The X-Factor; Designer Superhero Workout Training Tips and Advice

Greetings true believers

With the new series of articles on Designer Superhero Workouts just beginning; I thought it only wise to give you some handy tips and advice to help you get the most from your workouts.

That’s right, beloved reader, today we learn from that diverse gang of Super Heroes, the X-Men. Thus, Your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor will be sciencing you upside the head mutant style.

So what can we learn from these genetically mutated folk?

We can learn a lot of handy training tips and tactics from these diverse and over-the-top politically correct chaps.

Periodization

What’s this periodization business? 

Periodization can be defined as a system for program design that plans appropriate cycles and training phases. The system used in the Designer Superhero Workouts.

The human machine, being what it, is an incredibly adaptive organism; quickly responding to its input. You lift heavy you get strong. You stretch you’ll get flexible. You run for hours upon hours per day, you will have improved cardiovascular endurance.

But because it adapts to the input, it will become complacent, thus reducing the results. When this happens things need to be switched around a bit, to ‘shock’ the body into having to adapt again, producing new results. Do you think the X-Men do the same training day in day out in the danger room? Nope.

It has been time and time again proven for success in achieving training goals and has a track record of over 50 years of development. Research has confirmed that periodization has the ability to produce significantly better results than straight set training or normal progression type training. Michael JordanMuhammad AliUsain Bolt, Babe Ruth, Tiger woods, and Bruce Lee have all used this wonderful training tactic. It also provides the ultimate training log. Looking back on a year’s periodized training will really give clarity on how much you have accomplished over that time.

Program Design

This represents a periodized table of progression, working up to a competition.

Any good training programme should be considered as ongoing and therefore broken down into calendar based blocks of time based periods that usually termed as ‘cycles’.

During each cycle prioritize working on the attributes which will benefit the athlete. Within these cycles we have Macrocycles, planning the overall outline of the program and commonly lasting for three-month periods, give or take, depending on the individual athlete’s goals.

Macrocycles are then, in turn, broken down again into smaller more manageable segments called Mesocycles.

Training Phases

These are the Mesocycles, which enable the athlete to efficiently track their progress, maybe reassess their goals if necessary and tailor the routine to suit and desired changes; such as training tactics, nutrition, intensity etc. The cycles run from 3 to 12 weeks, but great yields can result from longer or shorter periods, dependant upon genetics, muscle fibre composition and already established attribute levels. A 3 to 8 week Mesocycle suits most people.

Hypertrophy phase: During this is the phase for the athlete will be most effective hitting a rep range between strength training and endurance training; that will stimulate all the different fibre types, thus, the greatest overall hypertrophy.

Hugh Jackman preparing to do some heavy squats for a hypertrophy phase.

Strength / power phases: Characterised by extremely high levels of intensity, all-out short distance sprints, lifting extremely heavy but for very low reps or a three-minute round in the boxing ring.

The easiest transition between phases is from strength to power; gradually decrease the reps from the usual 8 down to a range of 1 to 6, whilst also removing some exercises to really focus on the core movements for power: such as barbell squats, deadlifts,  bench press, bent-over barbell rows, military press etc.

Endurance phase: This phases consists of lower intensity but higher-volume workouts. Muscular and cardiovascular endurance will be the primary focus. It also functions as an experimental phase of sorts.

If there are new exercise techniques that need to be introduced, this is the phase for it. Given the low intensity, (weight usually), gives the athlete the opportunity to master them, the added repetitions required for the high-volume element.

Transitional phase: This is the transitional phase, to morph one phase into another. For example:gradually bringing the reps up when moving from a strength phase to an endurance phase, and visa versa.

Swimming is a fine example of ‘active rest’. I’m sure there are rules about adamantium claws in the swimming pool though.

Active rest: On ‘rest’ days it can sometimes be a good idea to get  what is known as ‘active rest’, keeping you geared up athletically but recreationally.

Body-weight Exercises

Hank McCoy demonstrates the value of bodyweight exercises.

