October 30, 2006

25 responses to CKD diet week 1: Baselines and tentative goals

  1. Mike Says:

    Mario DiPasqule(sp??) is also big into the ketogenic diet for powerlifting. I’ve always wanted to get his books and supplements but they are way to expensive. Looks like you have a solid plan going here and I am very interested to see your results. I injured my lower back recently and will not have enough time to train for a full meet in January. If you need help with the bench drop me an email and I’ll gladly help ya out.

  2. Kris Says:

    Mike, I’m really sorry to hear about your back. I read all about it on your blog and I do see why there is no chance you could make the virtual meet. Hope it heals up well!! I believe you have that rare form of patience which means that you actually won’t do anything to aggravate it. If you feel up to it, there’s always the opportunity to participate as a judge. As a meet PS. we almost got our first female contestant today, but unfortunately the virtual meet clashes with the USAPL 2007 Women’s Nationals on Feb 16-18.

    I also appreciate your offer to help with my bench. I’ll probably shoot you an e-mail after I get the blog up to speed with the latest bench footage. :-)

    It would indeed be interesting to read the newer DiPasquale books, will probably get them at some point. Not too hot about all the supplements that he has baked into the diet though…

  3. Mike Says:

    Yeah, that is the biggest drawback to the diet. And the prices of the supplements are ridiculous. But, he must know what he’s talking about as he had a very rugged and muscular physique and he has trained Bob Sapp for years(whose physique I wish I had!!).

  4. Kris Says:

    Yup, his credentials are solid both as a powerlifter and a medical expert in the field of sports nutrition and drug testing. He did get a bit of a bad rap for his optimism in the Anabolic Diet book where it seems clear that he drastically overemphasizes how good the diet is for building muscle mass, not sure if he still maintains that his diet is the closest thing to natural anabolic steroids. Then again, his book was one of the early pioneers in this field predating BodyOpus and The Ketogenic Diet so his optimism is not perhaps surprising given the radical difference of the diet. Be that as it may, the Anabolic Diet works well for fat loss.

  5. Mike Says:

    I ordered DiPasquels’ Anabolic Solution for Powerlifters today. Sounds like a good read as the diet and cycles are designed for maximizing muscle mass and minimizing bodyfat while getting stronger. After readinf it I’ll give you an update and let you know if it was good or not.

  6. Kris Says:

    Great! I’d really appreciate hearing about it. I wonder how close that book is to the original Anabolic Diet.

  7. Tom Says:

    Hi Kris,
    Haven’t posted anything to you in awhile but I’ve just caught up to speed on your blog and have to ask you about the low carb diet and also your related references to hypertrophy :)
    I think strength increases require alot of carbs as well (muscular contractions are more efficient when you’re not in ketosis; adequate glycogen).
    I think you would have a better strategy eating normally (staying at 230), but changing your body composition by converting x number of kilos into muscle; your bodymass analysis indicates you’ve experienced quite a bit of hypertrophy (accumulated lean mass) in comparision to the standard range they project for your height, so some additional lean mass will just enhance your strength:weight ratio for the virtual meet.
    More on why I am emphasising hypertrophy - It’s just this; I don’t think it’s possible for most people to get stronger without hypertrophy and your body composition anaysis confirms your strength is more based in hypertrophy than through neural pathway enhancement. Because of this, I bet you could increase your lean mass further by just a couple of kilos (and drop the same amount of adipose tissue to stay at or close to 230) by February with a resultant increase in all of your lifts. Conversely, I think if you continue to try to train in the absense of carbohydrates (or low carbs) you will lose lean body mass along with whatever fat you lose and the resultant strength drops in your lifts may make your strength:bodyweight ratio the same or worse despite being lighter. What do you think?

  8. Kris Says:

    Tom, thanks for your feedback. :-) My blog is woefully out of date due to other more pressing issues, but I can tell you that I am now down to 220lbs and have posted PRs down on the sixth week of low-carb dieting, including on the bench press. My squat is still in a bit of disarray due to the shoe change, but at the moment I am stronger on both the deadlift and the bench than ever before. Even I didn’t expect things to go this well. ;-)

    Part of my motivation for dieting down is to get rid of all the health and social implications of carrying needless amounts of body fat; I rather increase relative strength by going down in weight rather than staying at 230lbs and increasing strength. Without getting bogged down with another lengthy discussion on the role of hypertrophy for strength, I would be interested in hearing how the amount of muscle mass I carry proves my strength is based mainly on hypertrophy? I should point out that I started bodybuilding at age 14 and that my current mass base was mostly built by a countless number of sets in the 6-8 range. I actually feel that my level of hypertrophy is out of line with my strength; you just shouldn’t need this much extra mass to move the weights I am doing now. Just go to a RAW meet and see what people with my body structure and weight are putting up drug-free… or consider the lightweight lifters who outlift me by far even while carrying much less LBM. If hypertrophy would correlate so strongly with strength, shouldn’t the powerlifters that look like bodybuilders be the strongest?

    In the final analysis, I guess meet day will tell whether the dieting was worth it or whether I shot myself in the foot with it. Theory aside, let’s both train very hard and get very strong! :-)

