‰ )

Beet It Sports shots for pre-workout
I’ve been using these as a pre-workout recently and really rate them. I actually think they’d be fantastic to take backstage at a bodybuilding comp just before pump up. Beetroot juice contains high levels of naturally-occurring nitrate which converts into nitric oxide in the bloodstream. (Nitric oxide is the “NO” part of all those big-name pre-workouts!) Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which is why the Beet It Sports shots are so good as a pre-workout to help performance and stamina. Note – they are pretty high in carbs (as you’d expect, since they are beetroot juice!) but ITCFYM (“if that can fit your macros” hee hee) then go for it! Best served very cold – I keep mine in the fridge then pop in my kit bag on the way out the door. Oh – and they carry the Informed-Sport logo, too – great news for those of us who are drug tested in sport πŸ™‚ I might have a party soon and create the exclusive “Beet It Sports Shot Bloody Mary” πŸ˜‰

Sockwa shoes
These little minimal/slipper type shoes – Sockwa G4 – are actually designed for “barefoot running” and come from Barefoot Britain but I’ve been using them for deadlifting and absolutely love them. When I was still planning on doing a powerlifting meet, I was told they would be fine for wearing in competition (for the deadlift, anyway). They’re so comfy! I haven’t run in them so can’t comment on how they feel for their intended use, but for deadlifts they get two thumbs up!

Emergency zombie apocalypse SOS bag
Finally, there’s a little bag of essential items (ie mostly food) in case, you know, I suddenly find myself emerging from the gym to a world where food has ceased to exist, all shops have been burned to the ground, and my “anabolic window” is threatening to eat away at all my gainz. I keep a couple of little sachets of oats in there, some sample sachets of whey (Bulkpowders), some pre-workout (it’s Mezza Turbonox) and some lovely fragrant wipes from Mendill (I reviewed these just before Christmas). Because when the apocalypse comes, I want to my glycogen stores to be full AND my skin to smell nice. You understand.

What’s in your gym bag?

What’s in your gym bag? (Here’s mine + a few reviews) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Helpful tips for regaining healthy-eating habits after Christmas

December 30, 2013

Getting back into the habit of healthy eating can be a challenge after Christmas.

It’s all too easy to get out of your routine and to adopt a new one: of eating erratically, of starting the day with chocolate, of picking at left-overs just because they’re there.

Here are a few tips and tricks which help at this time of year. In fact they can be useful reminders at any time of year (because it’s not just Christmas which can throw you off).

Don’t buy any more off the stuff you don’t want to eat

Want to stop eating chocolate after dinner, or toast as an afternoon snack? It sounds simple, but start by not buying it. If it’s not in the house, you won’t eat it. Well, you might, but you’ll have to actually go out to buy it (in which case it’s probably going to be a real treat, rather than habit).

Make an effort to break new habits if they don’t serve you
Over Christmas, you’ve probably developed some new habits without realising. Stuff you simply wouldn’t do at other times of the year. Stopping at service stations on car journeys for “festive” coffee drinks. Booze, cheese or chocolates after dinner. Having some biscuits with a cuppa. Cutting a slice of cake because it’s there. First step is to identify the habits. Are they serving you well? Are they helping you reach whatever your goal is (healthy eating, fat loss, performance, feeling good)? No? Then be aware of them and make an effort to stop.

Buy lots of veg
Your fridge and kitchen cupboards are no doubt a strange mish-mash at this time of year: left-overs, foodie gifts, bits and bobs which people brought to parties. Some of which you possibly don’t even want any more. And most of which aren’t a regular fixture in the way you eat the rest of the year. Crowd them out, by stocking up on veg.

**Brussels sprouts are currently 20p/kilo in my local Tesco** (other supermarkets are available) πŸ˜‰ πŸ™‚

Stock up on whatever veggies (green, leafy, cruciferous or otherwise!) you enjoy eating. And eat ’em! Your body and mind will remember how good it feels πŸ™‚

Make it as easy as possible for yourself
The thing about habits is that we take the path of least resistance. Even going to the gym and training really hard can become “easy” when we do it often. The training itself doesn’t become easy, but the process does. We know where our gym bag is, the routine of getting out the door is second nature. It’s no longer difficult to be a person who goes training regularly. Make healthy eating the same.
– slice, chop and cut up your (new) veg and store in tubs in the fridge. Make them quicker to grab than a biscuit or leftover sausage roll. Make it easier to eat vegetables than it is to eat mince pies
– prep some meals in advance if you know you’re going to be busy, tired or emotional and tempted to grab Christmas leftovers
– make good use of leftover Christmas meat. Various family members sent me home with generous lumps of cooked turkey and beef this year (thank you!) I cut them into reasonable portion sizes and froze them, so it’ll be easy to use them for healthy meals.

Have a plan
Maybe you can slide effortlessly back into your healthy eating routine without a plan, but I can’t. One thing that really works for me is having a simple, fuss-free blueprint which I know I can fall back on without a great deal of thought. It’s just regular, simple meals that I know I’ll enjoy and will help me perform well in the gym. Having it pre-planned and written down makes it very easy for me to get back on track and stick to it.

Keep it really simple

And my plan is very simple. The simpler, the better. I make sure there’s lots of variety within it, but not much choice. I find that if I give myself too much choice, I’m more likely to add “a bit of this” and “just a slice of that”. Simple meals, with plenty of variety throughout the day. No fuss.

It’s not a big deal
Some people find getting back into healthy eating after a break sends them into a tailspin. Overthinking leads to panic and self-doubt and then somehow they can’t really remember how their routine used to be (despite the fact that it was only a couple of weeks ago). So, deep breath. Be calm. It is not a big deal. It’s just the food you’re going to eat. Plan it, buy it, prep it, eat it. Then get on with the rest of your day, because I’m sure there’s a lot more to it (and to you) than what you eat.

No negative thoughts, please

And yes, quite possibly you gained a lot of weight over Christmas, didn’t stick to the plans and promises you imposed on yourself in early December, and don’t feel good as a consequence. Be kind to yourself. You can and will get back on the wagon. You know what to do and you know it’ll work. Don’t put any extra pressure on yourself. Speak to yourself – and about yourself – as you would a dear friend.

Helpful tips for regaining healthy-eating habits after Christmas is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


%d bloggers like this: