I’ve churned through over 150,000 emails, social media comments and messages, and blog comments in the last 6 years.
And that means I’ve fielded a ton of questions.
As you can imagine, some questions pop up more often than others, and I thought it might be helpful to take a little time every month to choose a few and record and share my answers.
So, in this round, I answer the following three questions:
- Lying or seated ham curls?
- Thoughts on weight loss medications?
- How useful are isometric exercises?
If you have a question you’d like me to answer, leave a comment below or if you want a faster response, send an email to [email protected].
4:59 – Which is more effective for the hamstrings, the lying or seated hamstring curl?
10:17 – What are your thoughts on weight loss medications and using them with a high fat cheat meal as a supplement to reduce the amount of fat your body absorbs?
17:49 – How useful or effective are isometric exercises?
Mentioned on The Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hello, and welcome to Muscle for Life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today for a q and a where I answer questions that readers and followers ask me. If you want to ask me questions that I can answer for you and that may be chosen for future q and a episodes, shoot me an email, Mike Muscle for Life, just f o r life.com and let me know what’s on your mind.
I get a lot of emails, so it may take me seven, 10, maybe even 14 days or sometimes a little bit longer, to be honest, to get back with you, but you will hear back from me and you will get an answer. And if it’s a question that. A lot of people are asking or have been asking for some time, or if it’s something that just strikes my fancy and it’s something that I haven’t already beaten to death on the podcast or the blog, then I may also choose it for.
An episode and answer it publicly. Another way to get questions to me is Instagram at Muscle for Life Fitness. You can DM them to me, although that is harder for me to stay on top of. I do try, but the inbox is a little bit buggy and it just takes more time trying to do it, whether it’s on my phone or the.
Windows app, but there is a good chance you will still get a reply. Email is better. And I also do post, I think it’s every few weeks or so in my feed, asking for people to give me questions, give me fodder for the next q and a. So if you would rather do that than just follow me on Instagram at most for live fitness and send me a message, or just wait for one of my q and a posts.
So in this episode, I will answer the following three questions. The first one is, Whether the lying or seated hamstring curl machine is more effective for the hamstrings, and this comes from anonymous, but is something that I’ve been asked by quite a few people over the last couple of months, so I’m gonna talk about that and then I’m gonna talk about weight loss medications.
Like Ali, Orlistat, plen, and so on. Specifically, I’m asked here again by anonymous, no note who asked this, but I do remember it was somebody on Instagram. Probably my mistake. I didn’t note it down. But this person was asking my thoughts on using a drug like those with a high-fat cheat meal kind of as a supplement to mitigate the damage of the cheat meal of the overeating.
And then I have how useful. Slash effective or isometric exercises. Again, no note who this came from. Probably my mistake. Somebody on Instagram posted this, I think in response to my post, asking people to ask me questions for this episode. And if you want to submit questions to me, you can email them [email protected], or you can follow me over on Instagram at Muscle Life Fitness and just drop a comment in the post that I make every four weeks or so asking for.
People’s questions. Also, if you like what I am doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world, and we’re on top. Because every ingredient and dose in every product is backed by peer-reviewed scientific research.
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Please do consider supporting Legion so I can keep doing what I love, like producing more podcasts like this. Okay, so let’s start with the first question, which is regarding the lying versus the seated hamstring curl machine. Which is better? Which is more effective? And before I talk specifically to that point, let’s quickly review a little bit of background information on hamstring training so you can train your hammies in two different ways.
You can extend your hips, so you can move your abdomen away from your thighs like you do on a Romanian deadlift or a conventional deadlift, or a hip thrust stripe. And then you can also flex your knees. You can bring your ankles closer to your butt. Those are the two ways that you can train your hamstrings.
Now US Fitness folk have long wondered which of those two movement patterns is more effective. And last year, scientists from Jou University conducted a study to help figure out which is best once and for all. What they did is they took seven young and healthy untrained men, and they had them do four different hamstring exercises.
They did hamstring curls with the hips fully extended. So that would be similar to a lying leg curl. And then they did hamstring curls with the hip flexed at 90 degrees. So that would be similar to a seated leg curl. And then they did hip extension with the knees flexed at 90 degrees. So that would be like a donkey kick, right, with the knees bent at 90 degrees.
And they also did hip extensions with. The knees fully extended, so that would be a donkey kick with the legs kept straight throughout the entire exercise. And what the scientists found is that the biceps, femoral, and the semi tendonosis muscles and those comprise a large chunk of the hamstrings were recruited more during the leg curls, the knee flexion than during the donkey kicks, which would’ve been the hip extension.