If you wish to attain Beast-like agility, then add body-weight exercises as often as possible, like chin ups, pull-ups and bodyweight dips. When you can add extra resistance to those, you’ll be able to perform great feats of agility.

It’s common sense; let’s say you perform jumping squats whilst holding 2 dumbbells; when you get rid of the extra weight of the dumbbells, your jump height will be significantly higher.

You can also add a flexibility routine. A greater range of movement will facilitate greater dexterity.  

Break it down and rebuild it

BAMF!

When Nightcrawler teleports, all of the atoms in his body disassemble, pass through another plane of existence, then reassemble at another point in space and time.

A similar process is occurring in your skeletal muscle when you are working out, the exertion of the training breaks the muscle down, actually damaging the tissue. The body then reacts to this by re-growth geared toward the new input.

This anabolic process occurs when you are resting and eating, that’s when the cells get reassembled. Once the skeletal muscle has been nicely broken down, even they haven’t travelled through another plane of existence, we still need to put them back together.

Thus we need . . .

SNIKT!

“Recovery bub”

The sooner one can recover from a training session, the sooner one can train again, speeding up the results. That’s simple for Wolverine; he regenerates. It doesn’t matter how much he gets cut, smashed, pummelled, drinks or smokes; he never takes any lasting or permanent damage or even gains a scar.

So, bereft of mutant powers how can we get recovering at such a rate?

Protein: Already covered this in ‘The Asgardian Power-House‘, but a little more detail couldn’t hurt. Get plenty of it, from high quality sources. The reason for this is that the building blocks of protein are called amino acids, and they all have a different and vital function.

Human protein is formed from 20 amino acids that are found within proteins.  Alanine, Arginine, Asparagine, Aspartic acid, Cysteine,  Glutamic acid, Glutamine, Glycine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Proline, Serine Threonine,  Tryptophan, Tyrosine and Valine.

Humans can produce 10 of the 20 amino acids. The others must be supplied in the food. Failure to obtain enough of even 1 of the 10 essential amino acids, those that we cannot make, results in degradation of the body’s proteins—muscle and so forth—to obtain the one amino acid that is needed. Unlike fat and starch, the human body does not store excess amino acids for later use—the amino acids must be in the food every day.

Non-Essential amino acids: The 10 amino acids that are essential, those that can be converted by the liver from other nutrients are; alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine. Tyrosine is produced from phenylalanine, so if the diet is deficient in phenylalanine, tyrosine will be required as well.

Essential amino acids: Are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. This means we must consume them and / or supplement them in our diets. Supplementation may be the only option for some of these if you’re vegetarian and the only option if you happen to be vegan.

Glutamine

This is the stuff I’m talking about, the very brand that yours truly uses. It’ll have you recovering like Wolverine.

We’re going to focus on one really important one for regeneration. Glutamine plays a role in a variety of biochemical functions, including: Protein bio-synthesis, as any other of the proteinogenic amino acids, regulation of acid-base balance in the kidney by producing ammonium, nitrogen donation for many anabolic processes including the synthesis of purines, carbon donation, as a source, refilling the citric acid cycle, nontoxic transporter of ammonia in the blood circulation.

Basically, whenever your body needs to make a repair, glutamine is the primary amino acid it goes to for most reparation chores. When any part of your body needs healing, say from a cut, recovery from a hangover or even sleep deprivation, it’s glutamine that gets used, and a great majority is extracted straight from the skeletal muscles. Unless there is some spare via supplementation. There aren’t many supplements worth spending your hard-earned or hard-stolen cash on but glutamine is without doubt one of them, get it in powdered form, for ease of absorption.

