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A Farewell To Robert Cortes

This is not an article on how to improve your grip, or how to put 20 more lbs. on your deadlift. There are plenty of those. This is about the most important lesson you will ever take away from this sport, friendship. I met Robert Cortes a few years back after an old friend of 32 years name Joe Gold passed away. I stopped making the 110 mile round trips from Orange County to Venice, and settled upon a gym closer to home. I was going to as they say “fade away”. One day in the gym I noticed this older gentleman with his wife. He worn a tee-shirt from a meet in the 70’s. Next week one from the 90’s. I asked a young kid, “Who is that guy?” “The kids call him Grandpa. He makes us put our weights away. He barks at us if we drop the weights, or don’t clear up”. Robert and I became instant friends.


Robert and I trained together. Between sets he would tell me the story of powerlifting. He talked about Bob Hoffman of York Barbell fame judging a meet and falling asleep leave Robert standing there with 400 lbs on his back waiting for the rack command. He talked about sitting across from Vince Anello at a restaurant throwing bread back and forth as they tried to carb up before a meet. He remembered the actress Linda Carter of Wonder Woman fame showing up at a meet to cheer on John Cole. Meeting Rickey Dale Crain and Mike Bridges for the first time. “Who are these kids?” he remembered asking himself.

Robert competed in over 200 meets, won 20 World titles, 35 National titles, and set 42 World records. He had been around since 1959. Many people reading this were not even born at that time. He was inducted into 4 Halls of Fame in various federations. Two of his best lifts were a raw 573 Lb. Deadlift, and a raw 473 Lb Squat in 1978 at the age of 48, weighing 148 lbs. He was also drug free his entire life. He continued to lift long after many younger lifters had retired. He attributed it to good old clean living.

One of Robert’s biggest feats was maintaining his bodyweight at 148 lbs for over 30 years. For most lifters the 148 class is a transitional class. Many famous young lifters start at 148 lbs, gained weight, and moved on. Robert was always there to greet them. Mike Bridges once said “Robert gave a lot of lifters a reason to gain weight”.


I would go to meets with Robert. Everyone had a “Robert story”. Floyd Givens told me of a time Robert attempted a 400 lbs squat during a training session at a local Detroit YMCA. Someone deadlifting had used the squat area to put baby power on their legs. They didn’t wipe up. Robert stepped back out of the rack and did the splits with over 400 lbs on his back! He passed out and they took him to the local hospital. This was one reason he would later bark at the some of the people in our gym.

Robert and I did the two T’s. (Training & Traveling.) In powerlifting there is a lot of time off the platform. It gives you time to talk. On the way to a meet we would talk about powerlifting. On the way back we would talk about family and friends. He was slowly dying of prostate cancer. I knew it, few others did.

The last meet Robert did was shortly after he turned 80. It was also Steve Denison’s last meet as USPF director prior to starting USPA. It was at the old Los Alamitos Armory. (One of the longest running meets in the U.S.) It was the first stop on Robert’s laundry list of meets he wanted to attend, and records he wanted to set or break after turning 80. He had been creating that list for years. He weighed in around 152 lbs. His medication was making it harder to make weight. He squatted 264.6 lbs, benched 176.4 lbs, and deadlifted 380.3 lbs. for a total of 821.2 lbs. Afterwards he helped Steve’s wife and stepson load the trailer. All this took place while dealing with his long fight with cancer.

Robert while no longer able to compete, still wanted to travel. We would attend meets where I would compete, and he would ride along as my wingman. We would also drive to San Pedro to see his old friends Sam Alduenda, and Kevin & Melody Jordan. Kevin’s gym was behind their home. We laughed and enjoyed the morning. Robert had trained there in the past when it would get closer to contest time.


The last meet we attended together was the AAU Worlds in October 2013. I competed and Robert was inducted into the AAU Powerlifting Hall of Fame. Robert said a few family members might show up. His daughter Amanda laughed. I hope Martin has lots of room. After competing I went to get my metal and the room exploded with cheers. The Corte’s clan, almost 60 (if you didn’t count friends) were there. I had not, and probably will never again experience such affection from a family who many of it’s members I had never met. Floyd Givens flew out for the event from Detroit. Robert was inducted into the Hall of Fame. It was a touching moment for Robert.