  9. Tom Says:

    Thank you for the good wishes. I can’t argue with results - you’ve dropped 10 lbs but have also gotten stronger, which is fantastic.
    It does seem to me that some additional hypertrophy has taken place despite the restricted carbs - that you now have more lean mass and not just a greater lean mass % via dropped weight. I’ll try not to get bogged down in this, but you did express an interest in the theory, so here goes my attempt to explain why I think hypertrophy is an integral part of powerlifting:
    You use your muscles and tendons to lift the weights; because the weights are heavy, your muscle and tendon fibers respond to this stimulus by getting bigger and thicker - this is hypertrophy. Lift heavy weights over time and you simply can’t avoid it weather you are doing 6 reps, heavy threes, doubles or singles. You do recognize that your body composition tests prove you have hypertrophied but you attribute it to years of bodybuilding sets of 6. You also pointed out that you can go to a RAW meet and see people with your body structure and weight putting up much higher poundages. I would say that weight lifting is relative - though the body structure may seem the same these individuals, they most likely have more favorable tendon attachments or have a better neural pathway; these are both genetic and beyond your control (I aquisce that you can make very minor improvements in neural efficiency). I think their own increases (relative to what they initially lifted) always include alot of hypertrophy and if you had a before and after body comp analysis of these athletes it would bear this out; in fact it’s been done and it does bear this out: Body comp analysis of top powerlifters are similiar to bodybuilders - both indicate a high degree of hypertrophy (although theres also evidence of hyperplasia in the bodybuilders).
    More on the 6 reps - this is associated with more muscle hypertrophy than lower reps just as lower reps are associated with more tendon hypertrophy than higher reps, thus possibly the strength differential. But the differential is not really all that much, therefore much of the strength built by the 6 rep range should and did transfer fine to powerlifting; It’s not like you were doing 20 reps. To give you an example from my own experience, I’ve trained alot on the overhead press and was unable to press anywhere near my bodyweight initially, but after many years of considerable hypertrophy (almost always using the 5-6 rep range in the press) I can press my bodyweight + 20 lbs for 6 reps; certainly a positive transfer if I wanted to lift as heavy a weight as possible for a single rep although I agree concentrating the hypertrophy (still hypertrophy) more in the tendons (with heavy threes, doubles, singles) would definitely be better training for pressing a max weight; I think this is the answer to your question as to why the powerlifter whom most resembles a bodybuilder is usually not the strongest - the hypertrophy is more concentrated in the muscles than the tendons for that lifter (perhaps he’s genetically predisposed or perhaps its from doing sets of 6).

  10. Kris Says:

    Tom, unfortunately I still can’t agree with the specifics as you outline them. In some cases, this is just a matter of degree and detail, but I also continue to think that you are mostly missing the huge role neuromuscular processes play in strength. My point is still, again quoting the late Mel Siff, that “strength is not primarily a function of muscle size, but one of the appropriate muscles powerfully contracted by effective nervous stimulation”. Siff makes it very clear that a larger muscle has the potential for greater strength, but that the degree of how much of this potential can be realized in practice depends mostly on neuromuscular training that is only optimally stimulated in the 80-105% of 1RM intensity range. Let me quote some more:

    1.6. The Nature of Strength: [..] Some of these factors are structural and others, functional. Structural factors, however, only provide the potential for producing strength, since strength is a neuromuscular phenomenom which exploits this potential to generate motor activity.

    It is well known that strength is proportional to the cross-sectional area of a muscle, so that larger muscles have the potential to develop greater strength than smaller muscles. However, the fact that Olympic weightlifters can increase their strength from year to year while remaining at the same bodymass reveals that strength depends on other factors as well.

    The most obvious observation is that a muscle will produce greater strength if a large number of its fibres contract simultaneously, an event which depends on how efficiently the nerve fibres send impulses to the muscle fibres. Moreover, less strength will be developed in a movement in which different the different muscles are not coordinating their efforts. It is also important to note research by Vredensky which has shown that maximum strength is produced for an optimum, not a maximum, frequency of nerve firing (Vorobyev, 1978). Furthermore, this optimal frequency changes with level of muscle fatigue (Kernell & Monster, 1982).
    Siff, Mel C., 2003: Supertraining, pp. 33. Supertraining institute, Denver, USA. [emphasis in original]

    Siff goes on to list the determinants of strength. Again, the structural factors (basically hypertrophy and leverage, the two main components you cite as determining strength) provide the potential for strength, with the functional factors determining how much of that potential is realized. Further note that the functional factors are neuromuscular in origin. As a sidenote, like you recognize, very heavy lifting and bodybuilding style training will also promote somewhat different structural adaptations. For example, fast-twitch fiber hypertrophy is generally not seen in bodybuilding with the proportion of fast twitch fibers being up to 50% lower in bodybuilders (Siff, pp. 58). Muscle fiber splitting (hyperplasia), still very controversial if it happens beyond the cellular structures in humans, would be more closely associated with bodybuilding. Also, bodybuilding is associated with sarcoplasmic hypertrophy which Siff (pp. 66) defines as an increase of the volume of non-contractile protein and semifluid plasma between the muscle fibres that increases the cross-sectional area (size) of the muscle with the result that the density of muscle fibers per unit area actually decreases, thus showing no correspondence in muscle strength. Essentially, hypertrophy does not always equal hypertrophy as HOW the muscle hypertrophies in response to external stimuli is highly loading specific, and some kinds of hypertrophy are not as good a platform for strength as others. Anyway, back to the quote:

    Structural Factors

    1. The cross-sectional area of the muscle
    2. The density of muscle fibres per unit cross-sectional area
    3. The efficiency of mechanical leverage across the joint

    Functional Factors

    1. The number of muscle fibres contracting simultaneously
    2. The rate of contraction of muscle fibres
    3. The efficiency of synchronisation of firing of the muscle fibres
    4. The conduction velocity in the nerve fibres
    5. The degree of inhibition of muscle fibres which do not contribute to the movement
    6. The proportion of large diameter muscle fibres active
    7. The efficiency of cooperation between different types of muscle fibre
    8. The efficiency of the various stretch reflexes in controlling muscle tension
    9. The excitation threshold of the nerve fibres supplying the muscles
    10. The intial length of the muscles before contraction
    11. Siff, Mel C., 2003: Supertraining, pp. 33-34. Supertraining institute, Denver, USA.

    In sum, hypertrophy beyond what is needed to realize the level of neuromuscular efficiency achieved is useless for a powerlifter from a pure strength standpoint. I would consider it a well-established fact that neuromuscular training, i.e. in the 80-100% range, is too heavy to elicit the significant amount of muscle damage that is needed for hypetrophy to result through supercompensation. This article summarizes it very well:

    How does training with weights that are 90% of 1RM develop strength and power, but do very little for hypertrophy?

