Should You Be Training To Failure To Build Muscle, Or Do You Need To Avoid It?
Training to failure seems like a no-brainer. You're at the gym to train hard, so pushing yourself to the limit makes perfect sense. After all, if you don't train to failure, did you even workout?
Scan the gym floor and you'll see clear evidence to reinforce your belief.
The most ripped and jacked guys, screaming "ONE MORE REP" at each other, as iron and sweat clash together in a sea of testosterone. And it's not just the guys. The ladies are in on the action too, thrusting and squatting their way until booties are punished into submission.
Intimidating to say the least. But do you have to do the same? Is training to failure how you build muscle and get in shape? Or is there another way?
In this article, you'll find the clarity you need.
By the time you've finished reading, you'll know whether or not to trust the dude coated in so much fake tan, he looks and smells like rich mahogany.
Here's what you'll discover:
The logic of training to failure and the research supporting it.
The issues with training to failure and why it limits muscle growth.
Why you might not even be training to failure, anyway.
Here's The Best Way To Track Your Workouts So You Can Keep Getting Stronger And Build More Muscle
When it comes to building muscle and sculpting a leaner, healthier, stronger body, you need to workout. But that's not enough. You'll need to get progressively stronger over time, as well. So knowing how to track your workouts is important. After all, if you don't track anything, how will you ever know if you're improving? So in this article, you'll discover why and how to track your workouts in the best way possible.
"What gets measured gets managed." Ever heard that before? A famous phrase from Peter Drucker.
And it's a great philosophy to live by when it comes to health and fitness.
Track your weight and other key measurements and you can objectively judge how much progress you're making. They're all very logical approaches, right?
But when it comes to tracking workouts, one of two things often happens.
Either you won't track anything at all, and simply end up doing whatever you feel like on the day (which is usually endless bicep curls or glute kickbacks). Or you'll disappear up your own ass with a fancy spreadsheet that takes longer to update, than the workout itself.
So what exactly is the best way to track your workouts? Let's dive in to the Why, What, and How and get you the answers you need.
What Is Descending Pyramid Training And How Can You Use It To Build More Muscle, Faster?
You're reading this article because you want to build muscle, fast. After all, time is a wasting and you need to get on with the task in hand. And so ensues your frantic Google search for the latest and greatest training techniques to accelerate you to a leaner-stronger body. Luckily, you've ended up in the right place. Because I'm going to introduce you to descending pyramid training, the Iron Paradise Fitness way.
But let me be up front with you.
This isn't the standard approach to descending pyramid training you might have been looking for. I want to open your eyes to something new.
And if you read on, this is what you'll find out:
Why your current approach to training is limiting your progress.
What the Iron Paradise Fitness version of Descending Pyramid Training is.
How to implement a Descending Pyramid Training protocol into your training to accelerate muscle growth.
Does that sound like what you're after? Cool. Let's get started.
Is Time Under Tension A key Ingredient Of Building Muscle? Or Should You Just Keep It Simple And Lift Heavy?
So you've found your way to this article because you've been hearing whisper of this thing called time under tension. The word around the power rack is that it's the secret to building more of that precious muscle you crave. But you have your doubts. First of all, what the fuck is it? And second, is there any actual science and theory behind it, or are we in the realms of Bro-science 101 again?
Well, you're in luck my friend. Because in this article you'll get the short, sharp lowdown on everything you need to know about time under tension.
So let me tell you what you're going to find out.
What time under tension actually is.
What the research says about time under tension.
Whether or not time under tension is worth including in your training.
How to practically apply proven and effective techniques into your training.
The Mind-Muscle Connection Is Real Despite Sounding Like BS Bro-Science.
Let me guess. You've landed on this article because you've heard about the mind-muscle connection and you're curious. Is this another case of bros in stringer vests with their nipples out, pontificating about nonsense, while sipping on their BCAA drinks?
Well, you might be surprised to hear, the mind-muscle connection is real. Not only that, it's a crucial part of your training if you want to build a leaner, stronger physique.
But before you carry on reading, let me tell you what you're going to find out.