I visited Robert on January 20th. in the hospital. He passed away on the 23rdth. At his service amongst a very large gathering of family were master lifters Gordon Santee, Steve Denison, Kevin and Melody Jordan, and Robert’s fellow training partners Sam Aduenda and Rudy Lozano. Sitting in the corner aisle I saw a young man from our gym. He had come to pay his respects. Robert is gone. He will be someone I’ll always remember. Once again I will try to fade away.

Robert Cortes: July 16th, 1930 – January 23rd, 2014 ( Competitive Powerlifter from 1959 – 2010 )

Written by: Raymond Cavileer, his good friend and training partner.

Power Profile: Lamar Gant

Lamar Gant is greatly reveled in the powerlifting community as one of the best lifters of all time, and he has the goods to prove it. Winning sixteen IPF world championships with World records that still stand to this day, setting his first world record at just fifteen years old and his last record eighteen years later. This powerlifting giant stood only 5ft 3in (1.60 m) and had a severe case of scoliosis (a medical condition in which a person’s spine is curved from side to side). When locked out in the deadlift the bar was just above his kneecaps, the intense load causes his spine to curve more than 100 degrees making him shorter. His spine flexes to the left and his collarbones ends up only a few inches above his belt.


“Whatever its origin, scoliosis is serious, possibly even life-threatening, and it’s progressive. In an average case, after an early period of rapidly increasing curvature, the condition worsens each year by about one degree. It’s standard medical practice to keep scoliotics under careful observation if the curvature is 20 degrees or less, to apply a brace if the scoliosis is in the 20-to 40-degree range and to operate if the curvature exceeds 40 degrees. Gant’s curvature is between 74 and 80 degrees.” -Sports Illustrated

Lamar still holds two deadlift world records to this day in the 123 and 132 pound class with 638 lbs(289kg) and 688 lbs(312kg). Despite his amazing deadlifting proportions his first world record was a 297 pounds (135kg) bench press in the 123 weight class in 1977. He became the first and only person to deadlift five times his bodyweight (besides Sajeeva Bhaskaran) and was also the first to total twelve times his bodyweight. Keep in mind these world records were done in full powerlifting meets raw to the fullest extent, in strict organizations like the IPF. When he pulled 688 he had done so after squatting 550 lbs(250kg) and bench pressing 318 lbs(144kg).


Gant’s road to powerlifting began in junior high when his gym teacher (powerlifter Randy Laur) tested him in the bench press. Only fourteen at the time Lamar benched more than the city record for the 123 pound weight-class even though he’d apparently never bench pressed before. He broke another local city record in the deadlift the same day astonishing Randy. At the time Gant was a wrestler, but once he discovered the iron it was clear wrestling was about to take the backseat.

“I did love those weights. Man, I loved them. I found a home when I found those weights. Man, I would never miss a training session. Never! I’d be shaking those weights around like some kind of bulldog. Boom! Boom! Those were some good days. I started training with Big Bill Stiff after a couple of months because he was the biggest, strongest man around. Coach Laur told him about me, and Bill asked me to work out with his weightlifting team. Big Bill! The man weighed 400 pounds!”


His training protocol called for all types of rep ranges and volume. Bill Stiff recalls Gant doing twenty-five sets of five reps in the deadlift until his hands bled. His twenty-fifth set was five reps of 585 lbs(265kg) which was higher than the world record in his weight class for one rep. Below you can see Lamar Gant’s very own deadlift routine, a lot of people say it’s very archaic based on the training principles we know today. It’s also not very clear on how many times a week to deadlift and leaves a lot of other things unmentioned.

