We have come to a legal agreement with our former supplier of our award winning Nitrean+ Dutch chocolate, vanilla, and Opticen+ chocolate (our amazing post-workout shake). The agreement will have us receive WEEKLY shipments of the products thus preventing the pre-order delays we have been experiencing the past year or so.
Long story short, we are bringing back 3 of our best sellers and will have continuous stock of them. Order yours now and get BACK on the road to Optimize Your Body!
The Aesthetic Lens for the Strength Athlete
By Julia Ladewski
Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought, “Man, my shoulders/arms/chest/legs could use a little size”? Have you ever taken a long, hard look at your programming and wondered why your bench/overhead press/squat/deadlift have stalled? As athletes of the strength game I think we’ve all done that. Sometimes we take a stab in the dark as to how to fix it and sometimes we have a legitimate plan. It’s easy to look through the strength lens to fix the aesthetic problems, (e.g. my bench is weak, so if I build that up, my chest will get bigger) but have you ever looked through your aesthetic lens to fix your strength problems (e.g. my quads are small, so if I bring those up, it will help my squat)?
This basic concept came to me recently. Last May and June I competed in a figure show and two physique shows. Considering I only had three months to prep and diet I fared well, but also learned some very important lessons in the process. As I look back on my pictures I can see two distinct areas that were lagging behind – my shoulders and my quads. “If I ever do another show,” I thought, “I’m definitely going to need to bring those areas up.” As I slowly transitioned out of bodybuilding training back to powerlifting I realized that my raw squat wasn’t where it should be, and my bench press had stalled. I put 2 and 2 together and realized my aesthetic weaknesses were also my strength weaknesses. I can distinctly remember thinking,“If I can bring up my shoulders and quads now, I bet my lifts will improve as well.” I’m sure this concept is not new, but I think my revelation is one that can help a lot of strength athletes who have never considered it. Consider the young man with no lats. I bet his bench suffers, particularly off the chest.
How about the middle aged mom with poor posture and no upper back? I bet she has trouble keeping position in the squat. The meathead dude with no glutes? Can’t lock out a deadlift.
Matt Mendenhall didn’t have any aesthetic weaknesses
Needless to say, I decided to address my weaknesses. My normal powerlifting template was a 4 day a week plan that followed a conjugate style of training. I had 2 lower body sessions and 2 upper body sessions. I had to find a way to add my shoulder and quad specialization to what I was already doing. What follows is how I incorporated more quad and shoulder volume into my training and how it has helped my geared powerlifting as well.
Lower Body Max Effort Days:
After completing my max effort squat or deadlift for the day I performed one of the following for 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps:
• Front Squat (shoulder width stance)
• SS Yoke Bar Squats (shoulder width stance)
• Manta Ray Squats (shoulder width stance)
• Leg Press (shoulder width stance)
Upper Body Dynamic Days:
After completing my speed bench, I performed one of the following:
• Floor Press
• Benching with a Catapult/slingshot
• Dumbbell press
While those movements definitely added volume to my bench, I decided to move my shoulder work to the day after my upper body dynamic day. This allowed me to do a little more volume than I would if I kept it on bench day.
Extra Shoulder Day:
This day had an overhead press exercise followed by accessory shoulder work done Mountain Dog style.
• Overhead press
• Swiss Bar overhead press (varying grips)
• Dumbbell overhead press
• Arnold press
• Side Laterals (reps, slow eccentrics, chains, etc)
• Partial Side Laterals, heavy
After a few months of consistently doing the above I noticed that not only had my raw strength increased, my shirted bench and geared squat were on the rise as well. In March of 2013 I squatted 413 in full gear, and in November (after focusing on my weakness) I squatted 375 in just briefs. At the same meet in March I shirt benched 275. Just a few weeks ago I doubled 260 (which will be my opener in March), and hit 280 for an easy single.
Try this approach yourself. Take a long hard look at your aesthetic weaknesses and see what you can take away from it to help your strength gains. Devise a plan and be consistent with it. Your results will soar to new heights.
If you missed out Black Friday offering here is one last chance to save big. We have a limited stock of BCAA+ back live (our new supplier should be ready in early January) and if you haven’t yet tried our most amazing protein supplement yet, Nitrean+ BLACK Series; now is a great time.
We haven’t done a sale promotion in some time. As most of you know, we had a major issue with our primary supplier for the past 6 months and their lies and failure to meet contractual agreements finally forced us to (recently) seek new suppliers. The process is long (at least 10 weeks) and not easy as any switch results in changes to products and great care must be taken. We thus still have some of our products not live for sale as we await the launch of their new versions (some will have added ingredients to make them even better).