What the mind-muscle connection really is.
What science actually says about its importance for building muscle.
4 super simple ways to create a better mind-muscle connection for more muscle and strength.
The muscle groups you might find easier to connect with and those that might need more work.
Becoming a Jedi isn't easy. Typically, progressing from Padawan to Jedi Master will take years. Fuck that! You haven't got time to do handstands in the mud and watch rocks floating around all day. You want to do this at hyper speed. Roger Gold Leader. So let's fast track you to Jedi status with the Ultimate Jedi Workout And Meal Plan.
And here's a quick breakdown of your training:
I: The Phantom Deficit
II: Attack Of The Macros
III: Revenge Of The Swole
IV: A New Hope
V: The Weight Strikes Back
VI: Return Of The Jacked Jedi
Your Jedi Workout Won't Be Easy
On the surface Star Wars seems like a classic tale of good triumphing over evil. But the reality is a little different.
Case in point, our hero, Luke Skywalker. Put yourself in his shoes for a second.
First off, your Aunt and Uncle get brutally burned alive at the behest of your own Father.
Then you get attacked in a bar just because some dude with a crushed nose and fucked up face didn't like the look of you.
Despite all that, you selflessly travel half way across the galaxy to rescue a Princess, only for her to call you a midget (what a bitch). But you decide to be the bigger man. So you do the heroic thing by rescuing her, getting the kiss you deserve, only to find out later she's your goddamn sister. WTF?
Then your Dad disintegrates your mate. After which he tries to blow you up in your X-Wing... Admittedly, you were trying to blow up his house, so maybe you deserved it.
And that was all in the first film.
We haven't even gotten to the Yeti attack, spending the night snuggled up in the intestines of a snow camel, or the fact your Dad attacked you again. Only this time chopping your fucking hand off. MOTHERFUCKER! (one way to lose weight I suppose).
So I can't help but think all this could've been avoided if Luke was just absolutely JACKED!
Being a Jedi is no walk in the sand pit. You've got to be prepared for the grit, hard work, effort, and the incest. Well...maybe not the incest, but you get what I mean. Don't expect your path to Jedi Master to be easy, you've gotta work for it.
Think Of Me As Your Obi Wan
I'm going to assume you've navigated here through space and time and aren't 100% familiar with who I am. So let's change that right now, I'm Simon. Some people call me Si, others Simon James (but that's usually my Nan).
I chose to keep my shirt on for this pic, contrary to the online fitness coach code. But hey, I did tense the fuck out of my arms to make them look massive. Anyway, I once was a young Jedi wannabe that couldn't get the body he dreamed of.
But I managed to figure it out, without having to resort to Jedi mind tricks. And I definitely didn't get lured to the Dark Side of fad diets and BS supplements.
And the great thing is, I'm able to coach people to achieve equally awesome bodies with my proven approach.
But, for now, let's get back to your training and your Jedi Workout And Meal Plan. Although first, let's talk mindset.
Get Out Of The Jabba Mindset
Right now you feel a little more Jabba than Jedi. Am I right? Spending your free time watching Ultimate Rancor Massacres Season 14 on Netflix while having a busty maiden feed you.
Not exactly the picture of health.
First things first, you need to break free from your negative mindset. It might be driven by past failures and pitfalls you've disappeared down in the past. The Blue Milk Diet was never going to be sustainable, was it?
You see, quick fixes are always going to be there. Preying on your desire to speed the process up and rid yourself of the negative feelings you're experiencing. But the truth is, they're not sustainable. What happens when you want to wine and dine your favourite Princess. Or maybe a scruffy-looking Nerf-herder wants to take you out on date night. What will you do then? Decline?
Thought not... What you need is a way of eating to suit your lifestyle. One that fits seamlessly into how you want to live your life. And compliments your badass Jedi Workout Programme.
So let's do just that.
Episode I: The Phantom Deficit
Losing weight and getting in shape isn't complicated. It's hard. Just not complex.
Everything comes back to a calorie deficit... "What's that?" I hear you cry. Allow me to fill you in.