Week Work Sets Weight (in lbs)
1 5 sets of 8 reps 350
2 5 sets of 8 reps 365
3 5 sets of 8 reps 380
4 5 sets of 8 reps 390
5 5 sets of 5 reps 410
6 5 sets of 5 reps 420
7 5 sets of 5 reps 430
8 5 sets of 5 reps 435
9 5 sets of 3 reps 460
10 5 sets of 3 reps 470
11 5 sets of 3 reps 480
12 5 sets of 3 reps 490

Note:This workout assumes you have a 500lb maximum lift. For those of different strength levels than the starting poundage specified simply increase or decrease the training weights in direct proportion. For example if your lift is 400, and a starting lift for the program is 500 multiply the training poundages by .8 (400 divided by 500); if your lift is 600 multiply the poundages specified by 1.2 (600 divided by 500).

Lamar Gant was inducted into the International Powerlifting Federation hall of fame in 1980. He will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the best overall powerlifters of all time, sharing the ranks with lifters like Ed Coan and Konstantin Konstantinovs. Retiring at age thirty-three his deadlift World records are set in stone with the runner-up for best deadlift in the 132 pound class trailing behind seventy-five pounds. Lamar Gant is a once in a lifetime phenomenon that has shown us what amazing feats the human body is capable of. Even with severe scoliosis he’s managed to deadlift 715 pounds in training. You can bend him, but you will never break him.

Lamar Gant Interview

Does Fish Oil Cause Prostate Cancer?

There’s been a lot of hullabaloo recently about a study concerning fish oil and prostate cancer. If the breathless reporting can be believed, consuming fish oil increased your chances of prostate cancer.

This could be true, but the study in question did not show that at all.


The Study In Question

This will get science-heavy. If it’s too heavy for you, just skip to the next section.

In short, this study initially looked at participants of the SELECT trial and got a sample of persons who were diagnosed with prostate cancer (n=834) and made note of how many had advanced cancer (n=156), then 1393 persons from the SELECT study who did not have prostate cancer were selected for comparison. The researchers then measured serum omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA, and their intermediate DPA) and stratified the groups into quartiles to see if there was an association.

The results showed that persons who had prostate cancer were more likely to have higher circulating omega-3 fatty acid levels (excluding ALA, which was not associated) and that omega-6 was unrelated to prostate cancer. Trans fatty acids were mostly unrelated aside from a possible positive relationship with palmitelaidic acid (16:1). When comparing the quartiles against one another (the lowest quartile being set at 1.00 as a reference), the highest levels of fish based omega-3 fatty acids (collectively) was associated with increased risk as assessed by Hazard Ratio for low (1.07-1.40), medium (1.07-1.43), and high (1.00-1.54) grade prostate cancer. While DHA had an HR showing an association with low (1.07-1.37), medium (1.06-1.38), and high (1.03-1.54) grade prostate cancer, DPA was only associated with low (1.03-1.46) and medium (1.08-1.57) while EPA was not significantly associated with an increased risk. Alpha-linolenic acid, omega-6 fatty acids, and trans fatty acids were not related.

Note: The above ranges are known as the 95% confidence interval, and show the range of values that the researchers are 95% confident that the true value lies in. So for a range of 1.03-1.54 this means a possible 3-54% increase (with a 5% margin for error), and if the interval crosses 1.00 (the zero point where lower means reduced risk) then the observation is not considered significant

When adjusting for the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, it seems that the HRs for low (0.98-1.36) and medium (0.97-1.36) grade prostate cancer became nonsignificant while there was still a significant relation with the high (1.40; 1.03-1.92) grade. The average value here, 1.40, may be where media sources are claiming a 40% increase in prostate cancer risk. The ’71%’ referenced in most publications was a direct comparison of the risk in the highest quartile against the lowest (with a confidence interval of 0-192%) with a 43% (9-88%) overall increase in risk.

Important Note: The actual association for people with high-grade prostate was in the range of 3% to 92% – this gets averaged to 40%. When comparing the highest quartile (25% of sample) to the lowest, the average risk was increased to 71% but became more variable at 0-192%.