Sleep

Most of us don’t get anywhere near enough sleep, the regeneration magic happens then But when we are so busy in our daily lives with those vile afflictions known as day jobs, those wondrous affairs called social lives and those horrors we address as responsibilities; sleep is the first thing Sleep deprivation can have a big impact on our metabolism; slowing it down and hoarding fat and not getting enough sleep slows glucose metabolism by as much as 30 to 40 percent, causing even more fat gain. EEK

Eve Van Cauter, PhD , from the University of Chicago Medical School, studied the effects of three different durations of sleep in eleven men aged 18 to 27.

For the first three nights of the study, the men slept eight hours per night; for the next six nights, they slept four hours per night; for the last seven nights, they slept 12 hours per night. Results showed that after four hours of sleep per night, they metabolized glucose least efficiently. Levels of cortisol were also higher, which has been linked to memory impairment, age-related insulin resistance, and impaired recovery in athletes.

Van Cauter said that after only one week of sleep restriction, young, healthy males had glucose levels that were no longer normal and showed a rapid deterioration of the body’s functions. This reduced ability of the body to manage glucose is similar to those found in the elderly. This study shows that sleep deprivation can negatively impact physiology that is critical for athletic performance — glucose metabolism and cortisol status.

While no one completely understands the complexities of sleep, this does indicates that sleep deprivation can lead to decreased activity of human growth hormone (which is active during tissue repair), and decreased glycogen synthesis.

Psylocke demonstrates sleeping. Never mind showing off all the psychic abilities and martial skills, eh?

So how much sleep is required?

It going to differ from person to person, but the general consensus is 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, more for is required for athletes due to greater physical exertion. A minimum of 6, preferably 7, and if you’re raining hard 8 to 9 hours.

Some of our genes act as internal clocks and release hormones according to cycles called circadian rhythms, which are triggered by darkness and light and alternate over 24-hour periods. When we mess with these rhythms by not getting enough sleep, our metabolism of glucose declines, and our level of cortisol increases. Further, sleeping for long stretches is naturally anabolic.

During deep sleep, our bodies release growth hormone, which stimulates the healing and growth of muscle and bone. So while it’s possible to push through a lack of sleep during any one day, proper sleep helps athletes by boosting areas of performance that require cognitive function, reaction time, hand-eye coordination and of course it aids recovery from grueling workouts.

Anything else? It is a pretty big team to learn from

Use your mind.

The mind-muscle-connection

Great things can be accomplished with strong focus, concentration and visualisation. A technique utilised by many athletic pros to maximize muscle and performance. By developing a strong ‘mind-muscle connection’ ,this connection is made by visualizing the muscle being trained and focusing on the feeling of it working through its complete range of motion during each rep.

When applying the technique don’t think about where you feel the muscular stimulus, think about where you’re supposed to feel the stimulus. For example; during press ups the muscle that should be shifting all the weight are the pectoralis major, but a lot of people end up focusing too much on the arms, triceps specifically, which are only assisting the movement. Instead you must focus on contacting the pectorals thereby bringing the arms together and forward, the triceps assisting only to extend the elbow joint. Continue with this thought process during the negative phase of the movement, focusing on the feeling of the pectorals stretching.

Keeping your mental focus channeled in this manner will direct the majority of stress to the target muscles of your chest, maximizing muscular stimulation. It sounds daft, far-fetched even a little sci-fi but believe in your Rogue Advisor, beloved reader, the mind-muscle connection is the real deal.

Visualization

Some athletes routinely use visualization techniques in both training and competition. Those who’ve used these techniques have cultivated not only a competitive edge, but also found renewed mental awareness, and a heightened sense of focus.

Visualization is also referred to as guided imagery, mental rehearsal, mediation, etc. Regardless of the term applied, the techniques and concepts are the same. Visualization is the mental process of creating an image or intention of what you desire.

Colossus. Clearly.

“Throughout my bodybuilding career, I was constantly playing tricks on my mind. This is why I began to think of my biceps as mountains, instead of flesh and blood. Thinking of my biceps as mountains made my arms grow faster and bigger than if I’d seen them only as muscles.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

This technique can be used to increase the ‘intent’ of the result of a competition or training session. By visualizing the desired scene, complete with reverie of a previous best performance or a future target, the athlete is then ‘steps into’ that feeling. While imagining these scenarios, the athlete will imagine in perfect detail, all the myriad sensations of the way it feels to perform in the desired way, or the results wanted from that training session.