And the researchers also found that the participants were able to generate more force and did more total work. When they did seated leg curls, so that’d be hips flexed, curling your legs in, bringing your ankles in towards your body. Then when they did the lying leg curls, which is the hips extended and the ankles coming in towards your, your butt, basically.
So in other words, the seated hamstring curls appeared to be superior to the lying leg curls for activating the hamstrings. But does that mean that it’s superior for gaining muscle? Well, I will spare you. A long tangent. That could be an episode or maybe a q and a question unto itself, what you should know is that muscle activation isn’t always a great predictor of muscle growth.
That said, according to very recent research when it comes to the hamstrings, more activation does appear to mean more growth, and this is likely because muscles tend to grow more when they’re trained through a full range of motion and when they’re trained while in a stretched. Position and the seated leg curl checks both of those boxes.
Full range of motion and training in a stretched position. So if you think about the lying leg curl, right, that does train your hamstrings through a full range of motion, but it does not train them in a fully stretched position. And exercises like the deadlift, conventional deadlift, as well as the Romanian deadlift.
And good mornings, for example, they train your hamstring, they load it. In a stretched position, but not through a full range of motion. Now, none of that means, of course, that seated leg curls are really the only hamstring exercise you should do and that you should ignore. Other hamstring exercises, you know, compound exercises like the squats, even though it’s primarily a quads exercise, but of course it involves the hamstrings and the deadlift.
Any kind of deadlift heavily involves the hamstrings. The Bulgarian split squat is a great hamstring centric. Exercise as well as the lunge and the hip thrusts. No, you can do all of those exercises and you should be prioritizing those exercises in your training over something like the seated hamstring curl or the lying hamstring curl, or any other hamstring isolation exercise.
But of course, those accessory exercises, those isolation exercises have a use. They help you rack up some extra volume. In the hamstrings, and if your lower body workouts usually start with a heavy quadriceps emphasized exercise, like a squat or a leg press, it’s smart to include at least a few sets of hamstring specific training to make sure that you don’t have a, or you don’t develop a muscle and balance between your quads and your hamstrings.
So some good exercises for doing that are the seated or the lying hamstring. Curl. I usually go with the lying simply because most seated hamstring curl machines are very uncomfortable for me. I can’t get the right settings. I don’t know if it’s just my proportions. I have long femurs. I don’t know exactly what it is.
There’s something with many seated hamstring curl machines that just doesn’t sit well with me, so I’m generally doing the lying. Version, but if I’m working out in a gym that has a seated machine that works for me and that feels comfortable and allows me to feel like I’m really training my hamstrings as opposed to just trying to maintain a proper position of my body, then I will also include seated in my.
Programming. Okay. Let’s move on to the next question, which is my thoughts on weight loss medications like Ali Orlistat, plen, and so forth, and specifically my thoughts on using them with a high fat cheat meal as a supplement to reduce the amount of fat that our body absorbs to mitigate the fat gain basically.
And my thoughts on this are, While weight loss medications can work for some people, some of the time they have been prescribed them by a doctor, and it is usually part of an ongoing treatment protocol. I do not recommend self prescribing these drugs and then relying on them for weight loss or for.
Reducing the amount of fat gained with a cheat meal because one, they can have some pretty undesirable side effects like oily stools, loose bowels as well. People literally shit themselves on these drugs. Uh, intestinal gas, bloating, abdominal distension, abdominal pain, constipation, increased bowel movements, so on, so on.
And of course, as with any drug, some people have very adverse reactions and it’s smartest to just. Stay away from them because it’s not necessary. You don’t need these drugs to lose weight, and you don’t need these drugs to enjoy your quote unquote cheat meal or free meal or off plan meal, whatever you want to call it, to enjoy your bout of overeating.
Now, I do understand wanting to go to a restaurant or cook yourself a feast and not gain any fat to speak of. And so I’ll share a couple simple tips here that will allow you to do that. Maybe you’re gonna gain a little bit of fat, but you’re not gonna notice it. So one tip is to save up calories for this free meal or for this larger meal.
So let’s say for example, you burn on average. Let’s take a simple number, 2,500 calories per day. And let’s say it’s Friday, you’re gonna go to a restaurant that you like, and you want to be able to enjoy yourself. And that means eating, let’s say 1500 calories. Let’s say that that’s what it takes for you to eat.