The variables that were made note of in the analysis were education, history of diabetes, family history of prostate cancer, and SELECT intervention assignment (so, placebo or vitamin E groups). So despite the increased risk seen with vitamin E previously in SELECT it likely does not influence the results.

This study found that, when comparing the lowest 25% of subjects (assessed by how much fish oil was in their blood) against the highest 25% that the higher group had a higher frequency of prostate cancer at the time of measurement. They conducted a one-time measurement of blood lipids, and there was no supplemental intervention

What This Means

First of all, the study was a retrospective study. What that means is that it heavily surveyed a lot of people – about what they ate, their lifestyle, their diet, and so forth. The problem with such a study is that trusting people’s memories tends to be a bad idea – people’s recall of their dietary and fitness habits can be quite awful.

Thus, as this was a retrospective study, it was not an intervention with a control/placebo group and a drug group. What does this mean? Normally you want a double-blind trial – half your test group takes a placebo, and the other half takes your drug (in this case, fish oil). No one, not even the people running the test, know who is taking what. All things being the same, you then see if there were differences between the two groups. Without this kind of explicit control, it’s hard to know what caused what (cause and effect is very important). This is extremely critical as one of the recommended things to do when you have prostate cancer is to supplement with fish oil! To be fair, there are ethical considerations, so you cannot directly induce cancer either!

Most importantly, this study simply measured the amount of omega 3s in the bloodstream, not fish oil consumption itself!

The real question that this study poses is why is there higher omega 3s in people with more aggressive prostate cancer? Is it because people are supplementing with fish oil? Is it your body’s response to the cancer? Or is something else going on?

We don’t know. But to state that fish oil causes prostate cancer is about as lazy reporting as you can get (though it is equally wrong to say that fish oil does not cause prostate cancer).

Author: Sol Orwell

Sol is an author at






10 Must-Have Vegetables To Build Muscle And Strength Fast

We all know muscles aren’t built by vegging out on the couch or by spending more time in the kitchen than at the gym. Also, most people probably don’t associate vegetables with muscle building and strengthening, but it’s true. This article reviews 10 vegetables you can eat to enhance muscle growth and strength.



Not only is kale affordable, it is a low-calorie vegetable rich in calcium, roughly 101 mg in 1 cup (67 g). Calcium is an important nutrient for maintaining strong bones. But, more importantly, calcium is needed for muscles to move and for nerves to carry signals between the brain and the rest of the body.

According to the National Institutes of Health, recommended daily calcium amounts for adults 19-50 years old is 1,000 mg and can be safely consumed up to 2,500 mg. Excessive calcium intake, above the limit, may interfere with zinc and iron absorption in the body. [1]

Because calcium regulates muscle contractions and strengthens bone foundations, weight lifters consume it in high amounts to resist injury during physical exercise. [2]

Kale is a great start to get daily calcium amounts, especially since many weight lifters avoid other calcium sources like milk. This is because they are concerned that milk in calcium-beneficial amounts will pack on body fat.


Broccoli contains indoles, a phytochemical that metabolizes excess estrogen into safer forms which inhibit prostate cancer cell proliferation. Broccoli is also great for lowering cholesterol, which prevents cardiovascular disease and provides cardiovascular support.

Calcium and vitamin D are also important nutrients found in broccoli, 70 mg and 922 IU per serving (148 g), respectively. These nutrients enhance skeletal muscle strength and performance.

Four volunteers deficient in vitamin D were supplemented with vitamin D (60,000 IU/month) and 1 g elemental calcium per day. Research reveals 6 months supplementation led to enhanced muscle strength and physical performance. [3]

Mushrooms are a vegetable also high in vitamin D, so steam broccoli and throw in some mushrooms for a healthy meal that aids in healthy muscle development and contractions.


Beets are high in potassium, magnesium, fiber, and many vitamins. Beets also add the extra kick you need during weight lifting and aerobic training, due to its sugar content.

Beetroot juice, in particular, is clinically proven to boost stamina by allowing users to exercise 16% longer. [4] Beetroot juice reduces oxygen uptake “to an extent that cannot be achieved by any other known means, including training,” says one scientist.

