When Should You Do Your Cardio To Get The Most Fat Loss?

For those that know me, you know all too well how I feel about cardio as a form of training for fat loss.

In fact, I’ve had many people that have prepped for competitions (myself included) that have done zero cardio during the entire prep process. Let’s face it, you don’t have all the time in the day to dedicate to training, so the precious time you do have should be allocated to the most productive means necessary.

When it comes to body composition changes, cardio should be looked at as the icing on the cake, not the cake in itself. Layne Norton has summed up this approach probably the best with the following

“If you’re a bodybuilder and you’re spending more time doing cardio than you do lifting weights, something is wrong”

You don’t have to be a bodybuilder in the competition sense for this to apply to. If your goal is to increase some lean mass and drop body fat, then the same rules apply to you.

With that said, cardio can definitely add extra fire to your fat burning goals if you want to add it in there. But I still see people who miss out on some basic application of cardio principles.

So, if you absolutely must add cardio in to your training mix, one of the most common questions usually comes around to When Is the Best Time To Do My Cardio For Fat Loss?

“Should I do my cardio on an empty stomach first thing in the morning?”

“Should I do my cardio before training?” “After training?”

Here are some simple cardio truths for you:

  1. There is NO EVIDENCE that doing cardio BEFORE weight training causes more fat loss. In fact there is evidence that “performing cardio before weight training actually inhibits resistance training adaptations” (Norton, 2018) This one has been around forever, and makes perfect logical sense when you think about it. Exercises that demand higher skill and higher strength output should ALWAYS be prioritised at the beginning of your session. Exercises and activities that require more endurance and are less demanding skill wise – i.e. repetitive cyclical movements like running, other cardio – should be put at the end of the workout. This ensures the more demanding exercises receive the full attention before your body gets fatigued.
  2. Ideally, you want to do your cardio on separate days to your weight training. If that is not possible, then try and schedule as much time between your cardio sessions than your weight sessions
  3. If all that fails – for reasons stated above – do your cardio AFTER your weights session. It won’t necessarily be better for your fat loss quest, but it won’t interfere with your weight training session as much.

Currently there’s no good evidence suggesting that fasted cardio in the morning is better for fat loss. The only rule you need to remember about cardio is this:

Just as long as you get it done the results are all comparable.

Don’t overthink when you should do it. Just do it.

The only thing you really need to worry about with regards to timing is making sure you do it at a time that will have the least impact on your resistance sessions.

Keto vs High Carb vs Even Macro Split – What is the TRUE energy intake of your favourite diets?

It’s been drummed so hard in to us over the years that fat loss always comes down to creating a negative energy balance. In plain terms, your energy in has to be less than your energy out.

As you will all know if you’ve read anything I have written in the past, this is not always as simple as just counting some calories. And there are MANY, MANY other factors that come in to play that govern whether you will store or lose fat.

One factor that has been discussed repeatedly when looking at energy equations is the Thermic Effect of Feeding, or TEF for short.

The Thermic Effect of Feeding basically means your body uses energy during the digestion process to extract energy from the foods you eat. Some of which is lost as heat. Different macronutrients operate at different efficiencies.

For example, if you eat 25g of Protein, this works out to be about 100 calories. BUT, protein only operates at about 70% efficiency, meaning 30% of those calories are LOST AS HEAT. So, the true calorie intake is actually 70 calories.

Compare this to Carbohydrate, which operates around 85% (average), and in the same 100 calories, you end up using 85 calories.

Fats operate at a much higher efficiency rate of 97%, which means that only 3% of the calories you eat are lost as energy. In the same 100 calories ingested in the examples above, this means you are actually using 97 of those 100 calories.

Thermic Effect of Feeding:

% Lost as Heat
Protein 30%
Carbs 15%
Fats 3%


True Energy Intake:

True Energy Intake from 100 Cals
Protein 70cals
Carbs 85cals
Fats 97cals


As you can see from this, NOT ALL CALORIES ARE CREATED EQUAL. And you can’t simply just count calories if you want to compare the effects of different diets.

If you want to maximise fat loss, one of the things you should be focusing on to help you create your negative energy balance is to MAXIMISE the THERMIC EFFECT OF FEEDING.