    Studies have shown an intense set of 5 reps involves more fibers than an intense set of 1 rep. Research has shown that using loads in the 90% range causes failure to occur before a growth stimulus has been sent to the cells. Therefore other factors besides muscle fiber fatigue result in termination of the set. The muscle simply does not have sufficient time under tension to stimulate the growth process. High rep training produces high levels of phosphate and hydrogen Ions which enhance the growth process.
    Jamie Hale: Muscle Size Does Not Necessarily Represent Muscle Strength (at Dolfzine)

    The challenge for powerlifters is to make sure there is a hypertrophy base for further increased strength without putting on needless size that does not help at all (see Siff’s Hypertrophy & Strength for a more in-depth discussion). This is where the manipulation of assistance work becomes critical. In this regard I suggest you read the Testosterone Nation article Tate Talks Hypertrophy, Part I where Dave Tate of Westside Barbell fame talks extensively on the role of hypertrophy in powerlifting. Tate echoes the need to keep hypertrophy in check since “you don’t want to send somebody into a weight class heavier if they’re just going to be weaker and have bigger muscles”, but also makes the point that powerlifters are interested in selective hypertrophy to promote stability (such as the rear delts and lats to aid bench press stability). I don’t know how familiar you are with the different powerlifting protocols, but it should be pointed out that Westside Barbell does tend to emphasize hypertrophy to an extent greater than many other protocols and usually build up their lifters more than many others for the leverage and stabilization benefits. That said, this hypertrophy does NOT come from their maximum effort work but from their very intense assistance work where reps are generally kept above 6 for several sets to promote hypertrophy although generally keeping clear of going to failure. What Westside lifters are interested in is muscle mass that specifically promotes stability or leverage, and thus stay away from much of the stuff a bodybuilder would do to build up the body at large.

    The point here is that Westside Barbell generally choose to bulk up their lifters, but this muscle mass does not come from the heavy work necessary for strength, but rather from bodybuilding style accessory work. The other point is that this accessory work is still very explosive, since lifting slowly bodybuilding style will teach your body to, well, lift slowly which is not what you want when moving maximum weights. In this way, the typical powerlifting accessory work does not stress the target muscles to the same degree as in bodybuilding since momentum plays an integral part compared to the controlled reps generally used by bodybuilders, thus leading to less hypertrophy. Dave Tate explains this well in his training log upon having to return to bodybuilding style training due to recurrent shoulder problems:

    I also discovered that over all the years of building strength, my focus was on “the movement”, not the “muscles” being trained by the movement. When I used to do rows, I did them to build the bench press. Since the goal was to build the bench press, the row was only done with the bench press in mind. The first priority was to build the bench and the second was to use more weight. The goal was never to work the lats to the largest extent. Before I continue, I feel this is the correct way to train for strength and is the one, very huge thing that separates strength athletes from bodybuilders.

    Were a lifter, which is often the case in East Bloc routines, to limit hypertrophy to the minimum needed to sustain strength gains, (s)he should find that bodyweight goes up very slowly. It is not uncommon for powerlifters and Olympic lifters to stay within one or two weight classes for the duration of their career while increasing their strength tremendously. Westside Barbell members, being the leader of the pack when it comes to enhanced powerlifting, in contrast, seem to have a habit of moving rapidly up the weight classes making sure to total Elite in every one on the way. ;-)

    If you look over the archives spanning my powerlifting experience, you will also find that I do a lot of work in the 6+ rep range for hypertrophy (especially for the lats and rear delts) a la Westside Barbell, although I have decreased assistance work of late. My point is not that powerlifters do not show hypertrophy - in fact the superheavies who do not need to consider any weight class limits, should generally carry nearly as much mass as the top bodybuilders (who can’t max out their mass due to the requirement of also being lean in competition) - but rather that training for maximum strength does not in itself promote much hypertrophy. It IS fully possible to minimize hypertrophy by keeping the volume and intensity of assistance work down to a minimum while possibly also controlling caloric intake. And that’s how a female lightweight powerlifter can often outlift a male bodybuilder in the three powerlifts. Leverage does matter, but that’s just part of the equation.

    So don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I haven’t hypertrophied while powerlifting, but I do think (perhaps unscientifically so) that I carry more muscle mass due to my bodybuilding past than I would have gained through powerlifting training alone and that this hypertrophy is mostly related to assistance work than the actual maximal strength work I do. My strength base was very weak when I started powerlifting in May 2003 with a best bench of 70 kg/154 lbs; in that respect I guess you can say that my strength transfered well to powerlifting since I could naturally pick up where I stopped, BUT my mass was in no proportion to the strength seen in powerlifters. At the same time, I can also tell you that the very selective nature of the assistance work has caused many of my muscles (notably the biceps and the calves) to actually shrink significantly from my bodybuilding days when I pounded all bodyparts with a vengence while other bodyparts have clearly hypertrophied (perhaps most notably triceps and chest, my delts have always been relatively big). I don’t have a body composition for when I started powerlifting, but my blog tells me that I weighed in at “a morning weight of 92 kg/203 pounds, not all of which is muscle (my beer belly seems too soft to be part of my abs)”. I also know for a fact that I was leaner back then. I guesstimate could be have been 19% bodyfat, i.e. a LBM of 74.5 kg/164 lbs. That would very roughly mean that I have gained approximately 4.5 kg/10 lbs of muscle while powerlifting, give or take.

    Phew! That was another long one… In closing, I’d just like to say that you pack one heck of an overhead press! Keep up the hard work! :-)

  11. Theresa Says:

    A few years ago I dropped two weight classes by giving up bagels and beer. I went from 138 lbs to 114. My squat and deadlift improved with the “fat” loss, but I lost five pounds on my bench. Any ideas why?
    Keep up the great work and thanks for having an information packed blog!