And finally

Keep it cool.

No really. It does wonders for you. Every time you get stressed out, start vexing or get your raging bellyache on, you get a massive surge of nasty old cortisol, which breaks down muscle tissue. So when you have to skip a meal or a workout, don’t be miffed but don’t use cortisol as an excuse to slack off either. Temperature also affects testosterone levels. Everyone knows that guys who sleep in the cold have a higher sperm count right? That’s because testosterone is boosted when the testicles are at just the right chilly temperature. Yay.

Until next time. Stay informed.

 

The Legend of You

It should really be called the Legend of Link, not the Legend of Zelda.  Coming from humble beginnings he struggles against monsters, dungeons and awkward Nintendo puzzles. But that teasing, troublesome tart Zelda never even gave our hero a flash of boob for all his daring efforts.

You deserve better Link. I'm sure there are plenty more pointy-eared princesses out there who would be gagging for a bad-ass adventurer like yourself.

You deserve better Link. I’m sure there are plenty more pointy-eared princesses out there who would be gagging for a bad-ass adventurer like yourself.

What kind of legend are you?

There is a legend inside us all, but nobody is born that way, we all have to start somewhere.  Heroic tales of regular folk rising to the challenge, facing all the trials that Hyrule / London / New York / Tokyo etc. can throw at them and coming out on top. Heroic tales wouldn’t be nearly as inspiring without all the effort they put in to conquer hardship, yet come out on top. Yay for the underdog.

Our multi-talented hero will even go so far as to risk a time / space paradox that could potentially destroy the known universe by learning the Song of Storms from a man in the Kakariko village, then travelling back in time and playing the Song of Storms in the windmill in as a child; so that same man learns the tune and can then teach it to Link in the future. What lengths will you go to in order to reach your goals?

So what can we learn from this damsel rescuing, dungeon delving, Paradox dodging, all round awesome adventurer?

What can’t we learn from Link? He’s a freakin’ legend. But we need to be ‘realistic’ about things, so here’s how we apply his heroic endeavours the Level Up way. Yay.

Find your motivation then explore everything

First you need to figure out what you want. Finding the motivation was easy for Link; he unwittingly found a sword, got a quest from a talking tree, busted his way through a bunch of dungeons, did a little time travel via an ocarina, kicked Ganondorf‘s ass and rescued the prudish princess.

Adventurers back in these days were total bastards. They'd barge into your gaff, uninvited, smash all your pots looking for your hidden rupees, and once totally looted be on their merry way.

Adventurers back in these days were total reprobates. They’d barge into your gaff uninvited, smash all your pots looking for your hidden rupees, and once totally looted and vandalised, they’d leave the legal tenant of the property rather disgruntled and in poverty, and be on their merry way.

There are literally thousands of fitness routines, skills and proficiencies out there; even ways to become smarter, so explore everything. Decide which attribute or skill you wish to work on, but make it something you really want, something fun or even something profitable. It really has got to be something you want though. Nobody ever succeeds getting in shape for the sake of it, or learning a new skill unless there’s a good reason or desire for it. Once your goals are defined, add the all important motivation. Like wanting to do serious strength training to be able to lift all those pesky rocks that seem to cover the entrance to anything useful in Hyrule, or training for a specific skill such as archery to clear those dungeon critters at long-range, or get up close and personal with some Swordsmanship. Then the motivation should fall sweetly into place. Once you have  a specific goal in mind, and the motivation has dug its heels into you, it’s on to the next nugget of Hyrulian wisdom.

Use the right tools for the job

Link's inventory clearly demonstrates my well-informed point.

Link’s inventory clearly demonstrates my well-informed point.