As you may also know, we have finally launched our new Nitrean+ BLACK Series. It is no exaggeration to say it is the absolute best (in terms of efficacy) pure protein supplement available today. No other product can match it for net retention and thus potential utilization AND it has more leucine on a gram for gram basis than any other protein powder.
Take advantage of our Black Friday sale and save big while trying our Nitrean+ BLACK Series protein (or any of our other products)!
Don’t forget to check out our new offerings as well, Westside Performance Nutrition’s CONJUGATE and TRICORE.
CONJUGATE™ – two servings about 40 minutes prior to training
TRICORE™ – on training days take two servings during your training session. On off days take two servings with your Creatine 500.
Creatine 500 – 5g per day 7 days per week. Timing is not particularly important.
Nitrean+ BLACK Series – 1.5 servings in milk or water post-workout. One serving in water or milk before bed.
Include at least of one of each product above in your cart and use the code Westsidestack to save 15% off your cart total!
The use instructions above supercede all label or website recommendations.
As you may know we are now offering two Westside Performance Nutrition supplements (CONJUGATE™ and TRICORE™) in addition to our own products. Our affiliation with Westside Barbell and its owner Louie Simmons goes back many years. In fact, the Westside team has been using our Nitrean series of protein supplements as well as other key AtLarge Nutrition supplements for nearly a decade now.
When Louie and his team decided to begin offering their own supplement line I wholeheartedly endorsed it because I knew that like everything else Louie does it would be nothing but the best.
After extensive research of my own I have decided to offer the aforementioned two Westside Performance Nutrition products. Through my research I saw how they could be used in conjunction with AtLarge’s products to truly optimize training results and the net result of that is the stack of products and how to use them you see above.
Do you want to optimize your maximal strength? You probably know that low repetition training (with singles having the largest impact) is the quickest way to achieve the goal. What you probably don’t know is why.
Low repetition training is the most effective means of increasing absolute strength because it compels the nervous system to adapt to extremely heavy (relatively speaking) loads. This adaptation occurs on multiple fronts simultaneously. From recruitment of a greater total number of motor units and fast twitch motor units, to enhanced synchronization and summation of motor unit stimulus, to the fine tuning of agonist and antagonist muscular contraction, the nervous system becomes increasingly effective at producing greater force per unit of lean muscle mass.
Low rep strength training works equally well for both genders.
The concept of greater force per a given unit of muscle is a very important one. There is a cap in terms of nervous system adaptation per unit area of lean muscle. In other words neural adaptation is limited in its ability to increase force production by the size of the skeletal muscle fibers. A trainee simply cannot optimize their maximal strength without hypertrophy.
There are essentially two schools of thought regarding hypertrophy specific work for those seeking to increase their maximal strength. The first is to combine both low repetition and higher repetition work in the same session for every training session. The second is to cycle low and higher repetition training. The trainee might train exclusively with lower repetitions for a given block of time, then switch to a hypertrophy focused program for another block. To be clear, exclusive low repetition training is a poor stimulus for hypertrophy, and higher, more moderate repetition counts in the 6-12 range tend to be much more effective for stimulating size gains.
Hypertrophy of the contractile elements of the muscle cells increases force production capacity
Both of the above methods have been shown to be effective. My recommendation is the former, which the Westside Barbell method utilizes (combining both low and moderate repetitions in the same session).
Jimmie Pacifico has embraced hypertrophy stimulating training in his strength program
The moral of this relatively short story is that if you want to be as strong as you can possibly be, you have to train with both low and moderate repetitions. You have to optimize both your nervous system and your total volume of lean muscle mass.
I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately which have been attacking the Westside Barbell system of training. Some of the articles have done so in a direct sense (Dan Green’s West of Westside article), and some less directly. I decided to write this short blog to address what I see as more than one fundamental flaw in the position of said articles.
One flaw in these criticisms is that the opinions expressed indicate a basic failure to understand one of the major overriding principles of the Westside program, and that is individual variety within a basic template. For example, Mr. Green used board presses as one way of relating how Westside did not work for him (and a way to say they are ineffective for raw lifters). When he did so, he failed to note that Westside encourages the athlete to find the maximum effort (ME) and accessory exercises that work optimally for THEM as an individual. So, if Mr. Green properly understood Westside and found that board presses did nothing to aid his full range of motion (ROM) competition bench press, he would have dropped the exercise from his rotation and replaced it with one that worked well for him. In other words, that was not a failure of Westside; it was a failure of the trainee.