The problem is, you don’t eat just one of the macronutrients in a day, but a combination of all three.

The question then becomes, what is the best ratio of macronutrients to maximise this thermic effect?

Below we’ll compare 3 popular diet / macro ratio’s to see which is best for maximising the TEF.

For simplicity sake, we have chosen 1500 calories. The different % breakdown of 3 different popular macronutrient breakdowns are detailed below.

Three Diets with the SAME calories

Energy Intake Protein Carbs Fats
Even Macro 40% 30% 30%
1500 600 450 450
Keto 20% 10% 70%
1500 300 150 1050
High Carb : Low Fat 15% 60% 25%
1500 225 900 375


Now let’s compare what the TRUE energy intake for each of these 3 diet ratio’s are once they have been adjusted for the TEF.

TEF ADJUSTED DIETS (the more energy lost the BETTER)

Even Macro
1239 420 383 437 LOSS
Calorie Difference 261 17.4%
1356 210 128 1019 LOSS
Calorie Difference 144 9.6%
High Carb : Low Fat
1286 158 765 364 LOSS
Calorie Difference 214 14.3%


The TRUE Calorie Intake:

Even Macro’s: True Calories = 1239cals

Keto: True Calories = 1356cals

High Carb : Low Fat = 1286cals

From the above, you can see the TRUE energy intake from an Even Macronutrient Split is actually 1239 calories from the total of 1500 ingested. This is a LOSS of 17.4% as heat.

For the Traditional Keto diet, you only lose about half as much as heat at 9.6%. Your true energy intake out of your 1500 here is 1356.

For the High Carb : Low Fat diet, 14.3% is lost as heat, leaving you with 1286 calories out of your original 1500.

The KETO diet is actually the HIGHEST true energy intake out of all 3!

So what gives? How can keto in some instances help you to lose MORE fat than the high carb version (I’m not going to go in to detail on any keto debate here, but yes there is a lot of research showing this). The truth lies in the fact there are OTHER factors involved with fat loss than just the Thermic Effect of Feeding helping create a negative energy balance. Most of which I have written in detail about in the past.

What Does It All Mean?

When looking to create a negative energy balance, there are different ways you can improve on this EVEN WHEN THE CALORIE INTAKE IS THE SAME.

In the above example an EVEN MACRO SPLIT is actually the MOST EFFECTIVE in maximising the TEF and creating the OPTIMAL TRUE ENERGY INTAKE.

The best diet ratio that does this is an even macronutrient split consisting of

  • Maximising TEF
  • Maximising Fibre Intake
  • Optimising Hormonal Environment

If you want to maximise a negative energy balance AND create an optimal environment for fat loss, you need to maximise the TEF AND optimise the hormonal environment for this to operate in.

Obviously your total macronutrient intake and maintenance calorie intake for the day is an individualised calculation. But these are the principles you can use to optimise fat loss at any given calorie calculation.

For help in calculating the most effective fat loss macronutrient calculations for your own diet, contact The Courage Corner on info@thecouragecorner.com.au

The Long Lost Book of Nutrition Secrets – Regulation of Muscle Protein Synthesis

If you want the best results from your training, you obviously want to know what factors regulate the growth (or loss) of your hard earned gains.

The gain or loss of muscle is influenced by a number of factors. Ultimately they work to control what scientists call “Muscle Protein Synthesis”.

What causes Muscle Protein Synthesis to Increase?

What causes it to decrease?

Here is a summary of the most important information on Muscle Protein Synthesis summarised in to one table below:

Take Home Message?

Get sufficient Protein intake from quality protein sources spaced throughout the day.

Lift weights.

Adequate recovery.

Adequate energy intake

For all the science over the years and new methods, techniques, etc. It always comes back to some pretty basic principles. Eat, train, rest.

Science (*cough-internet-cough*) can seemingly overcomplicate things. But the principles will NEVER change.

Stop with the Hip Thrusts Please!!!

Why the hell don’t girls squat any more?!?

Is it because they finally figured out that leg day is hard?

