An interview with Dr. Victor Prisk
1. What advise do you have for someone starting a lifting routine when they aren’t getting the results they want?
The biggest challenge with getting results in the gym is mapping out the journey. The first step in that process is reasonable goal setting. Writing the goal down turns it from something ethereal in your mind to something solid on paper. This makes the goal real. Second, you must “believe to achieve” your goal. Make it something achievable from day to day, week to week, and month to month.
Once you’ve made a goal you must adjust your training accordingly. If your goal is to burn fat you may need to employ advanced techniques to burn fat like high intensity interval training (HIIT) and relatively fasted cardio. If your goal is to build muscle you’ll need to learn advanced techniques like eccentrics (negatives), preloading to failure, and drop-sets.
Its really risky to fall into the concept of “bro-science” or just doing what your friends or some random guy at the gym tells you to do. If you’re a beginner, seek professional advice and educate yourself with diligent reading. Further, your body, mind, metabolism, and genetics are different from the person standing next to you. You’ll need to figure out what works best for you!
2. Power, strength and size are the three common goals that we hear from our readers hitting the training room hard. Can you share some training advice for someone who’s main goal is to build muscular size?
Building muscle requires 2 steps forward with 1 step back. This means you must shock the muscle to grow with intense training that goes beyond your perceived limits and then give it time to recover. We use techniques like drop sets (hitting failure with a heavy weight, immediately dropping the weight, and then doing a lighter weight to failure). This extends the failure of the muscle contraction to really shock it to grow. This technique recruits all of your motor units including those containing slow twitch and fast twitch fibers.
This kind of training can cause extreme soreness and requires time and nutrition to recover. No matter what technique you use, avoid recovery debt. Fuel your muscle growth with extra protein, massage and stretch sore muscles, and keep a diet rich in nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants to help with recovery.
When it comes to building muscle, the key is to reach failure no matter the weight. If you reach failure at 6 reps or 20 reps this will stimulate muscle growth. If you can’t reach failure in your training, you are falling short.
3. How does that differ from someone who’s goal is to get stronger?
Getting stronger requires different training than what one would use for building muscle. To build strength one must lift weights heavier than one is used to. Again, it is 2 steps forward and 1 step back. However, we must lift heavier for the movement we want to get stronger. For instance, if you want a stronger bench, you must bench heavier.
If your goal is to get a one rep max, you must get your current 1 rep max for 2 reps. This trains the connective tissue, like muscle and tendons, to handle the weight. Further, it trains the neuromuscular connections to handle the weight and control the movement more efficiently as well. Building strength requires being able to recruit all your muscle’s fast twitch motor units in a concerted fashion.
4. What if power is the primary goal? Would the training need to be altered from what you described above?
Power training is a combination of strength training and speed. Again, this requires focusing on the power you want to achieve. If you want to jump higher, you must jump. To get faster and stronger with jumping you can employ techniques to add resistance to jumping or perform jump-related exercises like squats and cleans. Power training often involves plyometrics and agility. Plyometrics combine speed with the eccentric contraction that builds muscle as we discussed earlier. The neuromuscular training for power is often more complex and requires resilient connective tissue. The training for power often requires sports specific training.
5. Let’s switch gears and talk about nutrition. Should someone with a strength goal choose a different type of protein than someone with a size goal?
Whether you are training for muscle growth, strength, or power you need to shoot for the higher end of this protein recommendation. It is important to note that proteins are not created equal. Gram for gram some proteins turn on muscle protein synthesis better than others due to variations in their amino acid compositions. Further, some proteins are better for rapidly absorbed post-workout recovery and others are better for sustained amino acid levels throughout the day and night.
Milk-derived whey protein isolates and hydrolysates are rapidly absorbed, are rich in branched-chain amino acids like leucine and are proven to be highly effective at turning on muscle protein synthesis. Similarly, casein, also derived from milk, has slower absorption and can help sustain blood levels of amino acids helping to have building blocks available for muscle recovery.
By using protein rich meals every 3 hours and particularly around your workouts as a post-workout whey protein shake, you will optimize muscle protein synthesis throughout the day. An evening shake containing a blend with casein will give you sustained amino acid levels for recovery in your sleep.
I can’t say enough about the importance of sleep! It is critical to recovery after intense training. Accumulating training stress leads to hormonal imbalances and delayed recovery. Deep sleep restores our minds and our bodies. Deep sleep also optimizes hormones for recovery. Consider using a combo of Whey and Micellar Casein with a low dose melatonin to support sleep growth!