Another of the recent attacks on Westside is the argument that Westside is only viable for equipped training. To that end I can speak personally. I train raw with the exception I do wear briefs when squatting because I feel they help to protect some old groin and hip injuries, and I also think that they impart an overload benefit to my training. Beyond that I wear a belt and will use straps when pulling only if my grip farts out (by the way I have pulled over 700 lbs without a belt and have a herniated navel to show for it). I can specifically address and provide an alternate view to Mr. Green’s concern about board pressing and triceps work for the raw bench press. My raw bench press is limited by my lockout strength. When I added board pressing (5 boards) as an accessory triceps movement my bench press increased in direct correlation to the increase in my 5 board press. In other words, to imply in a blanket fashion that a given exercise does not work for raw trainees is folly. It depends on the lifter and his or her unique anatomy and physiology.
How about the box squat? I see many a raw lifter say that box squats are not good for raw squatters. My opinion differs a bit from what I understand Louie’s to be on this topic as I do feel that a raw trainee needs to include a full ROM raw squat in their ME rotation, but I totally agree with him that box squats are excellent for the raw squatter. The primary reason, in my opinion, being the box squat is infinitely less stressful on the knees (when performed properly which is a whole other discussion) when compared to the standard back squat. Box squats also teach a technique which translates to a safer back squat (sitting back more and keeping the knees from excessively driving forward). Of course, while doing these things they also build the same musculature as the back squat and therefore have a very significant transfer to the movement. The end result being they allow for greater squat training volume and frequency especially over the long term.
Another raw squatter criticism of the box squat is they claim in detrains the lifter in the hole for the competition squat. I saw an article on T-Nation recently where it was stated that Brandon Lilly was squatting 1,005 lbs in multi-ply gear and then got buried by 650 lbs when he tried it raw (the author said Brandon relayed this story to him). This was another semi-direct attack on gear, box squats, and Westside, but it was an ill-conceived one. Now, first, the bulk of Brandon’s squat training at the time was box squatting (as he did the 1,005 lbs when he was still at Westside), but he was not wearing briefs and a suit for most of that training. The majority of it would have been with briefs only. I am sure he did almost no regular full ROM back squats at the time, so it is possible that if he tried a raw squat without a few sessions to acclimate to the movement he might have gotten buried with 650 lbs as claimed, but I will say that is unlikely in my opinion. With that said, let’s go with it for a moment. What the author fails to note, and I am not sure if it is out of ignorance, or simply a desire to misrepresent, is that if Brandon had simply raw squatted for a few sessions to acclimate his body to the movement and the lack of briefs he would have easily handled the same 650 lbs and very likely much more. In addition, if Brandon’s training had included a raw back squat in his ME rotation and everything else had remained exactly the same he also would have smoked the 650 lbs and more with no acclimation period needed.
By the way, did I mention the box squat was created and used by the members of the original Westside Barbell Club in Culver City, CA way back in the 60s? Guess what didn’t exist back then? You got it, powerlifting gear (briefs, squat suits etc.). In other words, it was invented by raw trainees…
The bottom line is that Westside works for all forms of powerlifting, general strength training, and athletic development equally well (and Louie has proven it over and over and over again). I understand those attacking it are often selling something and may feel that attacking the top dog is the way to build their own reputation, but any attack on a proven system should at least use a rational and valid argument. Is there more than one way to get strong? Heck yes! Is Westside a superior way? Heck yes! ‘Nuff said.
Today I was doing more research into tendon adaptation and performance and ran across the abstract below. Without reading too much into the results, this study points out the contribution of the triceps surae (basically the calf) tendon/aponeurosis (I will just say tendon or tendons for the balance of this writing) to locomotion.
I will admit that for many years I have not really understood the full extent of the contribution tendons make to human movement. I, of course, knew that they anchor the muscles to bone thus allowing movement. What I did not realize until a few years ago, and even more so until very recently, was their true contribution to force production. In other words, I used to envision them as essentially passive conduits of the force created by the contracting muscles. As I now know, nothing could be further from the truth.
Tendons are significant contributors to expressed force production. They enhance total force output and make movement more economic by reducing the force requirements of the muscle.
Tendons do not produce force; rather they store and release it through their elastic properties.
This brings me back to a video I recently made with which I hoped to shine a clarifying light on the current mobility/flexibility craze seen in the strength training and athletic world. In short, increased tendon stiffness from training (especially strength training) is nearly universally viewed these days as a negative adaptation. People are told to “correct” it. What very few realize is that the increased stiffness is actually a POSITIVE adaptation assuming it does not get to the point it impedes one’s range of motion for a sport specific task etc.
The increased tendon stiffness, in real world application, results in a greater storage and release of potential energy which directly contributes to work being performed. An example would be when a lifter is bench pressing. Increased tendon stiffness in the pectoralis major will result in a greater maximum pressing ability and greater strength endurance with lighter loads as the elastic component of the tendons is able to store and release a greater amount of force.
