Archive for Strength Research

Strength Research – Fenugreek

Strength Research – Weekly Update


Over the next few weeks, I’m going to experiment with writing about interesting strength-related studies I’ve found online. I will try to summarize them the best that I can, but please remember that before taking action on any of these findings, it’s important that you do supplementary research yourself and ask your doctor their thoughts regarding the safety and efficacy of the subject matter I’m discussing. I’m neither doctor nor scientist, but I love learning new things and sharing what I find with others. What you do with this information is on you — Mr. & Mrs. Readers!

FENUGREEK (Fenugreek supplementation appears that it may have the ability to improve strength) Two such studies supporting this are listed below:

1. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010, 7:34 — “The effects of a commercially available botanical supplement on strength, body composition, power output, and hormonal profiles in resistance-trained males by: C. Poole, B. Bushey, C. Foster, B. Campbell, D. Willoughby, R. Kreider, L. Taylor, C. Wilber –

That’s a long freaking experiment title with a long list of authors, but it’s interesting nonetheless. It effectively concludes that 500mg of the Fenugreek extract used in the study had a significant impact on upper- and lower- body strength, and improved body composition when compared to the placebo group. One of the strength metrics considered for comparison was the leg press one rep max (1RM). Fenugreek supplementation does show an impressive improvement in leg press 1RM vs. placebo (84.6 kg vs. 48 kg) but it’s important to note that these figures were provided with a +/-…The +/- range is large enough that the fenugreek and the placebo group do have some instances of overlap (i.e., the strength gains were the same or worse than the placebo group in some instances). With this in mind, this still appears to be a very impressive gap in average strength gains (fenugreek vs. not using fenugreek). (Note: This is my summary — do your own research too!)

2. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine — “Effects of Combined Creatine Plus Fenugreek Extract vs. Creatine Plus Carbohydrate Supplementation on Resistance Training Adaptations by: L. Taylor, C. Poole, E. Pena, M. Lewing, R. Kreider, C. Foster, C. Wilborn

Hey I remember some of those names! Looks like some folks from the first study just couldn’t get enough fenugreek! The other’uns are over it! This study seems pretty interesting too. It compares creatine plus dextrose vs. creatine plus fenugreek supplementation for weight resistance trained individuals. It basically shows that both supplementation methods improve strength gain, but from what I can see, the dextrose is slightly more effective. The study shows creatine can be pretty badass in improving strength gains, and that can be improved even more if you take it with small amounts of dextrose. Fenugreek works too, but just not quite as well — this I suppose could be important for those on a low carb diet, etc. (Note: This is my summary — do your own research too!)

I also did some additional research on the side effects of Fenugreek on WebMD, which you should definitely check out before taking it!

During this research I found other interesting things about the plant:
1. Fenugreek is going to make you smell like maple syrup…probably…The smell usually shows up in your urine or your armpits!
2. Fenugreek is used a flavoring agent in imitation maple syrup, some drinks and foods, and some TOBACCO!
3. Fenugreek grows predominantly in the Middle East and India. Another name for the plant is Greek Hay

Want to buy some? Amazon sells it, and it’s actually pretty cheap — but remember, do your own research and check with your doctor before you put anything into your system! I’m a dude who runs a blog, and likes finding out cool stuff from doing research…I’m not a doctor or a scientist.

ACL Surgery and Long Term Strength Results

Brian Dick

To start, I’ve had two ACL surgeries in the past 10 years — one on each leg (I also had a partial meniscus removal from my left leg in 2007). My first surgery was in 2002 (left leg – football) and the most recent was in 2012 (right leg – Brazilian Jiu Jitsu). Both surgeries were hamstring reconstruction surgeries, where one of my hamstring tendons was removed and used as the new ACL graft. This type of surgery is in contrast to the patella tendon graft, or cadaver graft reconstruction. I had two separate surgeons, both of which had performed hundreds (if not thousands) of ACL surgeries prior to mine, mostly on athletes.

My biggest fear before and after both surgeries was long term knee stability and leg strength. Following my left ACL surgery in 2002, I performed the prescribed therapy and was released after about 6 months of therapy. They tested my ACL stability with a KT-1000 measuring device, and cleared me for all future activity. However, after a number of years I could tell that I continued to favor, or “protect” my knee in cutting activities and strength exercises. My leg strength returned to baseline, but I noticed my mass of my left leg did not return to the same size. There was also a small divot in my hamstring muscle (I’m assuming where the graft was taken. I must note, however, that my left leg is my non-dominant leg, so a large portion of this size and strength difference could be marked up to that. One thing that did bother me was that if my left leg remained completely extended for a period of 5+ minutes it would undoubtedly lock, and it would require me to open my hips to that side and then flex downward to bend it. It would release, but it gave me a weird feeling and sometimes made a hollow popping sound.