  12. Tom Says:

    Thanks for the compliments on my press :)
    I really enjoyed reading your response - there was a ton of information to digest! I read some of the references too.
    I agree there is alot of research and several schools of thought that place a great deal of emphasis on how improvable the neuromuscular component is.
    I think we actually agree pretty closely with regard to hypertrophy in powerlifting; I really liked Dave Tates article too and I think when he says powerlifters will have hypertophy in the triceps he’s talking about muscle fiber hypertrophy similar to bodybuilding (sarcopastic hypertrophy and hyperplasia aside). You’ve mentioned you’ve noticed this as well, but when he points out that the powerlifters preferentially want the hypertrophy concentrated around the elbow (”thick around the elbow”), he is referring to tendon hypertrophy. I think in a sense this view could be seen to oppose the aforementioned schools of thought because it’s saying a lifter who works in the 6 rep range can get big muscles and big tendons, and a lifter who works in the 3 rep range and below can also get big muscles and big tendons, but that the latter will have relatively more tendon hypertrophy and less muscle hypertrophy. Doesn’t the same work that in the low rep range that is responsible for the thicker tendons give you whatever neuromuscular component you need to use those thick tendons?

    I liked an exercise I saw in his article too - board press, not familiar with this but it looks like it could build alot of strength.
    I did a search to find the sequel to the article and read that as well, Tate mentions some other things I plan to look up (ME’s and RE’s).
    I like the articles on T-Nation but never post there, do you have a handle on that website?
    I have recently been posting on a forum for HIT and old school strength athletes that you may find interesting, it is run by T-Nation actually (same server) - here is a link to a thread topic I was discussing just the other day, you might find it entertaining (seems I have an abstract view of pre-exhaustion and I got caught in an extended discussion on it while trying to ask a strength athlete why he wasn’t squatting heavy):
    (I post as Tomislav there).
    One other thing, I noticed you are having some issues with the right squatting boot; what kind of trouble are the shoes causing with the movement?
    I’m curious because I recently threw out an old pair of sneakers that were perfect with a heel board, but now my squatting boots feel too restrictive around my ankles (hiking boots, not technically squatting boots but they seem pretty close) and my new sneakers have too much of a built in heel so if I use the board it’s too high and if I don’t it’s not high enough. Well, I used the board anyway the other day and my shins hurt for a minute after the heavy squats. I thought my form was perfect (wouldn’t be without the board) and everything else felt right, so I’m guessing I just need to find a thinner board or get an old pair of sneakers again. What do you think?

  13. Kris Says:

    Theresa, that’s a pretty solid drop in weight! :-)

    I’m only beginning to understand how weight loss affects strength. Based on what little I know, some strength loss is usually to be expected while dieting down, but increasing relative strength is the norm; thus, dieting is usually worthwhile. Whereas the holy grail of bodybuilding, losing fat while gaining muscle, is very hard to achieve in natural lifters who are not beginners, it seems quite plausible to actually become stronger while losing weight even given some loss of muscle mass, probably due to neural factors and perhaps improvements in technique. That’s what happened to you on your squat and deadlift. So far I also seem to actually be getting stronger as well, but whether this trend continues as I drop more weight remains to be seen (parenthetically, it is reassuring to see an entry on the EliteFTS QA where it is stated that “a ketogenic diet [..] will typically help you maintain the largest amount of strength and mass during calorie restriction”). Furthermore, when weight is dropped, it is usually the bench press which will take the largest hit; why, I don’t know yet. For a large individual losing a lot of bodyweight the stroke will naturally increase somewhat, especially for belly benchers, but can’t see that being much of a factor in your case or generally. If anyone can shed any light on this, both Theresa and I am are all ears. According to Rich Peters of NASA fame,

    Your BP will suffer the most when you loose wt. You can plan on losing about 3 lbs from your BP per lb. of bwt lost AFTER the first 3 lbs of lost bwt. The lighter you are the more dramatic the effects.

    You slimmed down 24 lbs/11 kg and lost 5 lbs/2.3 kg on the bench. Let’s say your bench was 100 lbs/45 kg at 132 lbs/60 kg and then dropped to 95 lbs/43 kg at 114 lbs/52 kg. If we plug this into the Wilks formula, we can see that you would have gotten relatively stronger by some three points. Unless I’m misinterpreting or there is a typo in there, Peters would have predicted a whopping 63 lbs/29 kg drop.

    I’m silently wondering what kind of bench result Peters’s observation is based on, and whether it would not be more accurate to formulate a percentage as this drop no doubt seems very severe (also if applied to my bench, it would put me back at numbers close to where I was three years ago!). Still, it would appear that the 5 lbs drop you experienced on your bench is reasonable at worst and great at best. Combined with the increases in absolute weight on the squat and deadlift, dieting down must have made you much more competitive in your new weight class.

    While doing a bit of research on this, I also found this interesting tidbit at EliteFTS.

    Here’s what seems to be a typical sequence: as you gain weight, you get stronger, but tend to gain some ‘bad’ weight. When you reduce down, you tend to lose strength but be stronger than you were previously at the lighter bodyweight. In addition, when you go back up, you typically get a large strength surge and set new PR’s in your heavier class as well. This is likely due to nervous, rather than muscular causes. If you go to 181 from 198 and lose strength, your mind still knows you once did the bigger weights, you will be more confident as a result; I think there are other neuromuscular issues at play as well, but I don’t know exactly what they are.

    Mike, if you’re reading this, I’d love to hear a bit about how your bench was affected when you did bench meets at 308, 275, 242 and 220 lbs last year.

    Tom, I’ll give you a proper answer tomorrow, need to hit the sack now. :-) In the meantime, for what it’s worth, here’s an entry (and another one) with video footage of when I did an extensive board press session a la Metal Militia last year. I’ll have more to say about boards soon, been using them extensively of late.

