• Get A Good Night's Sleep

    Sleep is a very important (and difficult to manage) component of health and fitness. If you're having trouble getting a good night's sleep, try dimming (or even completely turning off) the lights in your house as soon as the sun goes down. This may be difficult if your nightly routine includes a lot of reading, but it's definitely doable if you plan on watching television. Dimming the lights will increase your body's natural production of melatonin, helping you fall asleep faster and feel more rested when you wake in the morning.

    There is also research surfacing that shows low-frequency electromagnetic fields (like those emitted from household electronics) can interfere with a natural sleep cycle. Remove (or unplug) all electronics from your bedroom and see if you notice a difference!
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  • Heart Rate and Recovery

    Did you know that changes in your waking heart rate can be used to predict your body's recovery status?

    Take your waking heart rate for a few days before you begin an extra-intense workout schedule (this will be your baseline). Continue taking your waking heart rate as you increase your activity level -- be sure you are doing this right when you wake up. If your heart rate is suddenly elevated by 3-5 beats/minute (above your baseline), then it's likely your body is not completely recovered and needs more rest (i.e. more nightly sleep or a quick nap). If your heart rate is elevated by more than 5 beats/minute, you should take the day off from your scheduled workout to let your body rest and recover.
    Use this technique to ensure your body is recovering sufficiently between workouts -- it's a great way to minimize the stresses of over-training!
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  • Muscle Fibers and the 80% Test

    Today we're going to discuss an easy way to test for fiber dominance in your major muscle groups.

    First, let's review why this is useful information. Human muscles have two basic fiber types: slow twitch and fast twitch (it's actually more complicated than this, but using these two types serves our purpose). All of your muscles will have some combination of slow and fast twitch fibers, but it's possible (and common) to have a higher ratio of one type or the other in different muscles. A fast twitch dominant muscle will respond best to a different type of training than a slower twitch muscle (fast twitch muscles are best trained with heavier weights while slow twitch muscles respond better to lighter weights and longer sets).
    A great way to determine your muscle fiber dominance is the 80% Test. To perform the 80% Test, you'll choose a weight that is 80% of your one rep max (the heaviest weight you can lift for one repetition) and perform as many repetitions as possible. The number of repetitions you perform will tell your fiber dominance in the tested muscle(s).
    Here is how to interpret your result:
    • 1-10 repetitions: You are fast twitch dominant and should perform high load and high acceleration exercises. (The closer you are to one repetition, the more fast twitch dominant you are.) Focus your training on loads that challenge you for 2-6 repetitions.
    • 11-13 repetitions: You have a balanced fiber ratio and should perform a combination of high acceleration and slower tempo training using moderate loads. Focus your training on loads that challenge you for 6-12 repetitions.
    • 14+ repetitions: You are slow twitch dominant and should perform longer duration sets with lighter loads. (The more repetitions you perform, the more slow twitch dominant you are.) Focus your training on loads that challenge you for 10-15 repetitions.

    Your dominant fiber type will tell you how to structure the bulk of your training, but everyone should perform a combination of heavy-, moderate- and light-load exercises with varying repetitions to get the best training effect. I would focus 60-70% of your workout on fiber-specific training and use the rest of your time performing other load and repetition ranges.
    Different muscles groups may have different muscle fiber makeups, so you should test each of your major muscle groups with a different exercise.
    The following exercises are recommended:
    • Squats: For testing your quads and glutes
    • Leg Curl: For testing your hamstrings
    • Flat Dumbbell Bench Press: For testing your chest and triceps
    • Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: For testing your shoulders and triceps
    • Cable Rows: For testing your back and biceps
    • Machine Calf Raise: For testing your calves.

    It's not perfect, but the 80% Test will give you a good idea about your fiber types. This is a great tool to use when you're deciding how to structure your next training program.