Rewind the clock back a few years and couldn’t go a day without some BS meme filling up my feed of some girls backside with the title “she squats” #peach somewhere in there. But today? Today all I see is Hip Thrusts. EVERYWHERE. Great. You can load up that thing to have 200kg on it and do some crap partial Thrust. The contribution to your total booty gains? Zero. And don’t get me started on banded “dog taking a piss on a fire hydrant” for 100 reps.

Where did this all come from?? The Glute Guy, Bret Contreas of course. Or your instagram feed. Depending on what you consider a “valid resource” these days.

That’s not to take anything away from Bret. He’s great. And the Glute Bridge / Hip Thrust is definitely an integral part of Glute re education / training. Especially when I’m rehabing a client.

But for the best Glut development. There’s not an exercise out there that’s been taken more out of context than the Hip Thrust.

Even check Bret’s work himself. What’s the best way to full Glute development? A LOT of hip extension movements. NOT JUST THE BENCH BRIDGE. You have to work that thing from the bottom up to the top down and everything in between if you want the best Glute development. Read the last line of the page below. And then read it again.

“if one wants to optimise the gluteus maximus hypertrophic response, he or she needs to incorporate multiple hip extension movements such as hip thrusts, squats, and deadlifts.”

Let me expand on that.

  • Squats and variations
  • Deadlifts and variations
  • Hip Thrusts
  • Lunges / Split Squats
  • Step Ups
  • 45 Leg Press and Variations
  • Good Mornings
  • Back Extensions
  • ANYTHING that involves HIP EXTENSION!!!!!

From different angles. That allow sufficient resistance to elicit a response.

So, for the love of all things gym related. In the time it takes you to set up your damn bench, with the barbell. The ridiculous amount of weight you think you can thrust and the rest. You could’ve done a whole freaking leg workout that’ll give you better results.

Treat the hip thrust as a great Glut Exercise that is an adjunct to your overall Leg / Glut Workout. It is a great assister to your Squats and Deadlifts. It is not meant to be the THE ONLY exercise you load up and then do a million banded walks afterwards.

2 Meals, 3 Meals, 5 Meals…Does It Even Matter?

Back in the “Bro Science” days of bodybuilding, it was normal practice to eat 5-6 meals a day and not go 2-3 hours without eating a meal. Then, in the last few years, all that changed, as new research came along apparently disproving this practice and everyone was quick to jump on the “it doesn’t matter when and how many meals, it all comes down to just the daily intake”.

So, what is the truth? Does it matter the number of meals you eat each day? Or is it just about how much you have, regardless of whether it 1,2 or 6 meals??

Original “Bro Science” Reasoning:

Anyone who has lifted, that was born before the year 1990, remembers that everyone aimed to eat every 3 hours in order to keep the metabolism firing and to stay “anabolic”. God help you if you missed a meal as you would literally see the muscle wasting away from your frame. Or so it felt…

Anything less than 5 meals a day and you were a bodybuilding noob with the metabolism of your 80 year old grandmother.

The New Research:

Once scientist finally got around to actually doing some research on this, it was quickly found that this wasn’t really the case. Truth is, it didn’t really matter if you had 2 meals, or 3 meals or 6, the actual effect on your metabolism was actually pretty similar across the board.

The regular community and those that lift without crippling OCD breathed a big sigh of relief as you didn’t now have to spend 17 hours in the kitchen each week meticulously prepping  and partitioning equally 30 meals to last you Mon-Fri.

It also gave rise to IF, IIFYM, or any other acronym people can add more letters to to reinvent the wheel and profit from.


Is it all as open and shut as that?

Let’s take a look at what we know and put it in to some context.

There are two things we need to look at when trying to optimise body composition:

  1. What strips body fat
  2. What maximises muscle retention (increases muscle protein synthesis)

Obviously you want to create an environment conducive to getting leaner. i.e. relative energy deficit, maximising metabolism. But you also want to make sure you are not losing any of your hard earned gym gains.

So, just because your meal distribution may not necessarily affect your Metabolism. IT DOES play a role in maximising Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS). You know, the building / keeping your muscle part…

I’ve written extensively about Muscle Protein Synthesis and the factors that influence it (well, maybe like 2 facebook posts and an instagram story, but I digress). So, I won’t go on about it here. Needless to say that it requires a fast digesting protein source containing about 3g of Leucine amongst a few other things.

