Longing for the good old days when every workout felt fresh, challenging, and left a welcomed soreness for the next few days? It’s easy to get stuck in a exercise routine that's, well, simply a routine. While going through the motions of a "ho hum" workout may be better than no workout at all, this uninspired approach won't likely lead to significant improvements either. From supersets to adding instability, read on for 13 scientifically-backed ways to get the most out of your gym time.
Quick Qualities Booster Intensity Techniques TipsYour Action Plan
Exercise programs need to be modified regularly in order to see and feel continual results, but it can be difficult to adopt and stick with a new exercise routine. The solution: A proactive plan of action that injects new life into a boring workout routine and provides motivation to do more than simply "get to the gym." Here are 13 techniques that can help anyone break through a fitness plateau and find satisfaction in a challenging new exercise regimen.
1. Watch the clock. Workouts often suffer from too much time spent chit-chatting and too many trips to the water fountain. Research shows short, intense workouts offer the best results, so grab a stopwatch and use it to tell you when it's time to work and time to rest. Also remember to pack your water bottle so that you can stay hydrated with zero travel time. For a killer workout pace, try allowing just 60 seconds of rest between each set to add a cardiovascular element to the workout. This increases fat-burning while packing on lean muscle.
2. Superset strength and cardio. People often think of strength training and cardio exercise as two separate beasts, but this doesn't have to be the case. Adding a cardio interval such as jumping rope, or 20-second sprints will rev the metabolism while still allowing for added strength.
3. Strike a pose. Maybe this isn’t exactly what Madonna was singing about, but striking a strength training pose may be the remedy for a stagnant workout routine. Contracting a muscle and holding it in a flexed position (aka isometric exercise or static holds) provide strength and endurance benefits that can’t be achieved through traditional isotonic exercises (i.e. lifts that are in constant motion). Test it out with a stability ball wall squat that will engage the thighs and glutes. Start with a goal of 30-seconds and work towards holding this static position for longer periods of time as strength and muscular endurance improve.
4. Skip the machines. While exercise machines do make resistance training user-friendly, they simply do not get the job done like free-weight exercises. Lifting with free weights will incorporate more stabilizing muscles and therefore burn more calories than their weight machine counterparts. The same can be said for bodyweight exercises, which can be more effective for core strengthening and calorie-burning than workouts done on machines.
5. Add instability. A good workout doesn't need to look like a performance from Cirque du Soleil, but a little balancing act might go a long way. Exercises that require balance stimulate more muscle recruitment, specifically core muscles, than the same exercise done in a stable position. This is rather intuitive: Is a squat standing on the floor as challenging as one standing on a wobble board? Of course not. The good news is most stable exercises can easily be geared up by adding a BOSU or stability ball (just be sure proper form is never compromised).
6. Train one side at a time. Can’t help but favor your dominant side? Using exercises that force each arm or leg to work independently will help balance muscular development and equalize strength. A pistol squat or single-arm push-up are great examples that also strengthen the core. Work towards performing sets of 10 reps per side for each exercise.
7. Get explosive. Old school bodybuilders fed their muscles a diet of slow, heavy lifts to build bulk and strength. Now research shows explosive movements such as box jumps, kettlebell swings, and plyometric push-ups can achieve a greater response from something called fast-twitch muscles (the ones used during quick, powerful movements). Bonus: Fast-twitch fibers have greater potential for growth when compared to slow-twitch fibers.
8. Add resistance. Get ready for some pretty heavy stuff: A recent study showed that exercisers who lifted a heavy weight for just 8 reps burned double the calories of those lifting lighter weights for 15 reps. Try implementing this rule of thumb: Keep adding weight (in small 2-5 lb increments) to an exercise until achieving 3 sets of 10 reps becomes very challenging (as in almost impossible to squeeze out the final rep!). Practice with that weight until 10 reps becomes too doable and then add a few more pounds of resistance.
9. Complete the circuit. Quickly moving from one exercise right into the next is a great way to create a time-efficient, cardio-focused workout . When setting up a circuit, just be sure to slot exercises that target different muscle groups back-to-back to avoid burnout. For example, perform squats before a chest press, and then a deadlift followed by a plank. This gives each muscle group enough time to recover while the next body part is targeted.
