Q: I haven’t been able to train for a while because of a nasty divorce. I’ve lost a lot of strength and mass. What’s the quickest way to restore muscle?
A: People are forced to temporarily stop training because of various uncontrollable factors—death of a close relative, highstress situations such as divorce or tremendous work commitments— and get discouraged once they return to the gym. Both training and nutritional tricks, however, can restore muscle. First let’s look at how you should arrange your training. Eccentric training will restore past levels of strength faster. Alternating between two protocols for about six weeks is all it should take to get your strength back.
Heavy negative, or eccentric, exercise can help you regain strength quickly after a layoff.
At the end of a conventional concentric four-to-six-rep set at 80 to 82 percent of your one-rep maximum, add 25 to 30 percent more weight to the barbell and perform additional eccentric-only repetitions. Another option: Have a training partner manually apply resistance— for example, push down on the bar—for the eccentric portion.
The negative repetitions will exhaust eccentric strength and help get the contractile proteins to return to their previous training size. Do eight total sets per bodypart, and be sure to rest four minutes between sets—or two minutes between antagonistic pairs. Each eccentric lowering should last between four to six seconds. Note: It’s vital to control the descent of the resistance to avoid injury.
Using 120 to 130 percent of your one-repmax load, do two to three reps for 10 sets, resting four to five minutes between sets. Take eight to 10 seconds for each lowering. On that day, do only one exercise per bodypart. That will help you tap into the high-threshold motor units that were responsible for your big poundages. Nutrition is important.
Use the four following nutrients:
Vinpocetine—10 milligrams twice a day. Vinpocetine, extracted from a kind of periwinkle, is an excellent vasodilator and cerebral metabolic enhancer and even seems to retard vascular-based cognitive dysfunction. I find it very beneficial at restoring muscle memory. I love it as part of any brain stack, as it’s known as the gate opener and helps other brain nutraceuticals to do their job.
It will magnify the effects of any stimulant. Dr. Ken Proefrock, a professor at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, considers it a compound far superior to hydergine.
Bacopa—100 milligrams twice a day. Bacopa is a botanical used in Ayurvedic medicine with welldemonstrated antianxiety, antifatigue and memorystrengthening effects.
L-carnitine—six grams per day. It significantly reduces pain, tenderness and release of creatine kinase, usually called CK, following eccentric effort. That’s because of its vasodilatation property, which both improves energetic metabolism of the damaged muscle and enhances washout of metabolites that create pain.
Some people report difficulty sleeping when using L-carnitine after 4 p.m. Make sure you spread out your dosages, and take at least two grams postworkout. I like a product called Panthetine Synergy, which contains both B5 pantethine and L-carnitine. A precursor of the mother hormone pregnenolone, pantethine does wonders to restore the adrenal glands.
If you combine the nutritional approach and the training strategies, you should return to your best ever training poundages in record time.