What you eat and drink will almost always contain calories, which is simply a measurement of energy. And your body needs that energy to move and keep you alive. Not to mention fuel your tough Jedi Workout Programme (more on that later).
But here's the thing.
If you have more calories than you need, you'll gain weight. So you'll end up a little more Jabba each day. And we don't want that.
On the flip side, if you have less calories than your body needs, you'll lose weight. Jackpot! That's one a million kid.
Taking that nutritional epiphany into consideration, you've failed to lose weight in the past for one of two reasons.
You Weren't In a Deficit
Despite thinking you were eating well, you still ate too much. All the Bantha Meat-Feast Pizzas were pretty calorie dense. Bottom line, you weren't in a calorie deficit. Don't believe me? Ask Master Yoda.
Your Diet Wasn't Sustainable
The other reason you failed in the past could be down to an unsustainable approach. Feasting on one quarter portion for the whole day isn't exactly a life worth living (just ask Rey). Plus after you lose weight and come to eat normally again, you lack the knowledge to stop your weight bouncing back up.
These definitely aren't the diets you're looking for...
How To Create A Calorie Deficit
Here's the good news. Creating the elusive calorie deficit is pretty easy. In fact, I made this handy little guide for you. I'll leave you to wrap your head around it. But feel free to ask me any questions.
With your deficit in place, sticking to it becomes your absolute priority. Because if you do, you'll be sculpting a Jedi physique in no time.
And if you ever hear someone say a calorie deficit isn't the way to lose fat... send in the cavalry.
Episode II: Attack Of The Macros
Macros (short for macronutrients) is a fancy term for protein, carbs, fat, and alcohol. Yes Alcohol counts as it gives you energy. Although, don't plan on getting all your calories from booze. After all, kissing your sister stone-cold sober is one thing, so who knows what happens after a few too many Bocce Coffees...
All of the food that provide you with energy (ie calories). If you want to get into the detail, check this article I wrote here.
For now we'll keep things high level.
Some people get hugely hung up about macros. They see it as an opportunity to eat like they're at an 8 year old Padawan's birthday and still lose weight. But you aren't going to get to Jedi Master status thinking like that.
And truth be told, you don't need to focus on macros all that much. Let me explain...
Protein is the logical start point for your Jedi Meal Plan. It's going to help you feel fuller for longer, preserve muscle, and maybe build a bit too. All in all, it's worth paying some attention to.
So whether you want to gnaw on Ewok drumsticks or chow down on Taun Taun steaks just make sure you get c.1.8-2.7g/kg each day. You can even have a few glasses of your favourite blue milk. Because there's nothing wrong with a little dairy either.
If you ever make your way to the Milky Way (it's a galaxy far far away) here's a quick reference guide of some protein options they have available.
Fat makes you fat, right? WRONG.
Calories make you fat. Jabba just hasn't got his energy balance equation right.
You don't need to fear fat. The Dark Side isn't flowing through the veins of your favourite stilton cheese. In fact, you need fat for general health and to stay alive. But beware...
There are good and bad fats.
Good fats you should focus on are foods such as avocado, olive oil, and nuts. These are your Jedis of fat.
And don't forget that fish oil too. Those Omega 3's are pretty damn awesome.
Trans fats are the Sith Lords of the fat world.
Trans fats are like the Emperor Palpetine of fat. These guys are the leaders of the Dark Side. Typically, artificially created, they’re most commonly found in packaged snack food, baked goods, and cookies etc. Although many companies are getting wise to the fact people want to avoid them and have adjusted ingredients accordingly.
As a start point I would recommend calculating your fat requirements based on 20-25% of total calories (as a rough guide). This is going to give you the minimum amount of fat your body needs to stay healthy and carry out the functions it needs to.
You can have more, but you need to bear in mind that there are 9 calories per gram, so more fat in your diet will quickly eat away at those calories, leaving you less calories for carbs and less food (in terms of volume) overall.
Carbs makes you fat, right? That's why you should do Keto... WRONG.
Calories make you fat. We covered that one already... Keep up.