10. Aim for failure. Failure occurs when a muscle is so spent it can’t complete one more repetition of an exercise (while maintaining proper form). Read: The muscles actually fail to contract any more. Good news is, the struggle is well worth the effort. Research suggests training to failure can increase strength and improve the body's ability to build lean muscle. One way to reach failure is through super-slow movements using relatively light resistance. Slowing down the tempo of each rep causes greater muscle contractions and has been shown to increase strength gains. Think about taking 10 seconds to complete a single push-up for 10 seconds. (Beginners: Be sure to try this one with a trainer first to ensure proper safety!)
11. Write it down. Remembering every exercise performed, every repetition accomplished, and every weight selected during a previous workout is nearly impossible. Without a record of past workouts it’s also difficult to see measureable progress. Using a workout journal or fitness app provides motivation to rock every workout. "Do more, or do it better" becomes an achievable goal.
12. Find a partner. People who have an exercise partner are more likely to get active and stay active than those doing it on their own. Finding a workout buddy instantly increases the accountability factor and provides increased motivation to work harder during an exercise session. Plus, exercising with others is a lot more fun!
13. Make it social. Not sure the world really needs to hear the details of your exercise goals or weight-loss targets? Apparently it does! Research shows that social support gained through vocalizing health and fitness goals increases the likelihood of those goals being achieved. So make a few goals public with friends, family, or anyone else who will listen, and then get it done! Posting specific goals on social media outlets enlists hundreds, if not thousands, of instant accountability partners. Try slacking in a workout when the "Twittersphere" is waiting to hear the results!
- Ready to ramp things up? Just remember not all techniques will work overnight, and some might be more effective than others depending on a variety of personal factors. Keep an open mind, listen to your body, and don’t forget to eat right and get adequate rest.
- Intensity comes in the form of cognitive intensity – those aspects of thinking and processing information that all gifted individuals use to problem solve. It relates to the attributes of focus, sustained attention, creative problem solving, and advanced reasoning skills. Most people think of cognitive intensity as intellect, or “being smart” – all good things.
- But a gifted child’s intensity does not stop there. The emotional aspects of a gifted individual are also intense. Emotional intensity refers to the passion gifted people feel daily. It also refers to the extreme highs and lows many gifted people experience throughout their lifetime, causing them to question their own mental stability from time to time. This type of intensity is a natural aspect of giftedness. However, in my experience, it is also one of the most misunderstood attributes – and it is the reason gifted kids sometimes struggle.
- Typically, emotional intensity results in a range of behavioral outbursts that can be internal (including moodiness, anxiety, and depression) or external (yelling or crying, temper tantrums, and physical expressions of anger or frustration). Regardless of how a gifted child chooses to demonstrate his or her intensities, there are a lot of things parents and educators can do to help lessen the outburst and help teach coping strategies.
- Start early by helping the child talk about his or her emotions – Trust me, they may not want to – but taking the emotions from some raw feeling to a tangible thing that can be defined is an important first step in learning to control the behavior. Further, the development of an emotional vocabulary can assist in providing a common language with which to discuss emotions and behavior.
- Help the child discover his or her unique escalation cycle -Work to discover both your child’s and your own escalation patterns. Gifted kids have considerable talent for pushing a teacher or parent’s buttons. Knowing the things that push you over the edge will enable you to remain calm during emotional outbursts, whatever form they may take. Further, helping children discover their escalation pattern will give them a chance to learn to manage and redirect the feelings before they become too overwhelming.
- Develop a plan to deal with the intensity - Once you and your child has identified the escalation cycle, work with the child to make a plan for what to do when he or she is overwhelmed – when life becomes too intense. Important aspects of the plan should include relaxation techniques, ways to redirect his or her energies, and things to do INSTEAD of the internal or external explosion.
- Create emotional distance from the explosion – Should the explosion happen anyway, it is important to remain calm and create a distance between your emotions and the child’s. Anger and frustration always beget more anger and frustration, so it is really important for the adults working with the child to stay emotionally neutral.
