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 Dark Geek Returns

That’s right, beloved reader, we continue our zero to hero Bat-guide to a more powerful you. Following on from the Dark Geek Rises, we will elaborate upon the solid foundation of easy to follow, do-anywhere exercises, that allow the avid bat-fan to come one step closer to heroic emulation of the dark knight himself.

If you haven’t yet been doing the core exercises from the first post, then your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor would suggest hitting the basics first.

Unless of course you’re already a more advanced athlete then read on, or if this still isn’t enough to break a sweat; then rest assured this bat-themed series of articles will continue into the future, becoming more advanced with each post and bringing you, beloved reader, closer to the attributes of the Bat.

Bat-fan: The Long Workout Plan

Keep up the workouts and you too could be decking kryptonians well into your sixties.

Keep up the training and you too could be decking kryptonians well into your sixties.

Okay, it’s not really that long, just three new exercises. Last time we covered the core movements of squats, press-ups, dumbbell rows and crunches. Continuing with bodyweight and / or improvised weight training equipment, we introduce a selection of new exercises that require no gym membership. Best to avoid those terrifying places for now; they are full of meat-heads, jocks and gym-rats; all of which will attempt to bamboozle and beguile you with their so-called knowledge.

Alas, Level Up has still yet to finance its own studio in order for your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor to bring you the infallible versions of the exercise techniques. Until then follow the handy links to know what’s going on.

Dumbbell curls: Unlike the first post where we allowed some muscles to ‘get off lightly’ by being worked only as synergists, this post we’re going to make sure that everything gets a fairly targeted. This new round of techniques we begin adding more detailed strength training, and ensure that we have at least one exercise per body-part. The dumbbell curls will specifically work the biceps brachii.

Dumbbell shoulder press: Now we target the deltoids. As stated in the first Bat-themed workout post, if you don’t own any dumbbells then ignore the dumbbell part. Use any resistance you can find, a couple of jugs of milk for example, can add all the resistance you need at this stage. Remember it is the movement itself that elicit the attribute building effect we desire, the weights / improvised weights are just there to offer resistance.

All good examples fo homemade weights. But don't limit yourself to these items, (and don't drink the vile seed of sabotage in the middle), use your imagination, everyone's home is a potential gym.

All good examples of homemade weights. But don’t limit yourself to these items, (and don’t drink the vile seed of sabotage in the middle), use your imagination, everyone’s home is a potential gym.

Bench dip: These will work the triceps, which were only synergistic in the press ups before. Just improvise some chairs instead of a bench for now, and if you can’t do these yet don’t worry; work your way up to them gradually by doing these until you’re strong enough. Or if you want to go totally bad-ass advanced, then do them like this.

That’s it. That’s all the new exercises you will need for now. Every muscle has been directly targeted as a result, leading to even more strength gains. Yay.

Sorry beloved reader. Even with all the training in the world I can't guarantee an awesome background to your antics.

Sorry beloved reader. Even with all the training in the world I can’t guarantee an awesome background to your antics.
It will, however, guarantee an awesome pose.

The exercise order

Kinesiology is a wonderful mistress, but a strict one. Your workout / exercise order should look something like this:

Squats

Press ups

Dumbbell rows

Dumbbell curls

Shoulder press

Bench dips

Crunches

Of course it may vary a little depending on how advanced the version of the exercise is, but the general exercise order will be the same. The exercises are ordered in this manner to ensure that any muscles that are synergistic in a movement are not exhausted before they play their supporting role, guaranteeing proper form and therefore the least chance of injury and the greatest strength gains.

Continue as you were before, adding more reps / resistance / circuits when you feel comfortable to do so. Depending on how bad-ass you feel, increase the frequency of the workout plan, from 2 to 3 times a week to every other day, but be sure to have at least one rest day between workouts.

Remember to keep a training log; it’s satisfying to look back on past workouts and see how powerful you’ve become. The hard work pays off.

