Once you reach a certain level of expertise in training with weights, and some decent results like more muscle, greater strength, or reduced body fat, chances are you will want to know how to progress, and what techniques will make you even more successful. Here are tips to get you going.
Intensity Boosters Advanced Training Principles TipsCycle Training
Devote portions of your training year to specific goals for strength, mass or getting cut. This can help decrease your risk of injury and add variety to your routine. Cycle periods of high intensity and low intensity to allow for recovery and spur new gains.
Incorporate a diverse selection of variables, such as set, rep and exercise schemes, into your workout. Bodypart routines should utilize both mass-building multijoint moves and single-joint exercises.
Experiment to develop an instinct as to what works best for you. Use your training results along with past experiences to constantly fine-tune your program. Go by feel in the gym: If your biceps just don't feel like they've recovered from the last workout, do another bodypart that day instead.
Constantly change variables in your workout number of sets, number of reps, exercise choice, order of exercises, length of your rest periods to avoid getting in a rut and slowing growth.
The Weider Principles
Build the perfect routine - or make any workout better with these tried-and-true training principles, collected by the Master Blaster himself, Joe Weider.
Don't allow a given muscle to rest at the top or bottom of a movement. Control both the positive and negative portions of a rep and avoid momentum to maintain constant tension throughout the entire range of motion.
Train one bodypart with multiple exercises (3-4) before you train another. The "flushing"is your body sending a maximum amount of blood and muscle-building nutrients to that area to best stimulate growth.
Use numerous training techniques (low and high reps, faster and slower speeds, and alternate exercises) to stimulate maximum muscle fibers. Don't always approach exercises with the same 6-10-repetition sets; try lightening the load and going for 20 reps in some training sessions to build endurancerelated muscle fibers.
This is a technique designed to work individual muscles without involving adjacent muscles or muscle groups. A pressdown for triceps (rather than a close-grip bench press) is an example of an isolation movement.
Between sets (or even between workouts), flex and hold various muscles for 6-10 seconds, keeping them fully contracted before releasing. Competitive bodybuilders use this technique to enhance their posing ability through increased muscle control.
Hit your weakest bodypart first in a workout or bodypart split, when you can train with more weight and intensity because your energy level is higher.
Squeeze your contracted muscle isometrically at the endpoint of a rep to intensify effort. Hold the weight in the fully contracted position for up to two seconds at the top of an exercise.
To continue making gains, your muscles need to work harder in a progressive manner from one workout to the next. During most of your training cycle, try to increase your weights each session, do more reps or sets, or decrease your rest periods between sets.
1. Set reasonable goals. This may seem obvious, but not to everyone. Chances are you will make good progress as a beginner if you work hard, but as you progress, it sometimes seems the harder you work, the fewer the gains -- and that is most likely true. The number one rule of progression to more advanced levels is that small gains are the norm, and that persistence over time can accumulate these small gains into something substantial.
Make a note of your progress so that you know exactly what your progression rate is, whether strength, muscle, or body fat.
2. Improve your diet and nutrition. If you can find improvement in your diet, do it now. Reduce the extra fat and refined carbohydrates and the fatty pastries, refined sugars, colas, biscuits, cakes, sweets and junk foods. Try to eat fresh food and keep packaged and processed food to a minimum. Eat clean.
The Weight Trainer's Bodybuilding Diet provides you with all the information you need.
3. Lift long and hard. To put on muscle and lose fat you need to overload the muscles to promote muscle growth, and to expend sufficient energy to contribute to fat loss. This means exercising all muscle groups at least twice each week and preferably three times a week. See the Basic Muscle program for an example.
As you progress, try to fit in another session, making it 3 or 4 sessions each week if you feel your constitution can take the extra training. You should be exercising to failure or thereabouts, at 12 repetitions for 3 sets for the set number of exercises in the program. You may need to adjust the weight load upward to account for strength gains.
4. Lift heavy and short. If you want to get strong, you need to train somewhat differently to that which optimizes muscle. Strength means training the neuromuscular system, which is different to the hypertrophy of muscle tissue for big muscle gains. There are, of course, cross benefits with either type of training.