- Take a breather - This goes for the child and the adults. The best way to create the distance I talked about above is to remember to take a break and calm down.
- Focus on the behavior you WANT to see, not only the inappropriate behavior you are seeing – Remember to focus on the good behavior you want to see. All too often we get into a pattern of responding to the negative behaviors strongly (because these behaviors emotionally hook us) and not responding enough to the positive behaviors. The result – more negative behaviors. So do a mental inventory and make sure to focus your time and energy on the positive behaviors.
- View behavioral outbursts, whether internal or external, are teachable moments – Yes, they are frustrating and annoying. Maybe even infuriating. But they are still teachable moments. Take the time to redirect the behavior, focusing on teaching the GT child how to understand and redirect the behavior.
- The bottom-line to all of this: Intensity is not a bad thing in and of itself. Intensity is passion – the kind of passion we use to create. But the way in which the GT child copes with his or her intensity can be a problem. Utilizing some of the strategies above can go a long way to helping both kids and adults embrace the intensity and recognize it for what it is – a wonderful aspect of what it means to be gifted in the first place!
- Supersets are basicly two exercises that you perform after each other without any rest. Supersets can be done in two ways. The first way to do it is by doing two exercises for the same muscle group. Example: Side Lateral Raises followed by barbell upright rows. The second way is the antagonistic way: By doing two exercises, where the second exercise will be the “opposite” muscle group. Example of this would be doing biceps curls followed by triceps pushdowns.
- Giant-sets are sets where you have 3 exercises or more after each other without any rest. This is something that is really tearing on the muscle, so that you should not do this every workout (maybe once every month).
- Dropsets are really effective when it comes to really crank out every bit of energy you still have left in your muscles. Dropsets are where you do a set with a weight, and when you can’t do more reps, you lower the weight and do a set of lighter weight with more reps. This is to be done without any rest aswell.
- Partials aka “X-Reps” are an intensity technique that is being used very often at the end of a set, when you can no longer do full range reps. This means that you will be doing only half the movement for as many reps as you can do.
- Negative reps.
- These are also known as “eccentric” reps.This requires a partner on most exercises. This technique basicly makes you hold a weight that you could not do for a regular reps. You will be having really heavy weight and simply only lowering the weight really slow, while your training-partner will help you get the weight up again.
- Let’s say you do bench presses. Suddenly you can’t do another rep. Is this because your chest fails? No, it is most likely because your triceps fails first. This means that you will not be able to get the most out of your chest developement on exercises such as the bechpress. We can change this by isolating the chest first, so that the chest get’s a beating before the benchpress. What happens then, is that the chest fails before the triceps.This equals to more chest developement. Example: Doing flyes before benchpress. This can also be done in a superset-way.
- Many people think they're training intensely, but the sad fact is most people are not. Most people "undertrain" and "overtrain" at the same time. What I mean by this is that they do not train intensely while at the same time they train too long. This ruins any "pump" they may have gotten, delays needed nutrition to the muscles and can limit or even impede desired results.
In terms of Bodybuilding, What Exactly is Intensity? Intensity is a feel factor. It is a way of lifting to put out a maximum effort.
Intensity: The Most Important Factor In Bodybuilding
Two people guys can do the same exact fitness routine with the exercises, number of sets, and number of reps, yet have two different outcomes. Intensity is what determines success when it comes to maximizing your gains.
The Four Basic Principles of Intensity
You can increase your intensity by 4 ways:
Increase the number of reps
Decrease the rest periods
Increase the amount of weight you lift
Increase the volume of work (sets)
Under each basic principle there are different approaches that can be employed. Understanding this will help you reach your goals quicker. It will also help you break through "plateaus" (performance stagnation).
Intensity Building Techniques
Increase The Number of Reps
The first way to add intensity in my opinion should be addition of reps. The best way is rule. In this rule you add intensity by adding 1, then 2 and then 3 reps beyond your target rep zone. When you can perform 3 reps more than the target zone you need to add weights. 5 lbs additional plates for major muscle groups and 2.5 lbs for minor muscle groups.