Equestrian skills are optional.

Equestrian skills are optional. But definitely cool.

If you’ve already gone ahead and got yourself equipped with iron to pump, then mayhaps you’ll want to do multiple sets, with one minute ‘rest’ in between each set, rather than circuits. If you have gotten real serious and purchased might fine pump-ables, start out with a nice basic 3 sets of 8 repetitions at the heaviest you can manage without compromising proper exercise technique.

Most importantly. You’re never too old to workout

Last post we destroyed the excuse of “I don’t have enough time.” This post we eradicate the “I’m too old”, bail-out.

With aging you experience declines in muscle and joint strength, and coordination. You lose muscle mass and gain fat. Chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, become more prevalent.

Exercise reduces these problems. Much of the decline in physical health and ability attributed to aging is accelerated by inactivity. While nothing can turn back the clock or make you live forever, a well-rounded exercise program can slow and even reverse many factors associated with the aging process.

Muscle and joint strength: You can’t teach an old bat new tricks. Wrong y’all. The skeletal muscles are no different, no matter their age, they will still respond positively to resistance training. As muscles and joints become stronger, daily activities become easier and balance improves. resistance training also improves bone density, making breakages less likely.

From training strength,  one can derive all other attributes; such as balance.

From training strength, one can derive all other attributes; such as balance.

Exercise as physical therapy: Exercise is often prescribed for orthopedic problems, such as rotator cuff injury, back aches and so forth. Many of the health problems that become more common with age, such as arthritis, insomnia and diabetes, respond favorably to exercise.

Mental well-being: Much research supports the connection between regular physical activity and psychological well-being. Exercise helps prevent and treat depression. People who exercise regularly report feeling stronger, more energetic and more capable.

You’re never too old.:  So it’s not so much, “I’m too old”,  now it’s more like “I’m too old not too”. Unless you have a health problem that could be made worse by exercise (check with your doctor before starting an exercise program), you are never too old to start exercising. Begin slowly and build gradually.

Stay tuned for more. 

Until next time. Stay informed.

The Dark Geek Rises

That’s right, beloved reader, even the bat himself had to start somewhere. After his parents were gunned down, he couldn’t instantly pull on the cowl and make Gotham City’s criminals cower with fear. Thus, your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor will be taking you through a zero to hero fitness guide starting from complete scratch.

beforeafter

It’s all up-hill from Adam West.

Bat-fan year one

Okay, so it’s not really the whole first year of training but I had to put the pun in somewhere. We begin with bodyweight work, the core of any good training routine. And just like when Bruce started out, we rely on minimum equipment. Just follow the handy video links, (sorry but Level Up still doesn’t have its own studio yet), to get started on your journey to bad-assery.

Warm-up: No need to go overboard with this, just get your heart rate up a little and make sure the muscles are warm to avoid injury. Do some jumping jacks and a few minutes jogging on the spot is plenty to get you prepped and primed.

Squats: Every mighty structure has a solid base, and the human body is no different. Never miss leg work, it is your foundation to a power. If you can’t quite manage the full range of motion in a squat hold onto something for support, until the quadriceps are strong enough. Once your comfortable with squats, progress on to lunges.

Press ups: A solid staple of any training routine. Press ups can be done anywhere, anytime and Batman has them for breakfast. If you can’t do full-bodied press ups yet don’t worry, you’ll be able to do them soon enough. Start with bar press ups, then gradually work up to doing knee press ups until you become can perform the real thing. As you become stronger you can progress to even more advanced press ups, continually challenging yourself.

Press ups target the bat-pecs. Triceps and deltoids assist in the movement.

Press ups target the bat-pecs. Triceps and deltoids assist in the movement.