This influx of amino acids in to your system after a meal makes MPS peak about “45-90 minutes following a meal, and returns to baseline values by 180minutes”. (Wilson, et al, 2008-9). Translation: the most effective part of eating a meal with regards to building muscle peaks about 45-90minutes after you eat and then tapers off back to normal after about 3 hours.

The researchers found the “addition of a bolus of carbohydrates, leucine, or both, at 150minutes was able to both reinstate the ATP status of the cell as well as prolong protein synthesis.”

Paddon-Jones and colleagues also found the addition of a “low calorie (220 calories) amino acid and carbohydrate supplement between meals drastically improved protein balance through a 24hour period.

So What Does It MEAN????

  • To maximise MPS you need to optimise protein distribution NOT just hit your daily macro target
  • You can do this by eating a high quality protein source every 3 hours or so
  • OR “alternate whole meals containing 25-35g of whole protein sources with snacks containing either BCAA’s, or a combination of carbohydrates and BCAA’s”
  • in other words 3 meals and 2 snacks

Potato. Potato. (that doesn’t really have the same effect when written). It all says the same thing. Eat some quality protein every 3 hours.

If you want to maximise MPS the Amount, Quality AND Distribution of your protein intake are ALL important factors.

Especially if you are trying to get leaner and on any sort of restriction.

YESSSSS. OLD SCHOOL BRO SCIENCE FOR THE WIN!!!!! Stick that one in your Kombucha damn new age insta hippies.

Are You Drinking Enough Each Day? Probably Not…

We all know how important staying hydrated is. Despite this, I would hazard a guess to say not nearly enough of you drink enough water each day.

Staying hydrated is not just good for overall health reasons, but for athletic performance as well.

How much water you need to drink is obviously going to differ depending on a number of factors. Sex, weight, weather, etc.

You’ve probably heard the general 8 glasses of water per day rule. But, this may be undershooting it for you.

A more accurate calculation is to times your body weight by 0.0.35. This is easy enough to do, grab the calculator on your phone, type your bodyweight x 0.035 and done.

So, if you weight 70kg, this would be about 2.5 litres you need to drink EACH day.

How Much Should You Drink During Your Workouts?

A body water reduction in excess of 2-3% is considered to adversely affect performance. So, if you weigh 70-80kg, this is only a drop of 1.5kg.

How do you know how much to drink during your workout? Here’s 3 easy steps.

  1. Weigh yourself before you start your workout
  2. Weight yourself at the end of the workout
  3. If you weigh less at the end of the workout, you have to drink that equivalent in water weight.

So, if by the end of the workout, you weigh 500g less than when you started, you have 500ml of water you have to make up for, as 1 litre of water is equal to 1kg.  Obviously you should be drinking and staying hydrated during your workout. This is just calculating if you’ve had enough during the workout and if you need to make up for anything at the end.


Protein Quality: Even more important as you get older

Two beautiful things happen to our bodies as we get older

  1. It’s harder to lose the fat


  1. You lose muscle

Yep. Pretty much the exact opposite of what we are going for.

But all’s not lost!

With careful attention to what you eat – along with your exercise – you can help get the best of both worlds.

One of the most important macronutrients in maintaining your hard earned muscle and even stimulating MORE muscle growth is Protein.

Unfortunately though, it’s not as simple as just getting the right amount of protein each day. You also need to keep in mind the QUALITY as well.

When it comes to protein, quality is measured in two ways

  1. How much protein is present per 100g i.e. % of protein content
  2. How quickly the amino acids are absorbed in to your system and stimulate Muscle Protein Synthesis (it’s Leucine content)

Amino acids are the little building blocks that make up all of the proteins that our bodies use. And of the 20 or so amino acids that go to building all of these proteins, there are 8 of these amino acids that our bodies can only get from ingestion. These are called ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS. Essential meaning our bodies can not make them and we must get them from the foods we eat.

As it turns out, the very act of eating protein, actually stimulates your body to MAKE protein. That’s right, eating protein really does actually help you gain muscle. And, more importantly, at least hold on to it keep it while you are losing fat.

The main amino acids that are responsible to stimulating this Muscle Protein Synthesis are the ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS. More specifically, one called Leucine. Now, it’s not important you remember these names, just the effect that eating good quality protein has.