  14. Kris Says:

    Tom, sorry to differ again, but Tate is not talking about tendon hypertrophy but rather about developing the lower end of the triceps muscle around the elbow (as a sidenote, don’t ask me whether I believe this is actually possible…). I have a bunch of the EliteFTS and Westside Barbell tapes and I can state without a doubt that it is the muscle they target, not the tendon (which I actually feel is clear from his statement). Actually, I’ve never come across tendon hypertrophy before in the context you mention it (as an alternative form of hypertrophy to muscle hypertrophy). As far as I can gather, tendons do get stiffer via heavy loading through increased collagen content. This increases tensile strength, thus allowing the muscle to produce larger amounts of force without ripping itself off the bone. It is well-known that the nervous system controls the amount of force it allows a muscle to exert and keeps a safe margin (strength deficit) between maximal strength (the maximum strength that can be produced voluntarily) and absolute strength (the maximum that the muscle is actually capable of). Tendons weak in relation to muscle strength would contribute to a larger strength deficit just as fear might prevent a kid from racing down a hill at a faster speed. Here’s a few quotes that hopefully illuminate the issue from none other than Dr. Squat.

    The Golgi tendon organ (so named for its discoverer) is a tiny threadlike receptor located at the juncture of muscle and tendon. Its job is to detect stress or tension from the contracting muscle. When the tension is too great - based on your “motor memory” of previous attempts at lifting that weight - a message is sent to the muscle to shut down. So, a “feedback loop” exists, a system of neuronal wiring designed to protect you from hurting yourself by lifting too much.
    Hatfield, Fred (1989): Power: A Scientific Approach. Chicago: Contemporary Books: pp. 37.

    Hatfield goes on to mention the many documented cases of panic-struck mothers lifting heavy objects, such as the end of a car, off their children and suggests that there is a mechanism of overiding the Golgi tendon organ’s inhibitory message under some circumstances, thus allowing the muscles to produce maximum strength. The risk of injury of a full-contraction would naturally be high, but Hatfield says that the safety zone is overly conservative and goes on to recommend tendon jerks, such as bounce squats, to strengthen the tendons.

    Carefully controlled application of jerky movements against your tendons will make tendons respond by growing thicker. Consider this: If your tendon is thicker, its tensile strength is increased. If its tensile strength is greater, it’ll take more tension to set off the inhibitory signal. Therefore, greater strength can be displayed without shutdown taking place.
    Hatfield, Fred (1989): Power: A Scientific Approach. Chicago: Contemporary Books: pp. 39.

    Hatfield’s comment might be a tad misleading due to his mention of “tendons growing thicker”, but it needs to be recognized that what we are talking about here is not true tendon hypertrophy but rather changes in the composition of the tendons. Tendon hypertrophy is defined as the cross-sectional area of the tendon increasing and it is still far from certain that it actually occurs in humans. I only skimmed a few abstracts, but the findings generally do not show tendon hypertrophy.

    It is noteworthy that training did not cause any measurable change in patella tendon cross-sectional area, indicating that tendon stiffness increased due to a change in the material properties of the tendon and not due to tendon hypertrophy. This is confirmed by the 69 % increase in Young’s modulus after training (Fig. 6). The Young’s modulus value at baseline was in line with previous in vivo (Maganaris & Paul, 1999) and in vitro (Ker, 1981; Bennett et al. 1986) reports. Increased tendon stiffness after training without any measurable tendon hypertrophy is in agreement with findings from animal studies, showing that tendon stiffness increases in response to increased loading without any change in the size of the tendon in adults (Rollhäuser, 1954), whilst immature tendons adapt to increased loading primarily through tendon hypertrophy (for review see Elliot, 1965). Increased tendon stiffness has been reported from other animal studies using exercise to provide increased levels of tendon loading (Viidik, 1967, 1969; Woo et al. 1980, 1982; Wood et al. 1988). The exact mechanisms responsible for the training-induced increased tendon stiffness are not apparent from the present study. However, based on findings from animal studies it is suggested that both collagen turnover and the packing density of collagen fibrils may have increased (Heikkinen & Vuori, 1972; Woo et al. 1980; Michna & Hartmann, 1989). Also, alterations in the crimp angle of collagen fibrils, affecting tendon stiffness, have been reported to occur following exercise training in rat tendons (Wood et al. 1988). An increased tendon collagen content and decreased crimp angle caused by the increased levels of loading would increase tendon stiffness. If the water content of the tendon had increased in response to training, this may further increase the tensile stiffness of the tendon (Cohen et al. 1976; Hooley et al. 1980; Haut & Haut, 1997).
    N. D. Reeves, C. N. Maganaris and M. V. Narici: Effect of strength training on human patella tendon mechanical properties of older individuals. The Journal of Physiology, May 2003; 548: 971.
    [my emphasis]

    The most optimistic picture for tendon hypertrophy in humans is painted in the only study I found to actually find evidence of tendon hypertrophy. Even that one is cautious, mentioning that tendon hypertrophy may only occur after years of training or only in immature subjects or genetically predisposed subjects.

    To our knowledge, the present study is the first to demonstrate a larger tendon CSA in human tendons subjected to high tensile tendon loading. Numerous animal studies have examined the effect of endurance training on tendon tissue properties, while the effect of intermittent high loading is scarce. Birch et al. investigated the tendon CSA in horses subjected to 18 mo of high- or low-intensity training (4). There appeared to be an intensity-specific tendon hypertrophy with high-intensity training, but not with low-intensity training (4). Similarly, the Achilles tendon CSA in rats subjected to 4 mo of high-intensity training increased (40). However, no previous human studies have demonstrated an increased tendon CSA in response to training involving intermittent high-tension tendon loading. It has recently been shown that 14 wk of strength training in elderly subjects did not result in increased patella tendon CSA, but a remarkable increase in stiffness and Young’s modulus (35). Others have shown that 8–12 wk of isometric strength training in young men did not increase patella or Achilles tendon CSA (22, 23). However, it is possible that 14 wk or less of resistance training is insufficient time to detect measurable changes in tendon CSA. [..] t is possible that in humans it requires long-term (years) training for tendon hypertrophy to take place. Another possible factor for the incoherent picture of with respect to tendon hypertrophy is maturation. Studies investigating the effect of endurance training have often used immature animals (40, 46, 47), and data suggest that exercise is more likely to result in tendon hypertrophy in immature than mature animals (10, 39). Thus it cannot be discounted that the greater Achilles tendon CSA seen in runners and volleyball subjects may be a result of loading during the growing years, or of genetic factors.
    M. Kongsgaard, P. Aagaard, M. Kjaer, and S. P. Magnusson: Structural Achilles tendon properties in athletes subjected to different exercise modes and in Achilles tendon rupture patients. J Appl Physiol, September 8, 2005.
    [my emphasis]

