Bodybuilding Defined: AMRAP, Intermittent Fasting & The Stomach Vacuum

bodybuilding defined

We all know that feeling of sitting in on a meeting as everything said flies over your head – you know it’s English but none of the terms make sense and no one wants to be stopping every sentence to ask for an explanation.

Now, think about turning up at the gym, full of pre-workout, as your bro decides today is centred on the progressive overload stage of his periodization programme where he is focusing on compound movements but will be stopping each set just short of failure. First, you are probably going to need a new gym buddy but, before you start looking, here are the definitions you need to keep your knowledge growing alongside those muscles.


You might recognise this term from some training plans – something like 70% 1RM AMRAP – so what does it mean? AMRAP is short for ‘As Many Reps As Possible’ and calls for you to discard the usual 6-12 rep range and go until failure. AMRAP sets can be particularly effective at the end of a workout or body part split as a ‘burnout’ but should generally be saved for isolation exercises or when you have a spotter available.

Intermittent Fasting

Not so much a diet as a way to structure your day of eating, Intermittent Fasting involves setting a window of time each day during which you will consume your full calorie allocation. For example, you might choose to eat from 12pm to 8pm each day (not continuously – don’t get carried away!), leaving the remaining 16 hours each day as a period of fasting. The benefits of this include the increase of human growth hormone, lower insulin levels and an increased metabolic rate.

The Stomach Vacuum

Look at any series of pictures from the classic-era of bodybuilding and you will quickly come across freakishly contracted mid-sections; something that has almost died out in the current climate of distended guts and mass monsters. Utilised as both a pose and an exercise, the stomach vacuum involves the isometric contraction of the abdominal muscles – basically, empty the air out of your lungs and pull your belly button to your spine. If you are utilising this as an exercise – and it can be an effective abs movement – hold for time and perform for reps.

Now, go free and find a new gym partner. And ask them what they would like to see in future Bodybuilding Defined posts. Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.

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Eat Big to Get Big? 10 Meals a Day??

eat big to get bigUnfortunately, I’m not one of the lucky ones who struggle to put on weight and I’m definitely not someone who has trouble eating enough food, that’s for sure. Having said that, I also don’t want to be anywhere near 100g of chicken with 50g of rice 5 or 6 times a day.

So, do you need to eat big to get big? We know that eating in a caloric surplus is required to gain muscle but does that mean eating up to 10 meals a day, Rich Piana style??

A recent Japanese study measured muscle retention in fighters cutting weight over a six week period, finding those who ate 6 meals per day were left with greater gains than those on 3 meals. However, the subjects were on a fairly crazy 1,200 calories per day and other studies were completed using subjects on low protein diets.

So, given that there isn’t much we can draw from that, lets look at some other myths that need to be debunked around frequent eating…

  • eating more frequently DOESN’T increase your metabolism
  • eating more frequently DOESN’T increase protein synthesis
  • your body CAN easily deal with more than 30g of protein per meal

But what about the thermic effect of food (the energy your body expends to process your meals)? Won’t you lose the impact of this if you eat less meals? Nope. The thermic effect has been shown to average at roughly 10% of your overall caloric intake meaning it doesn’t really matter how you break that down over the course of the day!

So, the number of meals you eat per day is another one that should come down to personal preference. As long as you are hitting your calorie / macronutrient goals, research doesn’t really support the benefits of eating up to 10 meals per day. As is always the message – find a routine that works for you and that you can maintain over time.

Personally, I find it easier to eat 3 large meals as it helps me feel fuller, more satisfied and is easy to plan around work / time in the gym.

Are you lucky enough to eat and eat without gaining weight? How do you structure your meals throughout the day??

Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.

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Should You Workout While Sick?

should you workout while sick

A question I’ve been asking myself multiple times a day for over a week now. I hate not being able to workout – anything more than two days and I’m bemoaning the ‘lost’ gains!

So, would a trip to the gym be the cure for illness or just make things worse? Should you workout while sick??

I know how easy it is to fall into the ‘tough it out’ trap and there are times when that is the right answer. But it’s important to consider how you are feeling now and how you are likely to feel after, before making a decision. A couple of years back, I underestimated what was wrong and tried to ‘sweat out’ a chest infection – not my brightest moment and set back overall recovery by a few days for a below par session.

The easiest way to make a decision is by using the common ‘above the neck’ rule. If your body is fighting a virus, cough, fever or similar, it’s unlikely to be able to recover sufficiently for optimal, post-workout muscle building. However, symptoms above the neck like a cold, sore throat or headache should be easy enough to work through and you might experience some benefits from the endorphins and reduced congestion resulting from exercise.

If you are carrying something contagious, it’s best to stay away from the gym for the benefit of others – there’s not much worse than watching someone cough and sneeze all over the machine you are just about to use!

As always, hydration is super-important, even more so when you’re not functioning at 100%. You may also find that, although strength may generally be around the same level as usual, muscular endurance will be reduced during periods of illness so it’s worth reducing overall volume of training while sick.

What are your rules for working out while sick? What’s the worst illness you’ve tried to ‘sweat-out’??

Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.

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