The best sources that get you ALL of your essential amino’s in one hit are termed COMPLETE proteins. Protein sources that lack one or more of the essentials are termed INCOMPLETE proteins.

To keep things a little simplified, the general rule of thumb is:

1) Animal proteins = complete proteins

2) Plant proteins = incomplete proteins

This kind of makes sense when you think about it. It you want flesh of your own, you literally have to eat the flesh of another animal to give you everything you need.

It turns out, some sources of animal protein are even better at doing this than others.

Whey protein, for example – you know that type of protein in all protein powder – is an excellent source of protein. Not only is it a COMPLETE protein, but it is also rich in ESSENTIAL AMINO acids. The main one being LEUCINE.

So, it has a high protein content. It is a complete protein. It is absorbed quickly in to the body and is a rich source of Leucine, meaning it will stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

There was even studies that compared feeding ESSENTIAL amino acids in a bolus dose vs NON ESSENTIAL amino acids only. The essential amino acid group stimulated muscle protein synthesis, the non essential group did not. So, make sure the quality of your protein sources tick the boxes above.

Other sources of animal proteins that fulfil this criteria are:

  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Different types of fish…

You know, the usual suspects.

As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want the fat content of your meat too high, as this actually lowers the protein quality slightly. The higher fat content means it is absorbed a little slower. This can sometimes be desirable, but again, we’re keeping it simple for now.

So, just as a recap, good sources of protein are:

  • Dairy (some better than others)
  • Eggs
  • Lean Meat
  • Whey protein

If you want the best quality protein, it is a good idea to get it from a variety of sources, as each of these also contain other benefits that are crucial for optimum health.  For example, you will get iron, zinc and creatine from beef. So, don’t think you can go and have protein shakes all day.

In your quest for fat loss, don’t forget you need to keep as much muscle as you can during the whole process. This comes from eating the right AMOUNT of protein each day, but, more importantly, the right QUALITY of protein.

Call it Yo Yo Dieting. Metabolic Damage. Set Point Theory. Call it what you want, you’re still going to get fatter.

I remember back in the 80’s, fad diets were all the rage.

In short, people would go on these crazy short term diets that would cut out groups of foods completely, dramatically drop down their overall food intake, and get awesome short terms results.

The problem was, as soon as these people came off their “diet” and returned to their normal eating habits and normal calorie intake, they would end up FATTER than before!

(Any of this sound familiar?? It should…)

The best way they used to combat this, was to go on another diet. Maybe even a different one this time. Maybe the grapefruit diet. Or the Garth Brooks Juice Diet (ok, maybe that one was from a movie, but you get the drift).

This gave rise to the term YO YO DIETING. Peoples weights would go up and down according to which fad diet they were on. But in the end, they would end up bigger than before. Even when they went back to the same calorie intake!

Again, if any of this is sounding familiar, that’s because it is. We have precisely gone no where over the past 30-40 years when it comes to mainstream consumption of dieting BS and our expectations of what a “diet” can achieve.

In the last couple of years, we gave it a different name. Metabolic Damage.

There’s even talk in the literature again on the Metabolic Set Point Theory. Almost as if these people have reinvented the wheel. When people were talking about this years and years ago.

Here’s the quick breakdown of the Metabolic Set Point Theory:

  • Your body has a natural “set point” or level that it likes to keep its weight at. This is determined by a number of factors including lifestyle, genetic, metabolic factors, etc.
  • Just like your body temperature, your body naturally regulates it’s weight fairly accurately over the long haul. You have in built mechanisms to match your energy intake and output to kind of maintain the status quo – or homeostasis – as scientists like to call it. So, just say your set point is at 2000calories. Your body likes to keep its input and output around that point, so it all evens out.
  • If you drop your energy intake too low for too long a period, your body will fight against it in order to try and keep things the same. To do this it will deliberately slow down your “metabolism” to accomodate this.

Congratulations, your new set point is now 1500calories

Guess what happens when you’ve finished your “diet” and return to your normal eating habits of the 2000 calories again? That’s right. You get fatter than before. Even if you just go back to what you were eating before you started your diet!