A research team came to this conclusion by conducting a clinical study involving 12 men. Before they were put under a series of cycling tests, each man received 140 ml organic beetroot juice or a placebo for 6 days. Time-trial performance and power output improved in athletes who consumed beets. [5]


Glycogen levels become depleted during intense workouts. Carbohydrates in potatoes are excellent sources to refuel depleted glycogen storage. [6]

Not only are potatoes great energy sources, they are also excellent sources of fiber. Eating enough fiber increases satiety and keeps your waistline in check to ensure for visual muscular growth results, and not fat. [6]

Potatoes are also great sources of vitamin B6, a substance required for more than 100 enzymatic reactions. Protein and amino acid building blocks require vitamin B6 for their synthesis. Approximately 21 % of the daily value of vitamin B6 comes from 1 cup baked potato. [7]



Garlic is a great way to increase testosterone levels when supplemented with protein.

One animal study indicates 25% protein diets with .8 g/100 garlic powder increased testosterone in the testis. [8]

This is relevant because testosterone production, in turn, enhances muscular strength and size.

In one clinical study lasting 10 weeks, researchers administered testosterone injections (100mg/week) to men who weren’t able to produce hormones. The testosterone injections enhanced fat-free mass, strength, and muscle size. [9]

Though you might not be getting as much testosterone as the clinical study, any production is better than none.


Beans are great meat alternatives due to high protein content, as high as 15.2 g per cup (black beans). Eating beans supplies much-needed nutrients to repair muscles after a workout, and you won’t have to worry about high levels of saturated and trans fat that you would normally get in equal amounts of animal-based protein.

Beans are also excellent iron sources, and iron is considered “one of the most critical minerals with implications for sports performance.” Iron is a component of hemoglobin, myoglobin, and other enzymes in the muscles cells responsible for metabolizing and transporting oxygen during endurance exercises. [10]

Your muscles can grow and repair by eating beans. So eat them plain, in a salad, or throw them in some tacos.


Considered a vegetable by the USDA, avocados are excellent protein sources, roughly 3-4 g per cup, adding a variety to your protein consumption. Not only do avocados enhance muscle recovery, making your muscles bigger, but they also offer 10 g dietary fiber, increasing satiety. [11]

Avocados are also rich in phytonutrients which combat heart disease and cancers. Additionally, avocado consumption leads to a healthy heart, as it is rich in monounsaturated fats that lower blood pressure. [12]

Eat an avocado by itself post-workout to optimize muscle growth, or add it in different foods like salads or burgers for extra protein.


Cauliflowers are important due to omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to muscle growth.

In one study, 16 healthy older adults were given either omega-3 fatty acids or a placebo for 8 weeks. Researchers evaluated muscle protein synthesis before and after supplementation and discovered the group supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids experienced an increase in muscle protein synthesis. [13]

There is also 2 g dietary fiber per 100 g cauliflower, which increases satiety, combating excessive calorie and fat intake that could cover up your shredded muscle growth.

Green Peppers

Green peppers are yet another great vegetable vitamin C source that guarantees healthy muscle contraction. There is about 532 mg vitamin C per 1 ounce of green pepper.

Also, vitamin C reduces muscle soreness, damage, and function from exercise. In one clinical study, 18 men were given either 3 g/day vitamin C or a placebo 2 weeks prior and 4 days after performing 70 eccentric elbow extensions with their non-dominant arm. Both groups experienced muscle soreness, but the vitamin C group experienced significantly less. [14]

Green peppers are low in calories and can be eaten in a various ways. Mix up your plate and maybe even stuff green peppers with other vegetables for healthier, stronger muscles.

Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is another starchy vegetable to consume post-workout because of its carbohydrate content, which replenishes depleted muscle glycogen storage.