    You might be mixing up increased tendon stiffness (tensile strength) with true tendon hypertrophy, but if not, I’d love to hear of a reputable source which claims that tendon hypertrophy plays much of a role in strength sports. It is true that research protocols are sometimes flawed and that things that are known in the sports community show up in studies only years later, but since I could not find any reference to tendon hypertrophy in Supertraining either, I would not currently bet any money on it. This puts it in the same boat as hyperplasia. In sum, increased tensile strength is just one of the many adaptations that happen in the body in response to strength training. As you say, powerlifters would generally have stronger tendons than bodybuilders, which would make them able to display more strength, but this whole issue seems to me to be wholly separate from that of hypertrophy. So quite frankly, I don’t understand your comments about “concentrating the hypertrophy more in the tendons than the muscle”.

    That about that. I took a look at the thread on pre-exhaustion that you cited and also watched the 16-minute video of a HIT workout. The video was interesting and brought back memories of the white cold shivering pain of triple drops of squats or leg extensions, but it also made me realize how far I’ve come from the bodybuilding mindset. The video and all the panting now struck me as always perverse in all its glorifying of failure as the one and only goal of training (in this case even at the cost of doing more productive free-weight exercises), not that I disagree at all with this being what “true bodybuilding” is all about. Obviously, pre-exhausting, like most other bodybuilding intensity boosters, is not helpful to powerlifting since powerlifting is not muscle-centric but movement-centric where weight on the bar, consistent technique and maximum power output (speed) is the name of the game (squatting cleanly with full force and normal weights is not just happening after you’ve pumped them up with leg extensions). I do believe that pre-exhausting has its place in bodybuilding as a way to isolate a body part more thoroughly, but only if used sparingly. Like you, I feel that hitting, say, the bench press with as heavy weight as you can cleanly handle for 6-8 reps is likely to force the body to respond better than doing flyes first and then failing at the bench with much reduced weight (even if the latter causes higher hormone concentrations, I believe that is only part of the equation). Having been a delt bencher myself who always found it hard to get a pec pump from the bench, I can relate to those people who feel that they need to pre-exhaust to really hit the pecs, but even then I would feel that there are better ways to tackle the problem (such as focusing more on dumbells and learning to push with the pecs). In that regard, I feel the best bodybuilding intensity boosters are forced reps and drop sets, both of which allow a normal set to be carried out with maximum rep weights before the set is extended beyond full-range failure.

    This reminds me of an experiment I tried on the leg curl and preacher curl. I would follow a regular set to failure with drop sets to failure until the muscles grew numb or the weights just became too light. Then I would have my training partner pop the pin back in at where I started or even a bit heavier with the very weird effect that I could usually crank out more reps on this last drop than when I started while no longer feeling any pain (I used to think of this as crossing the pain barrier). I don’t quite recall the specifics, but it took about 8-10 drops to failure to numb the muscle. I didn’t do it more than once or twice, but it was an interesting experiment. Those were the days when the name of the game was to have very wobbly feet after a leg workout. I almost can’t recall what that feels like anymore, powerlifting just doesn’t kill your muscles like that (instead it sneakily kills the central nervous system).

    Anyway, I share much of the concerns you express in that thread, but would definitively avoid arguing with a HIT-crowd against the benefits of pre-exhaustion. ;-) I feel free-weight compound movements followed by isolation exercises should be the dominant way of training for mass, but pre-exhausting can be a valuable tool. To me, pre-exhaustion appears to be a way of turning compound exercises into pseudo-isolation exercises. For example, by doing several sets of hyperextensions or reverse hyperextensions before the squat, one could turn the squat into a very effective low back movement with perhaps 50% less weight than one would use otherwise. My question is, reflecting yours on the thread, then why the heck bother to bend the legs at all? Why not just hit it with another more isolationist type of erector movement, such as good mornings? The leg muscles are not getting much of a workout, only the pre-exhausted erectors. The much lowered weight will result in a much smaller hormone response overall as well, which is always a factor in hypertrophy. In this sense, pre-exhaust would almost seem like a way to expand the library of isolation exercises, eg. turning the bench press into a fairly pure pec exercise by doing pec deck flyes first. To me, this is not very different than doing flyes followed by another isolation exercise, say cable crossovers. And as we all know, the worst thing a bodybuilder can do is to succumb to doing only isolation work (the second worst thing he can succumb to is doing only machines). Of course, doing compound exercises as pseudo-isolation exercises provides for variation and, thus, stimulation, but other than that, I don’t see much of a difference. Do you? One thing I couldn’t understand on the video was working the rear delts before doing rows. Unless the guy has proportionally stronger rear delts, this would appear to be a good way to turn the row into a rear delt exercise in case of which I wonder why he neglected to work his back. And that’s all I’m going to say about the matter of pre-exhaustion in bodybuilding for what it’s worth.