That’s Yo Yo Dieting in a nutshell. That’s Metabolic Damage in a nutshell. That’s learning nothing over the last 40 years of diet fads.

Again, it’s important to note your “Set Point” is influenced by many factors:

  • Genetics
  • Neurological Factors
  • Hormones
  • Calorie Intake
  • Body Composition
  • Gut Health – micro biome

And the list goes on…

You can’t just try and fix ONE thing and think you’ve fixed the whole problem. BUT, you can still influence the Set Point back to a positive way and not be stuck in the negative.

The Solution??

  • As tempting as it is to “get results quicker” you should never make big sudden drops to your energy intake.
  • Don’t ever “diet” for extended periods – comp dieters I’m mainly looking at you. NO, you can’t maintain comp conditioning all year round. NO, you shouldn’t compete back to back seasons for years consecutively. NO, not everyone was designed to step on the competitive stage and bean shredded AF.
  • Same for coming out the other end, it takes time for your body to adapt and recover. Give it time.

Regulation of your Set Point is a complex multifactorial issue, but ALL of which can be influenced by the big 4 pillars of fat loss:

  1. Diet
  2. Exercise
  3. Stress Management
  4. Sleep Quality

You don’t have to just drop calories to affect your set point. You don’t just have to then increase calories to affect your set point. Every girl seems to think they should be able to eat over 2000 calories per day. Every guy thinks they should be eating over 4000 calories per day. It’s just not as simple as that.

Forget the quick fixes. Forget the fad diets. Focus on meaningful long term change. And long term change only happens with the small things done consistently. You are the only yard stick you should ever measure anything against. No one else.

So each day, each little step, each little meal, each little training session. Over the long term, they will bring you the results you are after.

The Rapid Response program is built around these 4 pillars of fat loss. Looking at key indicators that are measurable and achievable. By maximising each of these factors and you can get fast results with positive changes, not just “quick fix” solution of just dropping down calories.


Is A Bigger Muscle A Stronger Muscle? Muscle Myths Part III – Intermuscular Coordination

Is A Stronger Muscle Is A Bigger Muscle: Muscle Myths Part II – Inter muscular Coordination

Last time we looked at some of the structural affects of training, namely Functional vs Non Functional Hypertrophy as part of an article written for Ironman Magazine.

This time we turn our attention to the next step of the chart, namely Functional Effects of a Training Stimulus, with this articles focus on Intermuscular Coordination.


Traditionally we always think that if we have a bigger muscle, we have a stronger muscle. But this is only the case “if all other variables are equal”. The truth is, these other variables are really never equal and can be affected a great deal by training.

“The fact that Olympic weightlifters can increase their strength from year to year while remaining at the same body mass reveals that strength depends on other factors as well.” (Siff)

This is also easily seen in the fact that bodybuilders are the most muscular athletes in the world, but they are by no means the strongest, or the most powerful.

The biggest element in the strength training equation, therefore, is from the adaptation of the nervous system.

“Strength is the product of muscular action initiated and orchestrated by electrical processes in the nervous system of the body. Classically, strength is defined as the ability of a given muscle or group of muscles to generate muscular force under specific conditions.” (Siff)

So what role does the nervous system play in strength?

“Strength is not only determined by the amount of muscle mass but also by the extent to which individual fibres in a muscle are voluntarily activated and coordinated between many muscle groups (intermuscular coordination).” (Zatsiorsky)

It’s therefore not only the size of the muscle, but how effectively you can contract it. 

Each physical movement is not reliant on one or two muscles contracting, but the coordinated effort of a number of muscle groups that cross a number of joints.

Intermuscular coordination involves the sequencing and synchronisation of different muscle groups to work together optimally to produce any given movement. This may involve the facilitation of:

  1. Activation
  2. Timing
  3. Sequencing of certain muscle groups
  4. as well as the inhibition of others from cooperating in the execution of a skill.

Intermuscular coordination is coordinating the activity of many muscle groups to achieve the greatest force summation.

Even the simplest exercise is a skilled act requiring the complex coordination of a number of muscle groups.

Take the Posterior Chain for example. Your posterior chain is what is referred to when we are discussing the groups of muscles that make up your back, glutes, hamstrings, etc that contribute to powerful hip extension. These muscles are classically the main ones used in the deadlift, for example.