Carbohydrates serve as the body’s main energy source. Medical authorities note it is important to consume carbohydrates as soon as you finish working out because “delaying the ingestion of a carbohydrate supplement post-exercise will result in a reduced rate of muscle glycogen storage.” [15]

And, while still preliminary, animal studies are showing vitamin A is important for protein turnover, development, and growth. Being deficiency in vitamin A may cause a shift from fatty acids to protein catabolism as an energy source, resulting in muscle breakdown. [16]

Author Bio:

Mike Jackson is nutritional consultant at, as well as a freelance writer in the field of health and fitness. He specializes in physique transformation and contest preparation for all levels of competition.


[1] “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium.” National Institutes of Health. Available from:

[2] A G Szent-Gyorgyi. “Calcium Regulation of muscle contraction.” Biophysical Journal. 1975 July; 15(7): 707-723. Available from:

[3] Gupta R. et al. “Effect of cholecalciferol and calcium supplementation on muscle strength and energy metabolism in vitamin D-deficient Asian Indians: a randomized, controlled trial.” Clin Endocrinol (oxf). 2012 Oct;73(4):445-51. Doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2265.2010.03816.x. Available from:

[4] “Beetroot juice boosts stamina, new study shows.” University of Exeter. 6 August 2009. Available from:

[5] Naomi M. Cermak, Martin J. Gibala, and Luc J.C. van Loon. “Nitrate Supplementation’s Improvement of 10km Time-Trial Performance in Trained Cyclists.” Internation Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2012, 22, 64-71. Available from:

[6] “5 Health Benefits of Potatoes.” Available from:

[7] Available from:

[8] Oi Y. et al. “Garlic supplementation increases testicular testosterone and decreases plasma corticosterone in rats fed a high protein diet.”J Nutr 2001 Aug: 131(8):2150-6. Available from:

[9] Bhasin S. et al. “Testosterone replacement increases fat-free mass and muscle size in hypogonadal men.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1997 Feb;82(2):407-13. Available from:

[10] Melvin H. Williams. “Dietary Supplements and Sports Performance: Minerals.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2005, 2:43-49. Doi: doi:10.1186/1550-2783-2-1-43

[11] “Eating Avocados to Gain Muscle and Lose Weight.” April 7, 2011. Available from:

[12] PF Louis. “Ten delicious health benefits of eating more avocado.” April 14, 2013. Available from:

[13] Smith GI et al. “Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Feb;93(2):402-12. Doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.005611. Epub 2010 Dec 15. Available from:

[14] Bryer SC, Goldfarb AH. “Effect of high dose vitamin C supplementation on muscle soreness, damage, function, and oxidative stress to eccentric exercise.” Int. J. Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Jun;16(3):270-80. Available from:

[15] Ivy JL et al. “Muscle glycogen synthesis after exercise: effect of time of carbohydrate ingestion.” J. Appl. Physiol. 1988 Apr;64(4):1480-5. Available from:

[16] Esteban-Pretel G et al. “Vitamin A deficiency increases protein catabolism and induces urea cycle enzymes in rats.” J Nutr. 2010 Apr;140(4):792-8. Doi: 10.3945/jn.109.119388. Epub 2010 Feb 24. Available from:

Listening To Music Increases Athletic Performance

More often than not, substances and supplements are typically the topic of discussion when researching the effects external elements have on sports performance. One area of study that provides some opportunity to gain a competitive advantage without the help of supplements and substances is music. The advantages of music in both physically and mentally exhaustive activities are often associated with the attempt to detach the individual from what they are engaged in (Priest). However, a number of studies have indicated that music can actually enhance the physical abilities and overall focus athletes need amidst performing. In some cases, the benefits have been so great that music has been dubbed as not a fair advantage, thus it has been banned during certain athletic events (Priest).

A great example of the effects of music can be seen in the manner in which it can allow the human psyche to truly focus on the exertions they are engaged in. For instance, prior to 2007 the New York Marathon began seeing that runners with music often were able to run faster and longer when listening to certain types of music. Runners found that running to a beat helped them moved their focus away from the fatigue and pain associated with long races. As a result they could use their mind to detach from such physical pains while continuing on in their endeavors (Priest). To battle the alleged advantage New York Marathon coordinators determined that it would be best to develop a complete ban on the use of music in competition. The ban would uphold both the prevention and disqualification of any runners caught using music during competition (Priest). The tendency is not only seen in runners, but other competitive athletes as well. A number of concepts and theories facilitate in the explanation of how music technically enables performance.


