Chasing Kilos with Desert Barbell
Desert Barbell, a team that specializes in strength training content and equipment, recently launched the Strength Talks series with the intention of providing education and insights for strength athletes, led by global subject matter experts.
The webinars delivered some of the latest research and thinking around training stress, mental toughness, protein and creatine as well as lower back injuries in powerlifting.
As strength athletes, we are all concerned with one key objective – adding kilos to the bar. We invest so much time and money into our training to achieve this that sometimes we seem to overlook softer issues that might be holding us back or preventing us from breaking a plateau. In order to progress, we should also be concerned with making better training choices.
The follow blog post will provide a summary of each webinar and its application to making better training choices and strength gains.
Managing Training Stress
In our first Strength Talks webinar, RTS Founder - Mike Tuchscherer, discussed the stress index and its relevance to programming.
What is the aim of doing this? By tracking and quantitative measurement of training stress, we are able to make more informed decisions about how and when to push forward with our training and when to pull back and pivot into a new training block.
In doing so, we are able to not only maximize athlete performance (or in other words squeeze out every last kilo in that particular training block), we are also able to avoid unnecessary build-up of performance masking fatigue and reduce injury of risk.
Creatine and Protein – What Does the Latest Research Tell Us?
Creatine is arguably one the most widely researched and widely used supplements around the world. With the amount of information available, how do we know what works best for strength gains?
According to Dr Darren Candow, a Full Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology & Health Studies, University of Regina who has received over $1.6 million in research funding, the first and most important message is that if you are serious about gaining strength then you should be supplementing with creatine.
In his latest studies, special consideration was given towards ‘timing’. While he maintains that it is the total dosage per day that matters most, the studies found that creatine just before training could have a more beneficial effect on strength gains, and creatine immediately after supported by some type of recovery shake may be more beneficial for muscle gain.
So, if you goal is to add kilos, you should be concerned with strength and should be taking your creatine immediately before training. The studies also conclusively showed that creatine combined with a high protein diet is highly conducive to both strength and muscle gain.
The Fear of Sport Injuries
One of the biggest roadblocks to progress is injury. Sometimes we can do everything right, yet injuries still pop up.
In his talk about ‘Injuries in powerlifting: Diagnosis and management of low back pain’, Lars Lars Berglund PhD who is lecturer and researcher at the University of Umea in Sweden, offers a definition of a sports injury as ‘an injury that prevents or limits you from practicing your chosen sport.’
In the case of strength athletes, back pain has become a common point of pain and often leads us to evaluate our training and sometimes even our technique. The reality, as presented in his latest research, is that there is almost no difference between spinal injuries between lifters and non-lifters. Further, and before you go off changing your technique, their research also showed that technique in most cases has little to do with injuries.
One of the underlying causes that seemed to be a common theme was ‘overuse’. The suggested approach was not to stop training all together, but rather to reduce frequency and loads while still maintaining some level of movement.
Are You Tough Enough?
In the final webinar, -105kg World Champions and TSA Founder Bryce Lewis spoke about an often misunderstood and largely overlooked topic – mental toughness.
To better understand this, Bryce offers one definition of mental toughness as ‘Generally, coping better than others with the many demands that sport places on a performer (competition, training, lifestyle). Specifically, being more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure.’ (*Jones et al 2002)
Not to be confused with terms such as grit, hardiness and resilience, Bryce argues that an athlete’s ability to recover from setbacks and return to baseline will have a great impact on their long-term progress. Can this be learnt?
Bryce suggests that unlike other emotional or mental attributes, mental toughness can be learnt through developing new habits, creating positive training environments and working on coping mechanisms.
As a caveat, these are of course only a few of many factors that impact training progress and strength gains however the message is universal – it is about making better training choices. Consider your environment, be honest with your assessment of each lift and the level of exertion/stress it places on you. Spend time considering the softer sides of training and factors that impact your levels of non-training stress and develop routines and mechanisms that help you coupe.