Combining Metabolic and Tension Training – Q&A

Question: Lyle, I’ve been reading up on your articles covering the pathways of muscle growth while dieting to gain mass, as well as, when dieting to lose fat. With that being said I have some questions on what to do during dieting for fat loss. In some of your articles you’ve said that the tension pathway is the best for gaining or maintaining strength with a rep range between 30-60 reps per muscle group. Also in another article over training while dieting to lose you talked about using the metabolic pathway in order to deplete glycogen and increase metabolic rate, but that it is not the best for maintaining mass. You also talked about combining the two pathways on different days of the week or different body parts on the same day (1 muscle tension/other muscle metabolic). SO my question is can you do heavy tension training and metabolic training of the same muscle group on the same day? Also is the rep range for the metabolic pathway the same 30-60 rep range per muscle group? Or is there an increas e rep range? Sorry if I’m asking a question that you have already answered, if so then please direct me to the article. Thanks

Answer: Ok, the above is a little bit all over the place so let me see if I can de-all over the place it.  The question is sort of jumping from mass gains and dieting which aren’t the same.  Let me get dieting out of the way.  In these two articles I looked at metabolic and tension training, roughly heavy work in the 6-12 repetition range vs. high reps in terms of what should be done on a diet.  Basically I was addressing a very old (and mainly steroid-driven) idea that switching exclusively to high reps and short rests on a diet is not optimal for a natural lifter.

Take away the tension stimulus and muscles go bye-bye unless you have steroids to protect against it.  The only exception being beginners for whom most gains are neural, there is no increased muscle mass to lose and glycogen depletion may be beneficial to enhance whole-body fat burning during dieting.  Which isn’t to say that depletion work doesn’t have it’s place in addition to tension work on a diet.  But the goal is less fatigue and more

  • Glycogen Depletion
  • A Hormonal Response to Mobilize Fat (increased SNS output)
  • Probably Something Else I Mentioned in the Articles but Forget


Are Upright Rows Safe – Q&A

Question: Are upright rows safe?  Googling yields tons of different results. What is your opinion on that?

Answer: As always, the short answer is that it depends.  Mainly on how they are done and the person doing them.  Frankly, this is truly the only way to analyze if a given exercise is ‘safe’ or not, any exercise can be relatively more safe or unsafe for a given individual for a given set of circumstances.  That said, the upright row does tend to be surrounded by it’s share of ‘unsafe exercise’ beliefs so let’s look at why.

I think the first place I saw it asserted that upright rows were categorically unsafe was in the old 7-Minute Rotator Cuff Solution from Health for Life (a now defunct company that put out a variety of different manuals).  And this was based on the mechanics of the movement.  Specifically, upright rows put the shoulder in an internally rotated and horizontally abducted position.  And this is a potential problem because it puts the shoulder/rotator cuff at risk for impingement.  Hence, to avoid shoulder problems, upright rows became one of the big no-no exercises.

But is this strictly true?  In my opinion, no and much of it has to do with how the exercise is performed.  Certainly, the traditional bodybuilder method of performing the exercise is pretty high risk.  I’ve shown the typical form below.

Traditional Upright Row
High Ouchie Potential


Isolation Exercise to Fix a Compound Exercise Stall – Q&A

Question: I have a question regarding volume and stalling on certain lifts because of one body part. For instance, say that when I bench press, my triceps are the limiting factor in the lift, they give out before my chest does. So because of my triceps I can’t progress it weights.

So to remedy that problem, I always hear the advice to blast the failing body part with more volume, which doesn’t make sense to me because they already ‘burned out’ in that workout. I think it would make more sense to isolate the chest because it wasn’t worked to the point of exhaustion like the triceps were.

So I myself think lowering the triceps volume may be beneficial while others want to increase it. This scenario does lack context and I’m sorry for that, but I’d figure there are reasons to bump up volume and decrease volume to be able to progress.

