Here is a collection of some of Dr. Israetel's thoughts on training, nutrition and the fitness industry in general. We'll be setting up regular blog posts where Dr. Israetel goes in depth more on these topics in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!
On Strength Training Adaptations:
"Strength progress in training is made asymptotically. What this means is that as you get stronger, strength gains become:
- More difficult to achieve
- Slower to accrue
- Less likely to be as consistent (This due to the fact that strength increases have some undulation to them, but the very fast pace of initial gains, these undulations are all but swallowed up. In the slowly rising curve of experienced trainers, they become much more noticeable.)
There are several implications for this, but two seem to be very pertinent right off hand:
1.) Understand that strength gains are SUPPOSED to slow down, and plan your training progressions, meet attempts, and expectations accordingly. So many people get pissed with the gains they are making when comparing them to previous gains, but in reality, given that it's harder as you go, the current gains are often very good or even (relatively) better than previous ones!
2.) Don't be so quick to program-hop when "amazing gains" of yesteryear are not presenting themselves. A ton of lifters abandon very good programs in search of "what worked for me back in the day." Well, you'll never see gains like that again, and your current program may be awesome!"
Something to keep in mind the next time you hit a plateau."
On the Naturalistic Fallacy and what it means for the fitness industry:
The naturalistic fallacy is in general the claim that because something is natural (or more natural), then it is somehow good, which in fitness usually means healthier or better for body composition. Its corollary is that if something is artificial, it must be bad.
The fallacy is that this is NOT a straightforward rule. For example, many more natural things tend to be better and healthier:
- Natural Nut Butter
- Fruits and Veggies
- Whole Grains
- Compound, whole-body movements (as opposed to fancy machines)
On the other hand, plenty of "natural" things are quite bad for fitness:
- Eating as much as you want
- Exercising as much as you want
- Traditional diets (too low in carbs or protein depending on diet)
- Getting sick
Of course, lots of artificial things can be bad especially in excess:
- High GI processed carbs
- Trans Fat-heavy foods
- High calorie fast foods
- Steroids and other bodybuilding drugs taken too far
But, artificial products can be hugely beneficial as well:
- Advanced protein powders, creatine, multivitamins
- Anabolic steroids, various hormones, medicines to keep you healthy
- Lactose-free milk
- Artificial sweeteners
So when it comes to fitness, there is NO SHORTCUT for concluding what's beneficial and healthy and what's otherwise... you just have to learn from the right sources. "Natural" vs. "artificial" is just not a useful trick."
On Training for Power:
"The race car analogy for power training:
1.) Muscle mass is like the body and frame of the car. Muscle mass is the second most important underlying factor for power generation, because it directly causes force production. In a similar way, the frame and body of a car are some of the most important elements for producing a good racer, because of how limiting a frame can be.
If you're very small and not remotely muscular, there's only so much "juice" your nervous system is going to be able to squeeze out of your lagging muscularity. Just the same, tweaking the air intake, gear system, and computer on a Honda Civic (my personal car btw hehe) WILL make your car faster, but just by a tiny bit. No tweaks will take a civic and make it a formula car. Likewise, you're only gonna be so strong if you don't have enough muscle. A big engine on a tiny frame can cause lots of stress and other problems for the car.
2.) Strength is like the engine of the car. Strength is the single most important determinant of power production in athletes. As a matter of fact, some very good research shows that strength training improves power MORE THAN POWER TRAINING for athletes that are not already VERY strong (2x bodyweight + squatters, etc...). If you want to go fast and you already have a race car body, you need a BIG and productive engine to generate lots of power... you can only go so fast with a tuned-up race car that has a 4 cylinder engine.
3.) Power training is like the tuning of a car. Power training works best for people who are already strong, and makes them just a bit better. Training with lighter weights and high velocities does enhance power, but having a strength foundation is a MUST. When you have a true race car, tweaking with the computer system will get you just a bit better for your races, but no amount of tweaking is gonna win you the race if your body or engine are not up to task.
Here's the kicker: MANY COACHES DON'T KNOW THIS!!!
So many athletes are trained in the power movements that don't have the muscle and strength to make much of a difference! If you watch high school throwers do power cleans and box jumps but neglect deep squats and bench presses, you're watching a bastardization of the training process."
On the often asked question of "how often should I train each bodypart each week?
"Not all muscles heal or go through their growth curves at the same rate. Some muscles take much more damage and, likely due in part to their size and architecture, both take longer to heal and grow for longer after a training session. This means that for advanced trainers, not all muscles should be trained at the same frequency.
This point has been echoed by Bret Contreras and Dr. Fred Hatfield in various forms (esp the latter).
In my experience, hamstrings and chest can only really be trained HARD (with enough overload to maximally grow) once a week, and the other weekly workout is best served as a less stimulative and more recovery-oriented session.
Quads, glutes, triceps, and back can be trained sufficiently hard twice per week in my experience.
Rear delts, traps, medial delts, and the forearm flexors (biceps, etc...) I've actually found the best results with 3-5 sessions per week.
A beginning guide to frequency structure can be soreness... how sore do pecs get from an average session of training? REALLY SORE, thus they probably need less frequent work. How sore do your biceps get? Well, not very, and not for very long, which likely points to more frequent work being best.
I'd be VERY SKEPTICAL of any routine that just trained all muscle groups once a week... not all muscles take that long to heal, and you end up just treading water. As well, training ALL muscles 3-4x per week might mean that you disrupt so little homeostasis each time, you never truly present the best overload and not as much growth likely occurs."
This is just a preview of the upcoming RP blog posts. Dr. Israetel will be going even further in-depth on topics such as these starting in a few weeks. Be sure to check back in the coming weeks and be on the lookout on our social media channels as we'll be posting all of the content there as well.
Thanks and be sure to drop us an email or message on Facebook/Instagram if you have a particular topic in mind you'd like to hear more about!
All the best,
Nick Shaw & Mike Israetel