Eat an appetizer, an entree, and have some dessert and feel very satisfied. What you can do is instead of eating as you normally would on a Friday, and then eating a very big dinner, you can eat light throughout the day. Specifically, you can focus on just eating your protein, just get enough protein in so that by your dinner, You have a lot of carbs and a lot of fat, and therefore a lot of calories that you can eat just to reach your maintenance level of calories.
And for me, what I do is I think with the restaurant that I’m going to and what I’m likely going to order. So if I do plan on having a serving of protein because that’s what I like to eat there, maybe it’s gonna be a steak or a pork chop or whatever, then I will leave myself maybe 50 grams of protein for dinner.
But up until then, I’m gonna eat. All but 50 grams of my daily protein. So for me, that’d be about 150 grams of protein. And again, up until that point, I’m gonna eat as little carbohydrate and fat as I can. Now, if I’m going to, let’s say an Italian restaurant where I’m gonna want pasta, that’s what I’m gonna want, then I will either make sure to eat all of my protein for the day, all 200 grams by the time I’m going to dinner or not.
Or it may be one 50, between one 50 and 200, let’s say, and that’s not a big deal. Of course. One day of maybe slightly suboptimal protein intake will have absolutely no effect in my body composition, in my progress in the gym, in anything, but just to be quote unquote safe. I won’t eat a hundred grams of protein that day, or less than that.
I will make sure that I get somewhere around 0.7 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight, and it may be a bit more. It really just depends what I’m doing and what food I have available, and so that’s the first tip. Another tip is to try not to exceed your energy expenditure for the day. Buy more than about 500 calories, and if that’s not enough for you, really try to limit it at a 1000 calorie surplus for the day, because that will of course minimize the amount of fat that you can gain from that meal.
And in that day, and especially if you follow my next tip. Which is to go high carb rather than high fat. And the reason for that is research clearly shows that high carb meals result in less immediate fat storage than high fat meals. And two of the major reasons for that are one carbohydrate costs a fair amount of energy to process.
About 25% of the energy contain in carbohydrate. Is burned during the processing, and that effect is referred to as the thermic effect of food. Now, if you compare that to dietary fat, the thermic effect of dietary fat is about zero to 3%. It costs very little energy to process dietary fat, and one of the primary reasons we need to eat dietary fat is to replenish fat stores.
So dietary fat is very easily converted into body fat, whereas carbohydrate. Is not. In fact, studies show that carbohydrate is not directly converted into body fat unless it is excessive and sustained for several days. In one study, for example, it took close to a thousand grams of carbohydrate per day for several days before the body started to convert significant amounts of carbohydrate.
Into body fat. Now, the second reason why a high carb cheat meal or free meal, or just high carb consumption when combined with a calorie surplus results in less fat storage than high fat is your body has other things that it can do with. Carbs. So again, dietary fat primarily is just stored as body fat, whereas carbs can be stored as glycogen, for example.
And that’s particularly relevant to us weightlifters because we have big glycogen reservoirs all around our body in the form of muscle. And research shows that if glycogen levels are low and they will be low, or at least they will be lower than normal. If you do an intense workout, for example, let’s say you do a normal, you know, one hour, pretty intense weightlifting session, and then you go to dinner, you’re going into that.
Dinner with lower glycogen levels and research shows that when that is the case, the body will preferentially use carbs that you eat to top off glycogen levels before any get marked for potential fat storage. So you can create a bit of a quote unquote, carbohydrate sink, so to speak by doing a workout that burns a lot of glycogen, which would be a workout that involves a fair amount of anaerobic activity.
Going for a jog, wouldn’t cut it doing sprints wood. Alright, so those are my three tips there. Actually, I’ll give you one bonus tip, and that is don’t drink alcohol or if you’re gonna drink alcohol, try not to drink a lot of alcohol. And if you’re gonna drink a fair amount of alcohol or a lot of alcohol, really do try to make sure it is a high carb and not high fat meal.
Because while alcohol is not itself, like ethanol is never stored as body fat, it accelerates the rate at which your body stores food you eat. And particularly dietary fat as body fat. So when you combine alcohol with a large. Meal, lot of calories, a lot of dietary fat. You are essentially maximizing fat storage from that meal.
If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world. Ok. Let’s move on now to the last question, which is how useful slash effective our isometric exercise is.
So let’s start by clarifying what an isometric exercise is, just in case you are not familiar with it. So that’s an exercise that involves statically. Contracting your muscles, so you’re not moving your joints, you’re just holding a position. So for example, a wall sit, a plank, a hollow hold, yoga poses.