Despite what the nutritional Sith Lords will tell you, carbs aren't the Dark Side either. Keto works because it creates a calorie deficit. There's not much more to it than that.
And let’s dispel one other myth while we're at it. It’s become trendy to be gluten free in the belief that it’s miraculously healthier for you.
This is totally not the case.
Unless you have a specific intolerance there’s no need to be THAT guy or girl.
When you hit that artisan coffee shop in Mos Eisley, don’t spend 20 minutes interrogating the staff. Just order your BLT (Bantha, Lettuce, and Tomato) sandwich, Alderaan Blend espresso, Naboo Peace Crisps and enjoy them. The gluten is fine.
But what about the insulin?
Carbs spike insulin and shut off the fat burning process. Or at least that's what some galactic-sized moron would have you believe. Let's not waste any more time on this one. Here's a 1 minute video to give you the REAL truth. Time to force choke the zealots once and for all.
Once you've spent the day shooting Womp Rats in your T-16, there's nothing better than kicking back and have a couple of brews with your buddies in the local Cantina Bar. But are those innocent drinks actually killing your Jedi Training?
The answer is maybe... But they don't have to.
You see, those drinks have calories. And if you've learned anything so far, it's that calories matter. So you need to account for them. Fail to do that and you'll find Jabba-like status quickly returns.
Bottom line. Enjoy a drink if you want to, especially when you blow up a couple of Death Stars. Just keep it under control.
And don't forget not to drink and fly. Those X-Wings are expensive.
The Bottom Line On Macros
Macros don't matter as much as you might think.
Focus on calories and protein. Then do what you want with the rest.
Because as long as you have your calories in check, the rest is down to your personal preference. And don't let a Keto zealot tell you otherwise.
Episode III: Revenge Of The Swole (a.k.a your Jedi Workout)
Calorie deficit in place and macros in check it's time to move this thing up a notch and go Hyper Speed.
That's right, it's time to make you all swole with your very own Jedi Workout. No more getting pushed around in Cantina bars. And no more Princesses thinking you're not up to scratch. Follow the Jedi Workout as I've laid it out, and you'll be able to drag an X-Wing out of a Dagobah bog with your bare hands in no time.
First let's start with the traits of a good Jedi. A young Padawan needs to concentrate on overall development. Mind and Body in unison as you progress through your training. The flips and summersaults come later. Master Yoda will teach you those.
What you and I are talking about here is the foundations of being the most sculpted Jedi in the galaxy.
Your first workout looks something like this...
Jedi Workout - Workout A
Here's a few Jedi Training Videos for those exercises. After all, I want you to do them right. An injured Padawan is no good to anyone.
Jedi Workout A: Chest Supported Machine Row
Pull shoulder blades back to start exercise.
Imagine driving elbows into the ground
Pull back until upper arm is in line with torso
Jedi Workout A: Machine Shoulder Press
Keep lower back pressed into the seat
Brace core throughout the exercise
Press straight up and stop just before elbows lock out
Jedi Workout A: Chest Machine Fly
Set your starting position by imagining trying to grip a pencil between your shoulder blades (maintain this position throughout)
Focus on bringing biceps across your chest
Bring the handles in front of you to the point where you are able to maintain shoulder blade position
Assess how low you should squat by performing the movement without weight first
Depth should be to the lowest point where form can be maintain (no rounding of lower back / butt)
Drive through heels
Stop just short of knee lock out
Jedi Workout A: Leg Extension
Create stability in your pelvis by pulling your body down into the seat
Use a controlled movement to initiate the rep
Raise to the point of full knee extension
Lower the weight in a controlled way
Use the force and put maximum effort into those exercises and you'll be well on the way to Jedi Mastery. But this is just the start of your Jedi Workout Programme. There's more to get your hands on. And you can get full access to the full Jedi workout here (for free). Plus, you get a handy workout tracker and instructional videos.
Believe me... It IS the workout you're looking for.
Episode IV: A New Hope
This is it. You've got all the components of what it takes to be the most badass Jedi ever known. You have a new opportunity to achieve the awesome body that's cruelly eluded you in the past. An opportunity that represents a New Hope...