Then in 2012 I tore my right ACL in half guard lock down (for those of you in the know.) When I tore my ACL this time, I also had my left leg re-MRI’d on account of the weird locking sensation that I was experiencing. The ACL graft in that leg was immediately found to be loose with additional (slight) meniscus damage. The graft had evidently stretched out over the course of the past 10 years. The stretching, while concerning to my doctor, did not according to him warrant an additional surgery if my knee was not buckling. I was frustrated to find that it had loosened, but was relieved to find that I would be able to perform therapy on both knees following my right knee surgery. This was intended to strength the muscles around my loose graft to eliminate potential re-tearing.

Following my right ACL reconstruction, I had a similar amount of atrophy that I had following my first surgery. I did find that I was recovering much more quickly though. My right leg being my dominant leg, I feel contributed to my quickly returning strength and athleticism. A small divot in my right hamstring appeared just the same as it did on my left. One interesting thing to note: my therapist after the first surgery allowed me to perform hamstring strengthening exercises immediately following surgery. My second therapist, however, did not allow me to engage my hamstring for 8 weeks (or the proposed healing time needed for the hamstring tendon harvest location.) This was infuriating, but looking back, I think this has helped my hamstring strength to recover more fully and quickly than it did after my first surgery. Another key difference between the two recoveries, was that I had a full-scale metal brace to use during my first therapy term, but nothing my second. While this was scary getting used to balancing and working out without a brace, I again feel that this encouraged a faster and fuller recovery overall. Not having a brace forced me to not subconsciously try to “protect” my knee during and after rehab. I was forced to move naturally and symmetrically. This allowed me to more fully recover strength and symmetry over the long haul. Over time (16-18 months) I was able to return to the same squat amounts that I was performing pre-surgery (4-6 reps @ 365lbs).

Now that I am fully recovered from the two surgeries, I would like to present a few tips and tricks that helped me (and continue to help) build a strong and secure knee:

  1. Hamstrings, Hamstrings, Hamstrings – Whenever I perform hamstring strengthening exercises, my entire knee feels far more stable, and I feel like I can make more athletic movements as this muscle increases in strength. Standard hamstring curls and manual “razors” are my favorites. Razors are when you kneel on the ground with a partner holding your feet to the floor. With your partner pressing down firmly you lower you chest to the floor as slowly as your muscles will allow. Return to the starting position and repeat for a set of 8-10.
  2. Single Leg Squats – Prior to my surgeries I never performed single leg squats, but I wish I did. This is a great way to recognize strength asymmetries. It is critical however to perform these with good form — i.e., sitting back as though you are sitting into a chair and without the knee buckling in towards the center. It is extremely difficult to perform many of these when your first start — but please don’t push it past the point of using bad form. For the more advanced perform these movements on a BOSU ball
  3. Two Handed Kettlebell Swings – During my post-op recovery I happened to read the “Four Hour Body” where Tim Ferriss speaks highly of using kettlebells and the two handed swing in particular. In a fit of post-op boredom, I bought a 45lb kettlebell on Amazon, and waited until I was healthy enough to give it a try. As soon as I was, I quickly fell in love with the simple, but effective movement. It helps to build my core, and more importantly for me, the athletic coordination and explosivity between my hips and knees. I always feel better after performing the exercise and feel more functionally strong and coordinated.

Interesting Research: Hydration’s Effects on Functional Strength

Brian Dick

Dehydration Results in Decreased Functional Strength

As many know, being dehydrated has profound effects on one’s functional strength levels.

Hydration and Strength

Drink Up to Stay Strong

What many people may not know, however, is how little dehydration is needed to begin experiencing negative impacts on performance. For instance, one research study has shown that even a small amount of dehydration (i.e., a drop of 1.5% of body mass in water weight) begins showing adverse effects on your one rep bench max (1RM).  For a summary of this research please refer to this study’s abstract which can be found in the Feb 2001 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.)

Other tests have also shown the negative impacts of dehydration:

How to test your hydration levels:

    • Check your urine based on this color spectrum scale – be aware that different food and medical conditions can have a dramatic effect on color
    • Check your urine’s specific gravity using this tool – Phinex 10 Parameter (10SG) Urinalysis Reagent Test Strips, 100 Strips/Bottle
    • Or find your Euhydration Level, or normal state of hydration, and keep tabs on your short term decreases in weight, as these drops are most likely caused by dehydration.