So, the take home message is once again that increased tendon stiffness from training is ONLY a negative if it impedes your ability to complete a full range of motion for your given sport or form of exercise.It is, otherwise, a BENEFICIAL adaptation.
Exercise-induced changes in triceps surae tendon stiffness and muscle strength affect running economy in humans.
Albracht K, Arampatzis A.
Institute of Biomechanics and Orthopaedics, German Sport University, Cologne, Germany, email@example.com.
The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether increased tendon-aponeurosis stiffness and contractile strength of the triceps surae (TS) muscle-tendon units induced by resistance training would affect running economy. Therefore, an exercise group (EG, n = 13) performed a 14-week exercise program, while the control group (CG, n = 13) did not change their training. Maximum isometric voluntary contractile strength and TS tendon-aponeurosis stiffness, running kinematics and fascicle length of the gastrocnemius medialis (GM) muscle during running were analyzed. Furthermore, running economy was determined by measuring the rate of oxygen consumption at two running velocities (3.0, 3.5 ms(-1)). The intervention resulted in a ∼7 % increase in maximum plantarflexion muscle strength and a ∼16 % increase in TS tendon-aponeurosis stiffness. The EG showed a significant ∼4 % reduction in the rate of oxygen consumption and energy cost, indicating a significant increase in running economy, while the CG showed no changes. Neither kinematics nor fascicle length and elongation of the series-elastic element (SEE) during running were affected by the intervention. The unaffected SEE elongation of the GM during the stance phase of running, in spite of a higher tendon-aponeurosis stiffness, is indicative of greater energy storage and return and a redistribution of muscular output within the lower extremities while running after the intervention, which might explain the improved running economy.
Four sets of pre-exhaustion leg curls, heavy back squats, sets of 25 rep hack squats, and walking lunges with chains. That was my first leg training day in preparation for a figure show. It was brutal! I dreaded getting out of bed the next day because I knew it would be bad…
A short clip of some of my first leg day
You see, prior to my deciding to compete in a figure show, my training for the last 13 years was very powerlifting based. It consisted of a maximal or dynamic effort exercise which was followed by traditional assistance work of 3-4 exercises that complimented that day’s training to build my main lifts. The powerlifting training, while very taxing on the nervous system, was never overly high in volume.
I made an immediate switch to a bodybuilding approach for the figure prep. Not just any bodybuilding program, John Meadows’ Mountain Dog training (http://www.mountaindogdiet.com/training.php). John’s programs are extremely demanding and exhausting, yet highly effective.
The workouts left me sore for the first week (as will virtually any new training program). With Mountain Dog training adapting to the program doesn’t really happen. The workouts change every week. Everything is changed, the exercises, sets, reps, and the order of body parts. Toss in eccentric sets, challenge sets, drop sets, and short rest period sets and you have a recipe to always keep the body guessing.
Left = 4 weeks into diet Right = 8 weeks into diet
Combine the above training with a pre-contest low calorie diet and you would expect me to be constantly sore and generally in a physical tailspin. Instead, I’m still able to train hard, still have energy to coach my athletes and speak at seminars, and I feel great. My body is recovering so optimally that I’ve been able to drop body fat and put on some significant muscle mass!
Peri-workout nutrition has been a major key to my success. Peri-workout nutrition involves what is consumed surrounding one’s training sessions. My regimen has been as follows:
- One hour before training: oats, peanut butter and an AtLarge Nutrition Nitrean+ protein shake.
- Just before training: 1 scoop AtLarge Pre-Workout.
- One hour after training: lean steak and rice.
Left = 4 weeks into my diet Right = 8 weeks into my diet
The moral of this story is I have learned just how important nutrition can be, especially the nutrition surrounding your training sessions. In just one short week I will be going back to powerlifting training, but you can bet one thing will remain regardless of my goals, my peri-workout protocol.
Julia Ladewski, CSCS, is currently the director of Parisi Speed School in northwest Indiana working with youth and adults. Previously, she spent 8 years as a Division I strength coach at the University at Buffalo.
As an Elitefts.com sponsored athlete and Q&A staff member, Julia is an Elite level powerlifter once holding the #1 spot in the 132 pound class. After having two kids, she is back on the platform making her way to the top in the 123’s. Her best lifts to date are a 462 lbs squat, a 255 lbs bench, and a 424 lbs deadlift.
Julia continues to write about youth sports performance and female strength sports. Her writing can be found on Elitefts.com and DangerouslyHardcore.com. She also offers training programs for powerlifting and female strength training as well as nutritional consultation.