For strength, use programs similar to 5 sets of 5 repetitions with heavy weights and plenty of rest between sets, and even between lifts if you need it. You could even swap the training protocols between muscle and strength on alternate months.
5. Lift light and long. If you think muscle endurance is for you, you should keep the load light to moderate and push the repetitions up over 20 or more. Don't make it too light, though, or it will be a waste of time. This type of training is good for upper body strength endurance. CrossFit style hang-clean-press and thrusters work well here.
6. Time your refueling. Meal timing according to exercise intensity and workout duration is a crucial aspects of any exercise regimen, and weight training is no exception.
Take some sports drink with carbohydrate if you exercise for more than an hour at moderate to high intensity. Protein is not necessary at this time.
Within 30 minutes after a solid workout, eat or drink at least 20 grams of protein with at least the same amount of carbohydrate and more if the workout has been of long duration and high in intensity and includes cardio. Resume normal meals.
Don't skimp on carbohydrate if you train hard for 4 or more days each week. You need it to protect your muscle protein from breakdown and to replace glycogen stores.
7. Cycle your workouts. Every 6 weeks take an easy week where you do about half your normal training, or full training at half the intensity. This provides a 'window' in which the body can replenish itself and build even stronger. The principle of weight training and muscle and strength building is progressive overload, muscle damage, repair, neuromuscular tuning, and new growth. Give this process a chance to occur.
8. Include cardio. Aerobic exercise is good for your health, burns calories and fat and can even assist in muscle growth. Keep it to less than 45 minutes a session at low to moderate intensity and it won't cause a problem for muscle growth, sometimes know as the 'interference effect'. In fact, a good cardio session can help exhaust the muscles of glycogen (glucose) and give you an even greater anabolic 'rush' when insulin, a muscle building hormone, is called upon to rebuild tissue with new growth factors, protein and glucose. See When to Do Cardio: Before or After Weights.
9. Change intensity. The body responds to variation in intensity and volume. If weight loss is your goal, try an advanced bootcamp program. If muscle building and fitness is your goal and you're a bit stale, then switch from 3 sets of 12 reps to 4 sets of eight reps, or try supersets, pyramids or drop sets where you alter the weights and reps up or down for each set. See Weight Training 101 for all options.
10. Rest, relax, sleep and don't overtrain. Stress hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol can play havoc with muscle development and fat loss. Being stressed produces a catabolic or 'breaking down' internal body environment which leads to muscle degradation, in some cases fat accumulation, immune system dysfunction and susceptibility to infection. Overtraining can create a similar internal environment. Rest and grow strong.
I have read many training books, spent a couple years studying the subject, listened to numerous expert coach and athlete speakers and interviews. Most importantly I have applied countless hours to training others and myself.
My goal with this project of recurring exercise tips and readings is to attempt to explain and introduce training concepts that I feel help me understand and digest training theorem with respect to running (and other endurance sports).
Do not take the contents of this project as gospel. I strongly believe in a grain of salt approach. This means that you keep your core competencies close and when a new idea is introduced you use logic to sift though the material and apply it to your foundation of knowledge.
Dose response is a term used in many fields. In exercise science, it can explain a stimulus (or stress) and the effect (magnitude) of its response (adaptations) on the specimen (trainee). A couple very debated dose response relationships in running are:
Volume or Mileage
Resistance Training or Complimentary Training Interactions
In this example, more is almost always better. But there are diminishing returns. Eventually an athlete will find his or her reasonable limit. This can be stimulated with long term progression.
Diminishing returns states that more is almost always better. But at some point it can be counterproductive because the potential gain is minimal at an increased risk of injury caused by overstress.
Stand alone, resistance training can also be applied to this concept. However when combined with endurance training, there can be interactions (notably enzymatic activity that up regulate adaptations). Depending on the specifics of the resistance program (hypertrophic, circuit-endurance, power) These all interact with running in various ways. Order of exercise is important in the series of events that lead to positive adaptations. Here are a few recommendations to maximize resistance training synergy:
Do your primary exercise first; complimentary exercise following. For example: Run 60 minutes; weights after or later.
