weightlifting

Is HMB about to be the biggest supplement you’ve never heard of?

A new study published this week in the European Journal of Applied Physiology has pointed to HMB as being hugely beneficial in lean muscle growth, with subjects putting on upwards of 5kg of lean muscle over a 12 week period. This was placed alongside a placebo group, whose respective gains were minimal.

HMB, or beta-Hydroxy beta-methylbutyric acid (try saying that three times fast), is a component of leucine, an amino acid frequently encountered in another popular supplement, BCAAs. Whilst the human body synthesises a small amount, studies have previously shown a beneficial effect with regards to muscle gain and in maintenance of muscle tissue too if taken in higher doses.

However, none have laid such wild claims as the latest study. All participants were initially tested for their one-rep maxes on various lifts, as well as their peak power output. Body composition was also measured. All participants were men, who had previously trained with weights.

Over the following 12 weeks a resistance training programme was set up, basically involving 3 workouts per week, and one group was supplemented with 3g of HMB per day (taken at 3 intervals), whilst the placebo group went without.

After the 12 week programme, participants were again assessed. Their lifts had shot up by about 18%, whilst the placebo group saw increases of only 6%. They lost body fat and increased muscle mass. In addition, their level of ‘perceived recovery’ (a subjective measure of feeling recovered from the workout) was much better than the placebo group.

So, should we all be rushing out to buy HMB immediately? Probably not. This is an initial study, and these findings should be treated as such. It needs to be applied on a much larger scale. This is most obvious in the number of subjects used – 24 people. This is an incredibly small sample size and thus even minor errors are going to be magnified, making this study difficult to generalise to the wider athletic community.

Perhaps even more worrying is the little sentence under the Conflict of Interest area of the study. It’s funding comes from Metabolic Technologies Inc. – a supplier of HMB supplements. And three of the contributors to the study are on the payroll for MTI.

Without further evidence, it is difficult to recommend HMB from this study alone. It's cheap though, so try it for yourself.

Without further evidence, it is difficult to recommend HMB from this study alone. It's cheap though, so try it for yourself.

This has not been the first time the benefits of HMB have been potentially exaggerated. Many of the initial studies on its benefits were performed by Steve Nissen – the very same guy who initially discovered HMB and patented it. Many studies that have been performed from more, shall we say, objective sources have found minor benefits from HMB but nothing to write home about.

Where does this leave us then? A great resource for sifting through the truths and the exaggerated truths of HMB is Examine, who have a clear and concise page on HMB. As always though it often comes down to the simple question: does it work for you? HMB is a relatively cheap supplement and giving it an initial go will cost you a few bucks. Not all manufacturers list theirs as vegan, but there are some out there. Perhaps it's worth giving it a try.

What is butt wink and how to stop it

Butt wink

What is butt wink then? I imagine the images it conjures up in your mind aren't particularly pleasant. Before I learnt about what butt wink actually is, if someone had come up to me in a gym saying I had a 'butt wink' problem I would have assumed they were politely trying to tell me I'd soiled myself.

Luckily, butt wink ain't that. Instead, butt wink is a flaw in your squat movement. It's the point where you squat low enough that your butt then proceeds to roll under your hips. If I was being picky then I'd describe it as more of a butt nod, or perhaps a butt tip-of-the-hat, as there's not really a wink to be seen. But hey, butt wink is what it's been termed so butt wink is what we shall stick with.

This all comes down to flexibility. Yeah, that thing that you never want to do at the gym because, well, weights. Sadly, flexibility and injury prevention exercises go very overlooked, and the result can be quite detrimental. Speak to anyone who's ever torn a rotator cuff from total neglect of strengthening it up for injury prevention purposes, and they will beg you to do some work to correct imbalances and issues in your body.

What causes butt wink?

The chief cause of butt wink is nice and simple to understand, thankfully. It all comes down to hamstrings. Yep, hamstrings again. They crop up time and time again when it comes to flexibility, and can affect any lower body exercise going, from deadlifts and squats, to running and cycling. There's no reason not to be giving your hamstrings some love here and there, as it will benefit you in so many ways.

Most hamstring issues are caused by sitting for prolonged periods of time. We tend to sit back into a chair, with our knees bent, meaning our hamstrings can happily relax and, over time, get shorter.

Should I really worry about butt wink?

Yes and no. It's a minor issue initially, and won't cause you a lot of grief, until you start getting serious about your squats. As you work up and up the weights, there's going to come a point when your back is going to suffer if you don't remedy your winky butt. It's better to start now, and avoid getting into trouble at a later point.

How to prevent butt wink

This is nice and simple, thankfully. It's good ol' stretches. As mentioned, sitting all day causes our hamstrings to shorten, and that in turn causes butt wink. Everyone's done that simple stretch where you stand up, and bend down to touch your toes, right? Well, that's the trick, except make sure you're doing it right.

The left shot is a typically static hamstring stretch done wrong. I'm folding forward, with little effort to keep the top of the hamstring (the butt) in a stable position. On the right, the butt goes out first to ensure tension at the top of the hamstring is maximised.

The left shot is a typically static hamstring stretch done wrong. I'm folding forward, with little effort to keep the top of the hamstring (the butt) in a stable position. On the right, the butt goes out first to ensure tension at the top of the hamstring is maximised.

To do it correctly you need to ensure you're starting by standing up tall. Instead of folding forward and touching your toes, focus on pushing your butt out. As you do so, allow your upper body to shift forward, maintaining a straight back. This ensures you're in an anterior pelvic tilt position. I can almost guarantee that you won't get nearly as far down into the stretch as you normally do before your hamstrings give in. This goes to demonstrate just how short they are. Holding this static stretch for approximately 30 seconds at a time will see you going gradually lower over several weeks into the position. Resist any temptation to cheat, and keep your back straight, but most importantly, keep your butt out - this is what will lengthen the hamstring. Keep practicing, and soon you can say goodbye to the butt wink.

Hamstring stretch video