Who knows, you could be the one to bring balance to the force.
So now's the time to focus on getting your mind right. Because this journey is not going to be smooth sailing (sorry to break it to you). And strength of mind is a trait every good Jedi needs to have. Mental agility is just as important as physical.
It's time for you to master The Force.
You see, there'll be times when you feel like giving up. You'll feel as though you're falling back into your old ways as if they were the jaws of the Sarlaac Pit Monster, sucking you back in.`
Resisting temptation is a priority. And you need to learn to manage your frustration. Because if you don't, you'll find yourself in the clutches of The Dark Side.
And the best way to do that is with 3 things.
Understanding what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it, what might get in your way, and how you'll deal with those challenges.
You need the plans to the Death Star. A structured approach to firing your fat loss proton torpedos and blowing that shit to smithereens.
The Rebellion (against fat and being out of shape) can't succeed with flakiness. It needs consistent action. This isn't like shooting those womp rats back home. This is serious shit. Get committed and take action, CONSISTENTLY.
And to help you navigate your way to mastery of The Force, here's a tutorial video to walk you through it step by step.
Episode V: The Weight Strikes Back
At some point on your journey to becoming a Jedi, you will feel the frustration of the scales. Your Jedi Workout Programme is going well and you feel like your Jedi Meal Plan is on point. But for some reason your weight is all over the place. And you can't figure out why your progress is stuck, like it's frozen in carbonite.
In my experience as a Jedi Master there's a few things at play. And most of them aren't your fault.
Your weight fluctuates for a bunch of different reasons. However, I'm going to keep this simple and boil it down to the Top 5.
When you're in a calorie deficit the energy stored in your muscles (glycogen) starts to get depleted. This is normal...don't panic.
Depending on food choices you make day to day, some of your energy stores will get replaced. Think of it as refuelling the hyperdrive cells of the Millenium Falcon. But here's the thing.
For every gram of this energy, your body will store 3 grams of water. Again, nothing to worry about, it's perfectly normal. Although, it does mean your scale weight may go up even if body fat is coming down.
The food you eat weighs something. And the weight of the food you eat will vary day to day (even if calories stay the same). So one day you could just have a little more undigested Ewok steak in your belly than you did yesterday.
But bear in mind (not an Ewok pun) if calories are managed you're still losing fat and have nothing to worry about.
We all do it, even Queen Amidala sits on the porcelain throne to curl one out. And I'm sure you've had those days when your deposit is a lot less magnificent than normal. So a fluctuation in scale weight could go up or down based on how regular you are.
Consequently, fibre is a key thing to focus on. Because the more regular you are, the healthier your digestion will be. And you might have less fluctuations on the scale.
Here's a handy video to show you 9 ways to get more fibre in your diet.
Sometimes you feel puffier than Nien Nunb (that's Lando's Co-Pilot by the way). And it makes you feel a little bloated and unhappy. More importantly, it's causing your weight to be more erratic than your average Pod Race. So what gives? And how can you get water retention under control?
Now, there's a specific Jedi text on managing water retention. For now, I’m going to summarise the key reasons water retention may be happening. Although this is not a complete list and some may not apply to you. So go here if you want to read the full opus.
1. Increase in salt intake
2. Decrease in potassium intake
3. Imbalance between salt and potassium levels.
4. Increased stress
5. Lack of sleep
6. Not enough water
8. Lack of exercise (shouldn't be an issue with your Jedi Workout in full swing)
How To Control Water Retention
Quite frankly, there's more aspects to water retention than you can shake a light saber at. So for now let’s focus on a few things you can do to reduce variability in water weight changes.
Firstly, you can look at your nutrition. For example, balancing salt and potassium levels. Ideally getting between 3-5g of each.
Drinking enough water is also pretty simple. Just drink until your pee is clear.
After that, you’ve got the training side of things. And you just need to be sensible here. A balance between couch potato and killing yourself in the gym is all you need. Your Jedi Workout Programme should be challenging you, not killing you.