Adding more reps creates my hypertrophy in the muscle which is what is required for growth. This is another alternative way to intensify your workout. This can be accomplished in a simple approach, such as trying to get 10 reps vs. 8, or it can be done using advanced techniques such as:
Forced reps training is an advanced training method, which is employed at the end of an exercise when you are unable to lift the weight on your own. At this point a training partner gives a small extra push while providing a spot so that you can overload the muscle by getting reps that you could not get on your own if you did not have the extra help, and a spot.
The moral support and encouragement alone often works and allows the bodybuilder to seek out a few more reps before the force reps are even employed. Typically this method is used for 2-3 extra reps, resulting in maximum overload and a great pump. Care should be taken however, because this is the most popular and consequently the most abused intensity technique. People get hurt, people use it too often and overtrain, people use it with bad form and technique: all recipes for disaster.
Burns is another advanced technique similar to forced repetitions. With this method, you would use a sub-maximal weight that is so light that you could still use it to continue to pump and work the muscle after lactic acid has built up. When you keep working under these conditions, you get a great pump, and a huge burn from the lactic acid build up.
For those of you that may be curious, lactic acid is caused in part, to constant muscle contraction. It is created when the muscle burns sugars (in whatever form). Normally lactic acid gets squeezed out by normal muscle movement and lymphatic fluid, into the lymphatic ducts, where it is processed and eliminated from the body. What stops this is constant muscular tension (such as supersets, giant sets, forced reps).
During power-intensive exercises such as sprinting, when the rate of demand for energy is high, lactate is produced faster than the ability of the tissues to remove it and lactate concentration begins to rise. Lactic acid eventually will cause the muscle to tighten and bunch up, and constricts the flow of the lymphatic fluid. Since this cannot help wash out the lactic acid, it sits there, causing that familiar burning sensation. Probably more than you needed to know, right?
This technique focuses on the negative portion of muscle contraction (the eccentric or lowering phase). This principle involves the use of a spotter. To accomplish this technique you would choose a heavier weight and your partner would help you lift the weight and you would slowly control the weight during the downward movement.
For instance if you normally would use 225 pounds for 8 reps on a bench press, you would instead use 350 pounds and slowly lower the weight after receiving help lifting it off. Your partner would also assist you with during the upward pressing movement by pulling the weight off your chest while you are pressing the weight up.
Another way to accomplish this is using the same 225 pounds that you would normally use, but your partner would press down on the weight as it goes down for increased resistance, while you tried to resist the weight (slow the weight from approaching your chest). It is important that when using this advanced technique that the external force applied is done in a smooth and careful manner to avoid injury.
The Cheat Method
The Cheat Method is an advanced training technique that is utilized when one can no longer perform a repetition in strict form. It is used after performing a number of reps with good form until muscle fatigue begins to set in (or the weight is too heavy). At the end of a set, when you can't do any more reps with good form, use a bit of body swing or momentum to help get the weight past the sticking point, e.g. swinging the weight up a little at the start of a barbell curl.
By employing this technique you will use surrounding muscle groups to assist in the movement to complete additional reps to complete the set. An example of this technique would be as follows: when doing dumbbell chest presses, if you feel no longer you can do in perfect form, get the help of your shoulder and back (lat) muscles to assist lifting the weight.
It is key that when performing this technique you still let the major muscle targeted, to do most of the work. I always used cheat sets very sparingly as I was a stickler for good form, however there is a place in every bodybuilder's arsenal to use this technique occasionally.
Decrease The Rest Between Sets
There are also many techniques available for decreasing the rest between sets. They may include the following:
Drop Sets, AKA Descending Sets, is the most basic and yet one of the best techniques to maximize intensity. You begin by reaching failure with a weight, as soon as you hit failure, lessen the weight, and then continue the set until failure is reached again.
Lets say you were to perform triceps pulldowns with a 90-pound stack. If you reached failure at 12 reps, you would strip the weight down to 70 pounds and continue. A single drop or descending set is when you lower the weight once. A double drop or descending set is when you lower the weight twice (for instance from 90 - 70, then from 70 - 50 pounds).