Dumbbell rowsIgnore the dumbbell part, anything that offers some resistance will do; a jug of milk or a packed suitcase make great improvisations and a couple of chairs will make a sufficient stand-in for the bench. Your Rogue Advisor doesn’t expect you to be chinning just yet, but this is how we get the lats strong enough to deal with them.  Eventually work up to inverted rows, you don’t even need a bar for this, you can perform them on the edge of your dinning table.

batmanweights

If you’ve got bat-weights then go for it, but they’re not essential.

Crunches: Even the Bat’s abs had a subtle beginning. Strength gains are stealthy critters, they sneak up and surprise you when you least expect it. Thus, beloved reader, you will be moving on to more advanced exercises, like crunch ups and incline crunches before you know it. Yay.

Bat-fan begins

You just worked every muscle in your body, even the ones that weren’t targeted specifically by an exercise would have been assisting or stabilising in one or more of the movements. Better yet it only takes about 10 minutes, easy to fit into your daily routine, so none of that “I don’t have time to workout” false-hoodery. If you’ve anything left in the tank do them all again, then you’ve successfully completed a circuit training workout. Challenge yourself by seeing how many ‘circuits’ you can manage,  maybe try for an extra one per week.

Perform as many repetitions as humanly / inhumanly possible for each of the exercises and keep a record of it. An Excel spreadsheet is good, it’s nice to look back on a training log and see how far you’ve come, plus it keeps tabs on how many reps to beat in the next workout. After training be sure to stretch, it will help to avoid injury and DOMS. No need to go overboard here either, just one stretch for each muscle targeted in the workout, held for 20 to 30 seconds. Easy.

Soon, beloved reader, this could be you.

Soon, beloved reader, this could be you.

If you can do the more advanced versions of any of the exercises then go for it, but perfect form is vital, don’t sacrifice the benefits for the sake of ego.

The workout can be done up to three or four times a week, but not on consecutive days; your body will need to recover. The magic happens when you get proper rest and nutrition.

But why resistance training? What about cardio?

Prepare to be scienced.

Not going to science you too hard here, we want to keep things simple.

You can great results from cardio, but you have to do a lot of it. I mean a hell of a lot of it, and really regularly too. Most of us just don’t have the time to invest to take the cardio path. Also, this may sound daft, but you only burn calories when your engaged in the cardio.

Seems obvious right? Keep reading.

You need to do hours of this cardio business for it to be effective. Plus it needs to performed regularly; around 60% of the benefits of cardio a lost after 2 to 3 days if not maintained.

You need to do hours of this cardio business for it to be effective. Plus it needs to performed regularly; around 60% of the benefits of cardio are lost after 2 to 3 days if not maintained.

Resistance training however, burns calories when you’re doing it and then boosts metabolism for up to 90 minutes after working out; burning even more of those nasty little calories. Sweet. Not only that but the muscle you’re building will boost your BMR all day long. Yup, all day long. As a handy bonus, resistance training will give you augmented strength that has practical application in everyday situations. Thus, beloved reader, resistance training is the most efficient route to looking good for the upcoming nice weather. Yay.

During this training your weight wont change much, but your body composition will. You will have more lean mass and less fat, so ignore the  scales; how much you weigh is actually a poor indication of how much excess fat you have.

Avoid these evil contraptions of deception. Who really cares how much you weigh?

Avoid these evil contraptions of deception. Who really cares how much you weigh? Gauge your results in the mirror instead.

But all the good workouts in the world will do you no good if you eat crap. Fact. For now keep it simple; you already know most of what’s bad for you so avoid things like sweets, crisps and especially fizzy drinks. Try to eat more often yet smaller meals during the day, and include fruit, veg and lean meats.

Don’t pay any heed to all the terrible fad diets and slimming gimmicks, they are peddled by thieves and scammers and we don’t fund them, we bring them to justice! There is no miracle pill or technique for an instant six-pack, it takes working out and eating right. Sorry, beloved reader, but that really is the ‘secret’.

The Bat only hungers for justice.

The Bat only hungers for justice.

Stay tuned for more.

Until next time. Stay informed.