Finally, optimising your lifestyle is possibly the more tricky aspect to control. After all, it's a hard life being a Jedi. The stress of your Dad trying to kill you at every turn is a challenge to say the least. But getting a consistent sleep pattern will certainly help. As will a reduction in stress levels, if achievable.
Lastly on the Top 5 we have the monthly cycle. And no, I'm not talking about those leisurely rides around the street of Bespin. This is for the lady Jedi's in training. Gents, you can skip on to the next section. Ladies, it's just me and you on this one.
Typically, you’ll see greater variability in water retention when Estrogen and Progesterone hormones levels change more significantly.
And from the diagram below, you can say that's just before ovulation and part way through the luteal phase. So be prepared for some big variations in scale weight here.
And it’s because of this variability why I wouldn’t recommend comparing weight on a daily basis. It would make more sense to look at your average across the week.
Furthermore, it would make even more sense to compare that weekly average to the weekly average at the same point in last month’s cycle.
This would give you a truer reflection of your weight and fat loss progress.
So it would be a better practice to record your weight regularly, ignore the fact your weight fluctuates daily, and look at progress objectively over a longer period of time.
Episode V: The Return Of The Jacked Jedi
And so we come to the end... Well almost. Because now's the time for you to complete your training. And to do that, I'm going to give you two options.
Option 1: Walk The Jedi Path Alone
If you apply the teachings of this sacred Jedi text, you will succeed. And to do that, download your free Jedi Kickstarter Pack, which includes your Jedi Workout Programme, Jedi Workout Tracker, and guide on how to calculate how many calories you need to lose weight and look great.
But it will take time.
Option 2: Accelerate Your Journey To Jedi Mastery
Having your own Master Yoda to guide your training, create and update your Jedi Workout when you need it, and take the uncertainty out of nutrition is the fast track to becoming a leaner, stronger, healthier Jedi. It's like installing a fat loss hyperdrive.
The Ultimate Bodyweight Workout You Can Do Today With Zero Equipment.
Can't make it to the gym? No problem. This bodyweight workout has everything you need to build a great body. And there's not a dumbbell or barbell in sight...
Not everyone can make it to the gym. I get it. Whether it's the pressures of family life, work life, or otherwise, sometimes it's just not an option. So a bodyweight workout can be the next best thing.
But it's difficult to know what to do, right?
Well, in this article you're getting a whole host of great exercises you can pull together for a great bodyweight workout. And you can adjust everything to sort your experience and skill level.
So dive right in and start creating your own killer workout.
The Ultimate Guide To Sets And Reps For For Anyone Wanting To Maximise Every Workout …
At some point in time you’ve pondered the question, ‘How Many Sets And Reps Should I Be Doing?” In fact, it’s hands down one of the more frequent questions I get asked. So it seemed an appropriate topic for an article.
Gym folklore would have you believe it’s 1-3 reps for strength, 8-10 reps for building muscle, and 12-15 reps for endurance. But is this all bro-science, or is there some truth to it? And what's the bro-science law on sets?
After all, there’s some things the bros do get right. Albeit they wrap it up in a veil of chest-thumping hyperbole, which leaves you doubting if it’s more horse shit.
So is bodybuilding folklore backed up by research?
Should you workout when sick? Or is rest the best medicine?
When you're sick it's sometimes difficult to know when to train and when to back off and rest. Because you don't want to fall behind with your training. And you certainly don't want to undo all that good work with your diet. So should you workout when sick, or curl up in your bed and forget the gym? In this article, I'm guiding you through the 3 rules I live by.
First off. And probably most importantly let me say this. I am no doctor, so what do I really know about giving medical advice? Nothing is the answer to that! So this is just me telling you what's worked for me over the years and what rules of thumb have worked for me. But if you’re in any doubt, then always consult your doctor before smashing yourself stupid in the gym.
And with that out of the way, let's crack on with the main part of the article.
Should you workout when sick, or should you rest?
Should you power through your illness, man up (or woman up), and stick to that programme, so you don’t fall behind? Or should you take a rest, put your feet up, grab the Ben & Jerry’s and mope around for the next 7 days?