The first concept that explains the positive relationship between music and general performance is known as disassociation (Priest). Disassociation is a process that in which an individual detaches themselves from a particular activity (Goldstein). As mentioned previously, runners find that focusing on the music distracts their attention from the fatigue and pains of long distance running. This detachment from the physical aspect of athletics results in the elevation of mood, suppression of negative feelings and improved motivation. Studies on gym-goers even demonstrated that those using treadmills saw their fatigue drop by 10 percent when using music as an agent of disassociation (Priest). The same application can be seen with weight lifters and strength-based athletes. A focus on music allows them to detach just enough without losing focus on their actual movements, resulting in improved lifts (Jane Ellen Smith).

Another element that allows music to improve athletic performance is its ability to regulate arousal (Priest). Loud music that has a fast beat is often used to “pump” up those who are either preparing or in the middle of physical activity. It is described as such, “Music alters emotional and physiological arousal and can therefore be used prior to competition or training as a stimulant, or as a sedative to calm “up” or anxious feelings” (Priest). This tendency has been seen in a number of independent studies that measure overall muscle duration when participants are forced to hold a certain amount of weight for long bouts. The presence of upbeat and mood elevating music tended to improve performance in such cases (Priest). Thus if an active person finds themselves unable to muster up energy, music can serve as both a pre and intra-workout source of drive.

A final element that supports the notion that music improves sports performance is its ability to facilitate the synchronization of different movements for the subject engaged in the action (Priest). This seems to be most prevalent for athletes participating in repetition-oriented activities such as cycling, rowing and swimming (Bernie Williams). Nonetheless, similar cadences may be used in power-oriented sports, where music can stimulate this benefit (Bernie Williams). The synchronization that is supported by music essentially allows athletes to be more structured and less varied in their movements, so that error or poor form is minimized. Improved synchronization then turns into bolstered productivity and efficiency so that energy is utilized in a far more efficient manner. For example, a study on bicyclists showed a 7 percent decrease in the amount of oxygen required for events, when music was used (Priest). Another great example of the feats of synchronization through music is seen through world famous runner, Haile Gebrselassie, who has set world records while listening to “Scatman”. Other runners have also reflected a more general improvement when doing their 400-m spring, clocking in at -.5 seconds less when the proper music is present (Priest). Thus this demonstrates how and why synchronization through music can improve performance and even strength, when leveraged correctly.

In conclusion it is evident that music provides a myriad of benefits when taking part in athletic activities. They range from improving focus to detachment from less pleasurable exertions. In some cases the benefit is so great that sporting organizations have even chosen to ban its use. Thus it is effectively treated like a substance to an extent. With that said, building up a good playlist of workout music is certainly advisable, if a trainer or athlete wishes to take their skills and to the next level. Perhaps a few good songs can be the difference between mediocre and great.


Bernie Williams, Dave Gluck, Bob Thompson. Rhythms of the Game: The Link Between Musical and Athletic Performance. Hal Leonard Corporation, 2012.

Goldstein, Bruce. Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Supplement. Cengage Learning, 2008.

Jane Ellen Smith, Robert J. Meyers. Motivating Substance Abusers to Enter Treatment: Working With Family Members. Guilford Press, 2007.

Priest, Costas Karageorghis and David-Lee. “Music in Sport and Exercise : An Update on Research and Application.” Brunel University (n.d.).

Train Your CNS For Optimal Strength Gains

Perhaps one of the most critical elements in a human’s nervous system development is the Central Nervous System. It is also complemented by a secondary element which is called the Peripheral Nervous System. The Central Nervous System is responsible for the reception of information generated by the nervous system as well as the coordination of information across the body’s nerves (Brodal, 2010). Now this brings forth the question of how the CNS interacts with strength training.

