The fastest path to getting cut is being on the cutting edge of research. After all, we all want to gain the most muscle in the least amount of time and log more miles with less effort, right? These five studies, released over the past month or two, will help you sweat smarter—and still make serious gains in the gym.
CrossFitters, Stop Skipping Recovery
Your WODs sometimes need to be WEODs—"workout every other day's." A new study in Frontiers in Physiology looked at seasoned CrossFitters who took on two consecutive days of high-intensity workouts for time—a typical 48 hours, in other words. The findings: Participants had reduced levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines, proteins produced by white blood cells that help dampen inflammation. That means the back-to-back workouts were actually suppressing normal immune function. Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you scale back to every other day all the time. But the researchers do suggest CrossFitters take a rest day after two consecutive WODs, especially if they’re just getting over being sick.
The Supplement to Improve Your Workout
Loading up on a pre-workout supplement may help you hit an anaerobic workout harder, says a small study in Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. In comparison to fellas who took a placebo, guys who popped a caffeine-containing pre-workout pill 20 minutes before sweating hit higher anaerobic peak power—the total amount of work your body does—on moves like medicine ball puts, vertical jumps, one-rep max bench presses, and sprints. Opt for a pre-workout with caffeine, BCAAs, creatine, beta-alanine, arginine, and B vitamins.
A Better Way to Cycle in the Heat
Riding mid-day at the height of heat compromises not just your physical endurance, but also your mental tenacity. The secret to becoming re-energized? A little cheerleading, according to a study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Cyclists who employed motivational self-talk during grueling rides in the heat improved their cycling speed and endurance, as well as their cognitive accuracy (navigating around cars or calculating detours, for example). Trade out the “If only I were fitter” and “I’m so tired”s for optimistic (but realistic) alternatives—”Every ride I conquer, my lungs and body will burn a little less next time.”
Beef Up Your Bicep Curl
What’s the real difference between a full and half-way bicep curl? Since the latter is just partial range of motion, you can heave a heavier weight—which may lead you to believe half-way curls will land you ripped, faster. But a recent study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that when bicep curls are performed with a full range of motion, it actually induces greater muscle damage than the limited range of motion—even at a lighter load. That means lightening up on the lbs in order to bring that dumbbell all the way up to your shoulder and back down may actually help you become stronger.
Reach for Weights Half the Size
Big muscles don't necessarily come from big weights, says a new study in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Regular gym-goers who lifted lighter weights—about half their max strength—saw just as much muscle gain after 12 weeks as guys who stuck with heavier weights—around 90 percent max. How does that work? Both groups were instructed to lift to fatigue, so even though the lighter guys averaged 20 to 25 reps and the heavier guys made it to eight to 12, they were both maximally activating their muscle fibers to generate force. So if you want to take a break from the unwieldy weights or only have access to 10 lbs for a few weeks, up your reps and you won’t compromise any gains, per this research.