    I’ll get back to the squat shoe issue later when I have time to update the blog. Personally, I would rather get another good pair of sneakers with a suitable heel rather than use a board, but guess that as long as you don’t aim to compete in the squat a board could do. And no, don’t have a handle at T-Nation, but they do pack some good articles! :-)

  15. Theresa Says:

    I’m glad Rich Peters bench prediction was incorrect.
    Thanks for the info Kris! Are you making strength gains in all the lifts?
    The Ketogenic diet sounds very effective. My weight loss took about a year and I’ve been maintaining it for over two years. I eat 5 small meals a day and pay attention to my carb/protein/fat ratios. Sad to say bagels and beer are not part of the carb ratio.
    There are a lot of good powerlifting nutrition articles here www.bodybuilding.com/fun/anthony.htm

  16. Mike Says:

    Just read everything Kris and I’ll give you a lowdown on how it went. But first, I’m just finishing reading the Anabolic solution for powerlifters and should begin the diet tommorrow. I will have my own training program that I’ll be using but watch my blog for the results. As far as last years weight loss/bench training I hit 425@303, 415@275, 405@242, and 355@220. When I was down to 230 and 220 my calories were at 1500 per day so plus at this point I had lost a lot of size and support in my shoulders and was having a lot of pain in my shoulders. One thing I will note is that at 255 I was able to train very hard despite the lower calories b/c of the intensity of my cardio work. I hit 455x12 in the deadlift and 405x10 in the squat and was able to maintain or better that strength down to 230 at which point I started to see a decrease. I just noticed this but there is a 10 pound decrease down to 242 and then a 50 pound decrease from 242 to 220. I was literally starving myself to reach that 220 as well as doing cardio 4x a week and weight training 4x a week.

  17. Tom Says:

    About tendon hypertrophy:
    As usual, the depth of information you’ve presented is considerable and intriguing; you also foresaw that I would be tempted to ask you if you really believed you could build muscle around the elbow :) I’ll have to digest this for awhile before I reply. What I will say now is that “tendon jerks, such as bounce squats, to strengthen the tendons” seem dangerous; I’m surprised Dr. Squat recommends them and will read more about this to see the context.
    About the board press:
    Checked out your videos and training notes - this looks like a really cool movement that can build alot of power; watching it was more informative than reading about it too - I can see that it’s used much the way pins are for doing heavy partials in the power range, but with the added benefit of positive transfer for the movement - the heavy weight still hits your chest via the boards. I will definitely experiment with these.
    About squatting:
    Curious to hear more about your specific issues with the squating shoes. For me it’s really crucial to have everything just right when moving the heavy weights; not having my heel at just the right elevation either seems to mess up my form (not enough elevation) or hurt my shins (too much elevation). Also, if I’m using a boot it often feels to tight around my ankle once I hit parellel (maybe tendon hypertrophy has occured around my ankle like with the runners; boots didn’t used to bother me - more on that later). I would prefer to find a sneaker with just the right heel and not bother with the board; I will let you know how that works out.
    About pre-exhaustion and the HIT crowd:
    Yes, seeing such a pre-exhaust focus in the context of HIT on Dr Dardens forum was totally new to me; Drew did give a good explanation though - he didn’t have enough weight to leg press heavy, and in fact switched it up in his next workout doing heavy one legged leg presses first as per the post.
    It was interesting to read your descriptions of bodybuilding workouts and pre-exhaustion though. With regard to my own training I think you might find it closer to powerlifting than bodybuilding although undeniably HIT - just a single set each of a few compound movements (squats first) and a couple of iso’s for arms and abs; I wait 3-5 minutes (7-10 after squats) between all sets because it lets me lift the heaviest weights I can.
    I think it’s the lack of a focus on moving heavier weights, which is universal for strength athletes that is probably what caused so much controversy with the HIT video. Someone on Dr Dardens board had posted this funny link to Power and Bulk, but it got pulled; I think some of the comments were a little mean, but it was an entertaining read:
    Of course T-nation has some really funny commentary about HIT, here is my favorite:

    Can’t post link - XHTML is not well-formed message when I included this link (your XML parser is breaking on the querystring in the link); will try to post it in a 2nd message
    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts; will post more on tendons and hypertrophy in a few days :)

  18. Kris Says:

    Theresa, thanks for the links! Will be savoring them soon. I am most likely going to keep an eye on my diet during the peaking cycle for the meet and am definitively going to keep a tight check on carbs (around 40%) as well to keep my weight from rebounding. What kind of ballpark ratio do you have between carbs, protein and fat?

    I’m not really packing on a lot of strength on this diet, but my bench seems to be up about 5 kg/11 lbs and my deadlift is at least at what it was when I was peaked for the one-man meet, if not slightly stronger. So not huge gains by any means, but I am more than pleased considering I am dieting and improving my relative strength on a weekly basis.

    Mike, I really appreciate the detail. I plugged your results into the relative strength calculator, which gave me this ranking:

    1. 405lbs bench at 242lbs: 108.1661 Wilks

    2. 425lbs bench at 303lbs: 108.0127 Wilks

    3. 415lbs bench at 275lbs: 107.2993 Wilks

    4. 355lbs bench at 220lbs: 98.0706 Wilks

    Assuming that Wilks is a good indicator of relative strength in the bench press, this shows that you were able to maintain relative strength down until 242lbs (when you were actually at your strongest) before the very costly drop down to 220lbs. From a pure relative strength standpoint, one could argue that the diet didn’t really give you an added competitive edge with roughly 0.1 Wilks points between a bodyweight of 303 and 242lbs, but given the extraordinarily quick rate of weight loss (11 weeks averages an incredible 7.5lbs a week!!) and frequent meets, I’d consider your results incredible! Not many people can shed weight that quickly, not to mention maintain strength while at it. My own fat loss is very moderate at about 1-1.5lbs lost per week, but as a result, my relative strength is improving strongly. Also, I believe that it is easier to keep the weight off long-term if it comes off at a moderate pace. If you have the time, I would be most curious to hear a little about what kind of a diet you followed to get these kind of huge weight drops and whether you were able to maintain your weight after that heavy a drop. I’ll definitively keep a tight check on your blog, very curious to see how you set up your diet, might learn a thing or three. :-) Good luck!