My favorite exercise is to do a 6 set drop set while doing dumbbell curls running the stack and doing each set to failure. I might start with 50 pound curls, then drop to 40 and perform the reps to failure, then immediately pick up the 30 pound dumbbells to failure, then proceed to do reps with the 25 pound dumbbells until, failure and then finish off with 20 pound curls till failure... then work in a few cheat reps! By employing this technique I get 18 sets of arm curls done in about 12 minutes and am done!
Strip sets are essentially drop sets. If we want to be technical, it refers to "stripping" weight from a bar reducing the weight that you're using by 10% or so with each succeeding set (where as a drop set can be done on a machine, using dumbbells, etc.). For example, if you start out with 100 pounds for curls, then on your next set you would do 90 pounds and 80 pounds on your subsequent set.
These are done with barbells. Do a set then, without racking the bar, get two spotters to pull off a preset amount of weight. Continue with that weight. Keep stripping as desired. This will thoroughly burn out a muscle.
A Superset is a technique where two or more exercises are performed back to back. When three exercises are performed in succession it is referred two as a triset superset. This is another good way to train if time is limited. Supersetting involves doing two exercises with no rest in between.
Supersets can be in two ways. One way is doing two different exercises - for bodybuilding routines - in a row that hit the same muscles. Other way is doing two exercises - for bodybuilding routines - in a row hitting two different muscle groups. Supersets work best when targeting opposing muscle groups. Performing them this way allows for a better pump, as well as more reps.
It should be said straight off that forced reps are an art form, and only a good training partner will have the ability to assist in administering them properly. The intent of forced reps is to apply just enough help to get past the sticking point of a rep, and complete one or two more past the point of positive failure.
Of all the intensity techniques out there, in my estimation, this one is by far the most commonly abused. You can walk into any gym in the world and witness this on the bench press. Guys will load up the bar with significantly more weight than they are capable of lifting, and recruit a training partner or spotter to lift part of the weight for them from the very first rep onward. What’s the bloody point in that? Obviously, this ridiculous practice stems entirely from the ego, as guys like to delude themselves into thinking they actually did 10 reps with 315, or whatever the case may be.
This harkens right back to what we were speaking about in regards to weightlifting versus bodybuilding. Guys like that generally don’t have very much in the way of chest development, because they never actually work their pecs intensely enough to stimulate growth. I would much rather see a trainer do 5 or 6 reps entirely on his own before a spotter or training partner provides just enough assistance to allow for 1 or 2 more additional reps. Anything more than 2 forced reps at the end of a set is pointless, in my opinion.
Rest-pause has enjoyed renewed popularity in recent years thanks to DC Training. They borrowed it from me, I borrowed it from Mike Mentzer, and Mike had borrowed it from Arthur Jones! The basic premise is to take several brief rests during a set, so that a heavier weight can be used. For example, you may be able to use 300 pounds for a total of 8 reps in rest-pause fashion, whereas otherwise you would only manage 4 reps. You might do something like 3 or 4 reps, put the weight down for 10 seconds or so, do another 2 reps, rest, and finish with a final rep or two. In this way, you hit positive failure three separate times during one set. A very real benefit of rest-pause is that it gives your muscles a chance to adapt to much heavier loads, and that strength will carry over into your normal straight sets.
Drop sets have been around for many decades, and the principle makes sense. When you fail at 8 reps curling 100 pounds, it doesn’t mean your biceps can’t curl any weight at all. Should you immediately reduce the resistance to 70 or 80 pounds, you could continue the set with several more reps before hitting failure again. These are ideal for those who train on their own with no spotter.
Cheat reps have been called “forced reps on your own,” and that’s accurate provided you are doing then correctly. Just as it defeats the purpose of making the set tougher to employ too many forced reps and too soon in the set, cheat reps must not be abused either. You should do most of the reps strictly until reaching positive failure, and only then cheat up an additional rep or two. To make these reps truly productive, you must pause at least very briefly in the fully-contracted position, and lower the rep slowly.