When strength training takes place, a certain level of fatigue will be generated. The natural response to this fatigue is generally rest. Additionally, fatigue occurs at two different levels. At the first level, fatigue is generally accepted to occur at the muscles. Next, fatigue also takes place within the CNS. The fatigue takes place due to excessive electrical pulse that it is transmitted between the CNS and muscle(s) (JM, 1997). This movement of electrical pulses between the CNS and muscles is what allows for muscular contractions to take place. The excessive use of these nerve pathways is what causes fatigue, which then translates into weakened signal transmission (JM, 1997) . So now this brings into question, what this means for the regular weightlifter.

There are a number of tell-tale symptoms associated with CNS fatigue due to weight lifting. The most easily recognizable ones include a lack of motivation, less than positive mood levels, hindered cognitive ability and a very skewed perception of how hard an individual is putting forth physical efforts in their work outs. The last symptom basically means that individuals are working much harder than they think, resulting in a delusional perception of how hard one is allegedly exerting themselves (Brodal, 2010). So if a lifter is feeling these symptoms perhaps it is your body’s way of urging you to get some more rest, take care of your nutrition and perhaps find an improved balance in both your training frequency and intensity. For example, if you find yourself training between the 3-5 repetition range for a total of 15 or more exercises at a rate of 6 times a week, it may be worth recalibrating your workout regimen. In many cases this may mean increasing intensity but reducing frequency to 3 or 4 times a week. If you do not find yourself suffering from symptoms of Central Nervous System fatigue, then just keep going with your current workout regimen. Keep in mind that being persistent beyond fatigue will most likely not give you the results you seek though.


So it is evident that a fatigued CNS needs rest, but it is also important to not under-train. This is where the challenge lies, simply finding a balance between training too much and too little. When you challenge yourself properly, you are also challenging your CNS in a healthy manner. This means that you are training your Central Nervous System in responding quicker and stronger. This is what sets apart truly strong lifters and average gym-goers (Brodal, 2010). There is a critical element involved in reaching this point, and that is avoiding the tendency to train until failure on a regular basis. This will most likely achieve CNS fatigue and do little for its development. This may involve training between the 4 and 7 rep ranges for several sets. The weight should be reasonably heavy, but not so heavy that portions of your effort are being transferred to ligaments and joints. If you are not sure of what the right weight is for your exercises, try starting low and spend a few weeks progressing to your tipping point in terms of weigh (Capadia, n.d.).

Now there are some schools of thought that advise an even lower rep range to achieve true CNS and strength development. For instance, Tudor Bompa encourages lifters to stay within the 1 to 3 rep range with weight loads being greater than 90 percent of an individual’s max (Bompa, 2002). This same concept also pushes for 6 minute rests, and claims that it optimizes the utilization of the CNS system (Bompa, 2002). However, this particular philosophy is aimed at athletes who wish to get stronger without putting on size, thus this is something to consider before taking up the option. Regardless of what your goals are, it is also a good idea to experiment with one of the aforementioned repetition schemes. Since everyone is different, their bodies will respond differently to the myriad of lifting frameworks that are out there. For instance, there are some popular lifting systems that call for only heavy lifting and low frequency, as seen with Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program. Yet at the same time, very successful natural bodybuilders such as Layne Norton are notorious for lifting between 5 and 6 days a week, while implementing both low and high rep days. Both programs have proven to be useful to a variety of people. Thus once again, it proves that different programs work for different people. So experimentation is necessary to determine what your optimal CNS stimulation is. Once this is discovered, growth in size and/or strength can certainly follow.


Bompa, T., 2002. Serious Strength Training. s.l.:Human Kinetics Publishers.

Brodal, P., 2010. The Central Nervous System, Fourth Edition. s.l.:Oxford University Press.

Capadia, K., n.d. K11 Personal Trainer Manual. s.l.:K11 Fitness Academy.

JM, D., 1997. Possible mechanisms of central nervous system fatigue during exercise.. Department of Exercise Science, School of Public Health, 1(29), pp. 45-57.