Answer: There are a couple of different ways to look at this. On the one hand, it does make a certain logical sense that the failing muscle group is getting the largest training stimulus and that extra work would be overkill.   By that argument, your suggestion of doing more pec work seems logical at first glance since, in premise, it is your triceps limiting the training effect to the pecs during compound movements.  And certainly systems such as pre- or post-exhaustion have been used based on that logic.

At the same time, just hammering away at a compound movement doesn’t seem to really ‘catch-up’ the lagging muscle groups.  So the logic doesn’t seem to correspond to the training reality.  For whatever reason, the muscle group that is holding a compound lift doesn’t ever seem to catch up with the prime movers when it’s a big weak point.

And this seems to be especially true the worse that a person is built for a movement.  That is, consider someone with long arms, who will typically have problems benching in terms of triceps giving out (simply as a function of the long lever arm due to their mechanics).  In practice, these folks seem to benefit more from isolation work (or a combination of isolation and specific assistance work; see below) than folks built to bench.


What’s the Proper Way to Squat – Q&A

Question: What is the proper way to squat? And could you address the issue of butt-winks at the bottom of the squat and how to correct that?

Answer: It depends.  Simply there is no single proper way to squat despite what many will have you believe or vigorously contend.  At the very least most will define three primary ‘types’ of squats which are:

  1. High-bar/Olympic squat
  2. Generic Power Squat
  3. Geared powerlifting squat

And I’d note that that only begins to scratch the surface of the different types of squats which have been done over the years.  But those general categories tend to encapsulate the three ‘primary’ types of back squats that are done by trainees.  I’ll describe each generally and try to look at some of their various pros and cons below.

The high-bar/Olympic squat is done with the bar held high on the traps and the goal is generally to keep the torso as vertical as possible; this is usually facilitated by wearing shoes with a slight ‘heel’ on them as this lets the lifter get the knees further forward.    The focus is generally more on squatting ‘down’ than ‘back’ in this style of squat and it’s critical to push the knees way out and squat ‘between the knees’ (as Dan John puts it so simply).   A slightly narrower stance is also usually used (as this tends to have more carryover to pulling and the jerk in Olympic lifting).

Olympic lifters use this as a general leg strengthener as well as to strengthen the muscles used in the Olympic lifts.  Generally, lifters using this type of squat aim for maximum depth (often called ass to grass or ATG) although bodybuilders often use a high-bar style but stay above parallel.


Bodypart Frequency and Soreness – Q&A

Question: You have discussed training frequency on your site and suggest that training a body part twice a week to every 5th day, what would you say if on that fifth day my legs are still sore and I’m generally fatigued, would you recommend waiting an additional day or so? Or just work through the soreness?

Answer: There are actually two different issues that you’re bringing up here which are the general fatigue and the soreness and I want to address them separately.

First, the easier of the two which is soreness.  Simply, this doesn’t matter.  Soreness appears to mainly be an issue of connective tissue damage more than anything muscularly (despite still being called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS) and there is no problem training through it.  Most find that by the time they finish their warm-ups (see Warming Up for the Weight Room Part 1 and Warming Up for the Weight Room Part 2 for detailed information on this), the majority of the soreness is gone and even more find that as they get used to a higher training frequency soreness becomes much less anyhow.  They also usually start growing better.

The general fatigue issue is something else.  Mind you, without knowing more about your weekly setup, it’s a little hard to address this totally.   Because while it could be related to the previous workout it could also be related to lifestyle factors like sleep (or a lack thereof), nutrition, overall life stress, etc.  Making sure that those are in order often fixes any problems.

As well, realize that many people find that they have some of their best workouts when they walk into the gym feeling a bit under.   They’ll be yawning and a bit apathetic and then just proceed to blow it out or have banner and PR days.  I suspect this is just an issue of not wasting a lot of mental energy ahead of time and relaxing during the workout and letting it happen instead of trying to force it.