Link didn’t just charge straight through Hyrule, confront Ganondorf, grab little miss never-puts-out and ride off into the sunset. He had to run a gauntlet that covered all of Hyrule, in both past and present, each step of the way he was faced with obstacles that required him to figure out exactly what he needed for the task at hand. It wasn’t always obvious what he needed either; maybe a hook-shot to enter the forest temple, iron boots to navigate the water temple or a colossal hammer to smash stuff that allowed access to other areas.

The same applies to taking on a journey to learn and / or improve skills and attributes. There will be a lot of trial and error finding the correct method to achieve what you want. Always give new ideas a try, but be weary, there are many fads out there waiting to take your hard-earned rupees, be sure to research thoroughly and pay nothing up front. The minions of evil are trying their darndest to sabotage us and our quest to legendary status. They’re even making a profit from it. Check out these disturbing links: The Flex Belt, Ab Circle Pro, and my all time favourite ridiculous, ineffectual piece of rubbish Power Spin. Beware, beloved reader, these are the tools of the foolish, not the tools of the legendary.

As anyone can clearly see, this is f**king retarded. These are not the tools you're looking for.

As anyone can clearly see, this is f**king retarded. These are not the tools you’re looking for.

Find the right training for the results you want

Sounds a lot simpler than it is. You need to know what kind of training will garner the results you are after. You won’t be a great basketball player if you go powerlifting and don’t instead practice plyometrics. Not doing your research may lead you into fitness ruts, you could end up doing the same ineffectual workouts and be totally befuddled as to why it’s not working. Going to the gym and feeling obliged to bodybuild is a fine example of a fitness rut; Lifting heavy on a split body part routine whilst pumping yourself full of excessive amounts of protein aren’t the right tools to become an endurance athlete for example. I know how tricky it is to go to gyms and avoid the bodybuilding peer-pressure, don’t misunderstand me, beloved reader, there is nothing wrong with bodybuilding if that’s your goal, but these vile dungeons called gyms are full of meat-heads, jocks and gym-rats and are quite the environment of unspoken coercion. All you have to do to avoid this awful phenomenon is visualise those that have fallen for some fitness fad-trap, (cue Admiral Akbar), there will be plenty of them in there, and realise how sickeningly sycophantic they are; then have a great workout knowing you will reach your goals because you’ve dodged that misinformation bullet, whilst they probably don’t even know what they are working toward at all, and more than likely quit after a few weeks.

Most of you will probably want to train more sports / skill specific; muscular endurance and flexibility for Martial Arts, cardiovascular endurance to compete in marathons or for the true bad-asses, like Link, go and compete in the pentathlon with his swimming skills, constantly running everywhere, equestrian prowess, unrivaled marksmanship and expert swordsmanship, he’d totally own it.

Training can all be accomplished in the gym or at home, even outdoors if you don’t mind the inarticulate japes of the ignorant and sedentary that plague the streets. At home is my personal preference, that way I can avoid distractions from people who use the gym solely as a social gathering, and the gym-rats trying to ‘inform’ you. Plus home training always allows access to the equipment I require, without waiting for some rude guy using what I need to use and is unwilling to share. The choice of training environment will depend greatly on the skill you are improving.

Don’t be shy to use assistance or ask for help

Please don't kill me. Please don't kill me.Please don- What? Your helpful. You look like the nototrious soul sucking goth queen of Camden.

“Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me.
Please don-” “What? Your helpful. You look like a Camden skag head that levitates.”

Link asks for help all the time, even though he is truly bad-ass, he knows in his rather ample stores of applied wisdom, that he cannot complete this epic solo quest without a boost from some unlikely new friends. He enlists help from frog choirs to families that have been magically transformed into Skulltulas, from going through overly long trials and tribulations to acquire a new song from some twat who wants nothing more than to inconvenience our hero, to that brutally hard second race on Lon Lon Ranch to get Epona whose help is essential to help get him through his epic quest.