Keep your resistance training session 45 minutes or shorter 10-12 exercises.
Limit resistance training to 2-3 days per week. This is the best dose response (bang for buck) without risk of negative interactions
Try to include compound full body dynamic running specific or core activities. Here under ‘resources‘ they have some great exercises to try. Note: these are the guys that treat and design strength and conditioning programs for the Nike Oregon Project.
The enzymatic mechanisms responsible for the “biological signal” that will initiate adaptations can interact and interfere with different stimuli. This principle is why you cannot be a body builder and an elite endurance athlete. Endurance adaptations will always take precedence over strength and power. Strength will take precedence over power. This is always why strict body building principles will advocate against combining cardiovascular exercise during intense blocks of hypertrophy stimuli. This paradigm also represents the drop off in fitness for the above factors. Neglect power for too long and you lose it quick.
It is easier the maintain fitness than to regain it back. Studies have shown that it can take twice as long to gain fitness back after a lay-off than to simply maintain. Retaining intensity is the key. In cases where you are taking time off. Maintain minimum frequency. For a detailed article on maintenance and the science of a taper
How to Maintain fitness?
Retain Frequency (days/week)
Reduce Volume in taper by 40-60%
Take Away Points:
All training variables have a dose response.
Decide what dose best fits your lifestyle (2 days vs 3 days resistance training)
Extremism is usually less adequate for maximal gains than synergy with respect to intensity and volume
Its easier to maintain fitness than to regain it back. Hence why cross training is important during injury.
Incorporate a range of lighter to heavier weights for each exercise. Start light with higher reps (12-15) to warm up the muscle, then gradually increase the weight in each successive set while lowering your reps (6-8). You could also reverse the procedure moving from high weight and low reps to low weight and high reps, aka a reverse pyramid.
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Strength Training Session
The two factors the determine your strength gains are the intensity of the exercise performed and allowing an appropriate rest and recovery period after the workout. For this reason, most strength workouts are build around the concept of short, high intensity weight workouts followed by one to two days of rest to let the muscles rebuild and become stronger.
Research shows that muscles continue to build fibers and become stronger for up to a week after a workout that is performed to muscle failure. This underscores the importance of alternating a high training intensity with adequate rest periods in order to build muscle.
There is a lot of discussion about how many sets of an exercise to do. The bottom line is if you can do one set to exhaustion, that is probably enough. The reason many people need to do multiple sets is that they didn't perform the first one at maximum intensity.
There are other reasons to perform multiple sets and the biggest one is safety. Performing one set of maximum effort can increase your risk of injury f you haven't thoroughly warmed up or if you don't use perfect lifting technique. Sometimes it's smart to use a set to make sure you don't over-lift (lift more than you are capable of lifting in a safe manner).
If you are experienced and skilled at weight lifting, go ahead and perform the first set at max effort and work to failure.
Research backs up the idea that one set training produces the same strength gains as multiple sets and it does this in less time.
Repetitions Performed per Set
There are a lot of different recommendations regarding how many reps to perform during weight training. How many you should do depend on your training goals and current level of fitness. Keep in mind that strength training promotes increases in both functional strength (how much you can lift) and muscle hypertrophy (how big your muscles grow).
Higher repetition during weight lifting sessions stimulate the slow twitch muscle fibers and promote muscle endurance. Lower repetitions during weight training (at a higher intensity) activate the fast twitch muscle fibers and increase strength and muscle size. One simple way to get the best of both of these training methods is to vary your training repetitions. Because both are important for overall athletic conditioning, and many strength training experts will recommend varying the number of repetitions through a 8-10 week training cycle. Keep in mind that performing high intensity lifts is still necessary even if you are performing 50 repetitions. The weight must be heavy enough that you reach fatigue at the last repetition in order to promote functional muscle growth.