Inter muscular coordination optimises the activation, timing and sequencing of each of these muscle groups to maximise the total force summation of each movement.

If each group of muscles activate too early the previous muscle hasn’t reached peak contraction yet = suboptimal force summation as noted by the blue lines

If each group of muscles activate too late, the previous muscle has already reached peak contraction and has started to taper off = suboptimal force summation as noted by the green line

If each muscle group times perfectly right at the peak of each previous muscles contraction = optimal force production and a much greater end force produced in the movement as noted by the yellow line

Force Summation Chart

The movement pattern, rather than the strength of single muscles or the movement of single joints, must therefore be the primary training objective.” (Zatsiorsky)

This has given rise to the term “train movements not muscles” if increasing strength is your objective.

The biggest thing to note here is that


In a nutshell, neurological adaptation is the highest priority for strength training athletes

Metabolic adaptation is paramount for bodybuilding.

If you want strength, train movements not muscles.

If you want size, train muscles.

Training for performance is NOT the same as training for cosmetic adaptation.

Specificity of your training stimulus is one of the most important factors in your training program success.

And in case you were wondering, you don’t just “max” out your neurological adaptation and then muscular adaptation starts. Again, this is witnessed by elite athletes able to hit new 1RM’s year to year without changes in weight category and increases in “lean mass”

In the next part of the series, we will look at Intramuscular Adaptation as yet another way of increasing neurological adaptation with no change in the muscular size as a way to increase strength.

Is A Bigger Muscle A Stronger Muscle? Why Are We Even Still Debating This?

One thing I love about my training crew is we get to discuss the trends in the industry and throw back and forth ideas and what we’ve found as far as our research goes.

Seems lately – as with most industries – the hot topics are ones that have been thrown around for decades now. Almost to the point I can’t still believe we are discussing them. Every new generation of trainers think they’re reinventing the wheel when it comes to training ideas and discovering the science behind lifting.

As I mentioned to a colleague earlier today, it’s like the whole “machine weights vs free weights, which one is better?” headlines all over again. Haven’t we already had these discussions enough?

The biggest one that always pokes the bear is the notion that you have to get stronger to get bigger.

At best this is an oversimplification of the idea of progressive overload, at worst its complete ignorance of the science behind strength training.

So, is it possible to get stronger without getting bigger??

If so, what are the training effects that actually take place

In Part 1, we will talk about the different effects that a training stimulus can have.

Subsequent parts in the series will discuss each in more detail.

Right off the bat, the answer to the first question is obviously yes.  You should know, at least anecdotally, that you can get stronger without “bulking”.

After all, isn’t that exactly what we tried to achieve for so many years? To convince females to strength train and show them it won’t bulk them up?

Lift weights we said. You won’t get too big. You’ll just get stronger.

And now what? We tell everyone the only way to get bigger is to get stronger?? Seriously.

So what’s the science have to say?

As most of you know, I’m a visual learner, and like nothing better than a good flow chart.

Outlined below is a simplified version, taken from Mel Siff’s awesome book on strength training – Supertraining.

Training S

It summarises each of the subsequent training effects that take place as a result of applying a training stimulus. For example…lifting a weight.

In truth, there are 3 main training effects that occur in response to a training stimulus:

  1. The Structural Effect – Or the one most of us know as “getting bigger”. This is the muscle hypertrophy that can accompany the training stimulus
  2. The Functional Effect – which further breaks down in to
      1. Inter muscular Coordination
      2. Intra muscular Coordination
      3. Reflexive Changes
  3. The Motor Learning Effect

Take a good look at the chart again, and notice the small tiny part of the overall table that is taken up by the word “hypertrophy”. Now pay attention to ALL of the other ways in which your body can adapt and increase strength WITHOUT increasing muscular size.

And not only that, you will find there are in fact 2 different types of hypertrophy. One that coincides with an increase in strength – what is termed FUNCTIONAL HYPERTROPHY and another where you can get an increase in size WITHOUT a subsequent increase in strength. This is termed NON FUNCTIONAL HYPERTROPHY.

This idea will be explored in more detail in Part 2. Along with discussing in more detail the other ways your can improve strength without increasing size.