If you’re hitting it hard on the bench press don’t be shy to ask for a spot, that is assuming you don’t have a training partner, if not there can some agreeable and amiable folk to be found in the gym, far fewer than your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor would like, but there are some helpful chaps and lasses.

Or if you can’t manage to perform pull-ups yet, don’t feel abashed, regardless of the disapproving looks you may get from the gym-rats, about using the pull-up assist platform on the gym’s machine, remember that those meat-heads and jocks had to start somewhere as well, so screw them and their arrogant criticism. They probably have erectile dysfunction after all the steroids they’ve pumped themselves with. Or if you’re attempting pull-ups at home, work up to them gradually, start off with inverted rows, then maybe hit the pull-up bars with the assistance of resistance bands, like our hero Link, you will get there eventually. If you put in the effort, it really is just a matter of time.

The perfect assistance with pull-ups, especially when in a very spikey room. EEK.

The perfect assistance with pull-ups, especially when in a very spiky room. Does Batman know he has this?

Don’t bite off more than you can chew 

Link didn’t strut straight up to Ganondorf / Ganon thinking he could take the gargantuan villain on right away, he knew he had to work up to it. And work hard he did, numerous dungeons did he delve through, gathering all the items and power ups he would need to face such a deadly adversary.

Unlike the gym-rats, Link is quite capable of taking on this guy. He's done the training, done the research and selected the right tools for the job.

Unlike the gym-rats, Link is quite capable of taking on this guy. He’s done the training, done the research and selected the right tools for the job.

Basically, leave your ego at the door when you enter the gym. I see way too often, guys slapping on the poundage on a barbell, that they clearly cannot lift properly. They pick it up swing it all over the place with awful technique and form, and gaining very little for their ‘efforts’. Their ego said “lift heavy”, this is good advice, but what is meant by lifting heavy is the greatest weight you can mange, not a vast amount of iron beyond your current capabilities. Remember it is the exercise itself that produces the anabolic effects we desire, the weight is merely there to offer resistance. With consistent training that resistance will increase when you train with perfect form. It wont increase if your cheating the movement by swinging, potentially risking injury, and looking foolish to anyone with even a smidgen of kinesiological knowledge. Behold, exhibit A:


But that’s not to say don’t push yourself a little harder each workout. If you can add some resistance, then do so. Strength training, or any kind of training for that matter is a slow progress. Kind of like geology; it takes time and pressure added in carefully measured increments. Always keep a record on an Excel spreadsheet, it’s a really handy tool to keep track of weights / reps / sets /distance etc. also it’s really nice to look back a few weeks through your training log, to see how well you’ve progressed. A good motivational tool.

Great for adding resistance to chins, pull ups, dips and completing the water temple.

Great for adding resistance to chins, pull ups, dips and completing the water temple.

A rest day is a rest day

I’ve heard way too much bullshit about ‘off’ day conditioning. The point of a rest day is to recover, that’s when the magic happens. All physical attributes grow during the days off, don’t add any more. If the training regime requires rest days, you must take them. That’s not to say do completely nothing on those days. Light activity, known as ‘active rest’, is a great tactic. Engage in some light activity such as walking, playing pool, and of course fishing. It’s when your resting after training and getting proper nutrition, that your body is making its repairs, leading to the attribute, skill and sports performance gains you worked so hard for in the workouts.

Even our intrepid hero takes a relaxing break from adventuring. Link knows the value of recovery.

Even our intrepid hero takes a relaxing break from adventuring. Link knows the value of recovery.

Never quit

Does Link simply hang up his sword, shield, bow, boomerang, ocarina, various masks and bottled fairies to call it a day? Nope. But that doesn’t mean be too strict. If your working hard, taking an extra day off as a reward is fine, having a filthy great cheat meal like a massive pizza is fine too. But don’t make a habit of it. Sure, the results of training are the rewards of our work. But without our little evils, we will end up wondering why it’s worth it, we are not machines. Yet. Viva Skynet.

Until next time. Stay informed.