    Tom, for the record, I don’t believe it is possible to selectively build muscle mass around the elbow or to “shape” a muscle belly. I suspect you share my opinion on this, but don’t really feel much of an urge to delve deeper into it. I haven’t checked the science on this of late, but at least in the 1990s this seemed very hard to support (MRI scans a la Per Tesch’s groundbreaking Muscle Meets Magnet did seem to support that you can selectively transfer stress between heads of a muscle although not isolate, but not target parts of a muscle head). Still, I wouldn’t won’t to really argue with Tate about this… the fact remains, that the movements that are felt around the elbow (such as the JM press) are extremely effective in building bench strength. I don’t really think it matters whether you are actually building more mass around the elbow or just feeling a stretch there.

    You are right about the tendon jerks. Yes, they are dangerous and Dr. Squat says as much in his book. He recommends doing them only after several months of foundational training and only for a few sessions a month. He also says that neither he nor the athletes he has worked with have suffered a single injury due to tendon jerks. Personally, I’m not really up for it though, but it is an interesting example of how tendons can be worked on directly.

    Very briefly about the squatting shoes: I tend to fall forward in the squat. A heel, even if it makes me break parallel quicker, seems to have a tendency to promote that action. I also have disproportionately strong hamstrings, so I squat wide for being a raw squatter (basically, the wider the stance the less of a heel you need). Part of the problem is no doubt a weak core, but my dilemma is that my back problems tend to flare up with extensive flexion work. If you indeed buy sneakers, you should really find a pair with a really hard heel since you don’t want the heel to give at all. I would really consider weightlifting shoes which usually have wooden heels. At least don’t squat in running shoes, those are designed to compress to minimize stress while running and are not suitable for squatting (I didn’t know what I was doing in this pic taken almost ten years ago… sheesh, I was skinny back then…).

    I agree with your thoughts about the HIT video. Only working on machines is not the way to command respect from a training savvy crowd and the relatively light weights necessitated by the short rest periods and very slow movement tempo makes one wonder whether it is fatigue or overload that causes significant growth. I find much of the comments at Power&Bulk relevant, but must confess that I don’t like the rhetoric they use. I don’t know how good a job I’m doing of it, but I find, like you, it an extremely important value to respect others, even if you don’t agree with some of their views. ‘Nuff said, but you have my utmost respect for your manner of tackling our theoretical disagreements. Views may change, but personal integrity lasts. :-)

    I’m aware of the XML parsing issue and should really fix it. Unfortunately, the link you posted does not work. Try to e-mail it to me at kris@tsampa.org and I’ll update your post with the correct link.

  19. Tom Says:

    Sorry, I must have fat fingered the querystring when I broke it up; this should work:
    Just navigate to the 2nd page manually. I will double check after I post and send an email if it is still breaking.
    Thanks for the compliments on my communications; FYI, I think you’ve got a ton of integrity and really enjoy the discussions :)

  20. Kris Says:

    Thanks Tom, got it now. Got some good laughs out of it. :-)

    I removed the post with the bad link.

  21. Weight Loss Help Says:

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  22. Kris Says:

    Hmmm… I’ll let this one pass despite the blunt advertisement… after having pruned out the double link that is. After all, it was hand entered. ;-)

    In all honesty, am not quite sure what to make of your site, it looks suspiciously like one of those spammy kind of things (apologies in advance if this is not so, feel free to correct me). As did the comment by Pablo which I also saw posted in equally generic blunt terms over at Straight to the Bar (FWIW, I removed the link in Pablo’s comment as well but let it be as the author URL). I take pride in offering an ad-free environment for my readers and these types of comments are pushing it. ‘Nuff said. :-)

    UPDATE: Did a quick google and found several hundred extremely similar comment ads for the same site. The fact that this particular site is selling a number of weight loss courses and such makes me tip the scale in favor of spam marketing. Sorry, but I’m removing the link. Feel free to e-mail me at kris@tsampa.org if you feel a grave injustice has been committed.

  23. dg Says:

    dg back again…
    just curious, kris, do you think i could get away with a 2-week ketosis? are there major drawbacks to that? i weight-work about 3 times a week and bike to work and back (hour total) five times a week. im in my last week before the wedding. I would be carbing up today, but I wonder if I can squeeze any last weight drop out before the wedding. yeah, i know. it’s desperate. i was just curious about your thoughts… bad idea? i probably wont be able to eat CKD through the entire next week, since thursday is the beginning of the fesitivities. i dont want to look totally puffy during the wedding. hmph.

  24. Kris Says:

    Hey dg, thanks for dropping in. First of all, a big congratulations on getting married! I can definitively see where you are coming from with your question. :-D

    Two weeks in ketosis is by itself not a problem, after all, people who do a regular ketogenic diet usually stay in it for months on end. Also, a 10-day cycle is fairly common on the CKD. Two weeks in ketosis straight with your workload is likely pushing it. Still, you might try, after all, not much worse things than your performance in the gym suffering and fat loss possibly stopping can happen (especially if you are pushing it with the calories as well). Personally, I would either do a 12 hour carb-load (now if you didn’t start already) OR try a more extreme approach of one big carb meal now and then 50 grams around your workouts (candy or maltodextrin being good choices). Whichever route you choose, you would definitively be coming into the wedding with no extra water weight and ready to enjoy the goodies while also trying to push the weight loss a bit further.

    In the end, CKD is a lot about finding out what works for you so don’t be afraid of sensible experimentation. If you do two weeks straight, you’ll definitively find SOMETHING out whether good or bad. Let us know what you did and how it worked out. Also, out of curiosity, how well has the diet worked for you in general?

    Happy getting married! :-D

  25. dg Says:

    thanks for the response, kris. i went with a 12-hour carb-up. when i get back from the honeymoon, im going to resume with a longer low-carb phase. i always notice that my ketostix start getting dark on thursdays, so I’m betting that a 10-day period (as opposed to 7) will work better for me. i dropped some fat on the 4-week test ive been doing, so i am pleased. thanks again for the great article and helpful responses see you ’round in a couple of weeks! - dg

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