Those are isometric exercises. And these types of exercises are often used for rehab because you can. Apply force to muscles while keeping joints immobilized, or you know, at pain-free angles, you don’t have to move your limbs. And in weightlifting and in body building, these exercises are more commonly used to address weak points or sticking points.
In an exercise, which is a point where you tend to get stuck. So for example, you might find it easy to lock out on a deadlift, right? So that’s the top of it, but you have trouble getting the weight off of the floor. So there could be a a sticking point for you where the weight is maybe six inches off the floor.
And if you’re gonna get stuck on the deadlift, that’s generally where it’s going to be. And in that case, you could. Benefit from training that bottom portion of the exercise. And you can do that in a couple of different ways. You could set up some pins on a power rack and do some rack pulls, right? So I put the pins down in a low setting and that would allow you to, to train that sticking point.
But you could also just pull as hard as you can into the pins at the point when you are weakest in the deadlift. So that would be. With the weight on the ground and the bar up against the uprights on the rack and the pins above the bar, and then you, again are pulling the bar up, hitting the pins, and then you’re just pulling against it as hard as you can and holding that position.
And what that would do, that isometric deadlift, what it would do is it would train that exact portion of the. Range of motion that you need to get stronger at, and it would do it without causing all of the fatigue that goes with completing the rest of the exercise. For example, that isometric deadlift is going to be a lot less fatiguing, of course, than a full deadlift, and it’s gonna be a lot less fatiguing than the.
Rack pull, which isn’t as fatiguing as the full deadlift, but it’s still quite difficult, especially if you use it to load more weight, which people often do. And so then what that isometric exercise allows you to do is work a lot more on that specific little portion, five or six seconds, maybe you’ll be able to hold that position before you have to.
Reset and rest versus a rack pole or a regular deadlift, you’re gonna be in that position, what, a half a second or so? And studies show that that approach to isometric training does work. It is a good way to increase force production. However, it does seem to work best when you train at long muscle lengths.
And what that means is isometric exercises increase strength best when you use them in a stretched position rather than a contracted. Position. So in the deadlift example I just talked about, you’d be training your hamstring when it’s stretched. And if we were to apply that to the squat and everybody’s sticking position, right is in the bottom of the squat, of course it’s getting out of the hole.
It’s that couple of inches from the bottom to, you know, maybe the kind of two-thirds squat position. And so if we wanted to use isometric training for that, what we would do is we would put the pins at a fairly low height and then squat the bart. Into them because of course at the bottom of the squat is where our quads are stretched and the quads are the primary mover in the squat.
And that would also allow us, again, to train specifically that couple inches in the bottom of the squat that are the most difficult. Now as far as actually doing isometrics, as far as including them in your programming, you probably don’t need to. They’re really only for advanced weightlifters who are working on their big lifts and are working on sticking points and who are having trouble with weak points or sticking points in a bench press or overhead press or squat or deadlift.
And if that is the case for you, then you could try them. You could include some isometric holds, some squat pauses, some deadlift pauses, like pulling against the pins, like I just mentioned, bench press pauses and so forth. And I would do them on a separate day. Then I do my full regular reps. So for example, I deadlift on Tuesdays.
If I wanted to do some weak point deadlift training, I would probably do some isometrics on. Friday probably. I give my my body a couple of days to recover from what I did on Tuesday, and I would not do them in the same workout. And again, I myself don’t do isometrics because I’m making great progress just doing regular reps.
And why make training more complicated than it needs to be? Right? And that’s it for that one. And that’s it for this episode. That one. Pretty quickly. At least I felt like it did. Anyways, thanks for joining me today. I hope you liked this episode. I hope it helps you reach your fitness goals faster. And next week I have a monologue coming where I’m gonna be talking about concurrent training, so that’s gonna be the right way to combine cardio and strength training.
I have an interview with Tim Anderson from Original Strength on how you can use what he calls movement resets to quickly and easily improve your fitness and function. And then there is another q and a coming. Where I’m gonna be talking about lean bulking, when fat, should you do it, or should you cut first beating tendonitis and tendonosis and increasing a sense of urgency and necessity.
All right. Well, that’s it for today’s episode. I hope you found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, could you please leave a quick review for the podcast on iTunes or wherever you are listening from? Because those reviews not only convince people that they should check out the show, they also increase the search visibility.
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And last, if you didn’t like something about the show, then definitely shoot me an email at mike muscle for life.com and share your thoughts. Let me know how you think I could do this better. I read every email myself and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. All right, thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.