A final technique is one I was personally never too keen on. The premise of pre-exhaust sets is that one reaches failure on an isolation exercise, and then immediately proceeds to a compound movement as quickly as possible. Common examples would be leg extensions and leg presses, or the peck deck and a bench press. The issue I have with this is that if you know you have to move right into a compound movement, odds are that at least subconsciously, you will hold back a bit on the isolation movement in order to have “something left in the tank.” Therefore, you won’t take the first set to complete failure.
You can try it and see if it works well for you, but I always preferred to pre-exhaust a muscle group by simply completing all my sets of an isolation movement for example, a Nautilus pullover machine, before moving on to something like close-grip lat pulldowns or barbell rows.
Intensity Techniques Face the Consequences
The above techniques can be tremendously productive at boosting intensity and stimulating greater muscle growth, when used judiciously that is to say, occasionally. But too much of a good thing can be counterproductive. Techniques like forced reps, negatives and so on place a higher demand on a muscle’s recovery. Overusing them can quickly lead to overtraining, and one may eventually expect to see a regression in results, rather than progression. Be careful to use them on an as-needed basis, such as only for a weak body part, and even then only for limited periods of time. Don’t employ something like forced reps for every set reserve it for perhaps the final set of each exercise, and rotate the body parts you use them for.
You get the idea. Taking sets beyond failure can be extremely effective in building your physique, so long as you don’t do it too often and you truly take the muscle to positive failure first.
Multi-exercising is often incorrectly referred to as supersets. Multi-exercise sets are different than supersets. Multi-exercise sets use different exercises for each set instead of just doing one exercise for all sets.
With this type of training, you will be able to hit a particular muscle in different angles. For example, instead of doing 4 to 6 sets of a particular exercise for a body part, you would instead do different exercises for each set each time. For instance for a chest press - instead of 6 sets of flat bench you do one set of barbell flat bench press, then a set of incline dumbbell presses, followed by a set of dips, decline flyes and finally cable crossovers. Unlike supersets, you would have rest periods between sets to enable you to approach each set heavier.
A giant set is the practice of going from one exercise to another very quickly. One of the risks with this technique is that the muscle is fatigued so quickly that there is a tremendous loss of efficiency and benefit. However, by moving from one set to the next relatively quickly you can keep the heart rate elevated, and it is a good muscle confusion technique when employed periodically. Giant sets, in my opinion, are also good for conditioning. They should not however the cornerstone of your training methods since this type of training when I have little time to train, and I need to get a quick workout in.
Increase The Weight
Increasing the weight is not for the faint hearted. There are risks. Risks of improper form resulting in injuries. Probably most known for employing this principle was the late Mike Mentzer, who wrote many articles, and wrote books and developed audio tapes about what he coined his "Heavy Duty Training Principle".
His approach became extremely popular among bodybuilders especially after Mentzer won the 1978 IFBB Mr. Universe contest in which he was the first bodybuilder ever to receive a perfect 300 score from the judges.Mentzer's system was based on the principle of "intensity" as emphasized by Arthur Jones. So as not to overtrain, Mentzer's system was based on a limited amount of sets with adequate rest in between (4-8 days in between each workout).
Increase The Number Of Sets
Increasing the overall volume of work, by either increasing the number of sets per exercise or increasing the number of exercise per body part, which results in a greater number of overall sets as well, is also another way to increase intensity, especially if the overall work volume is completed in the same amount of time that less volume had been completed in,
Other Advanced Techniques To Increase Training Intensity
This method is one of my favorites, so that I can reduce the weight a bit and reduce the stress on my joints while maintaining the force on the muscle.
The pre-exhaust method is typically done by performing an isolation movement first - like leg extensions - followed by a compound movement - such as the leg press, which works more than one joint. The principle is that on the second exercise, the muscle can be pushed into the range of failure very quickly by first employing the pre-exhaust method.
Partial rep technique is simply moving the weight through a partial range of motion (usually, but not necessarily, the strongest range of motion of the exercise, e.g. the top 6 inches of the bench press). This allows much more weight to be used. The technique is often performed at the end of an exercise when you do not have the energy to complete full reps. Partial repetitions are good for eking out a little bit more out of the exercise. My favorite exercise is the squats. As I lift very heavy weights during squats I find it difficult after 4-5 reps, I then do partial reps thereby recruiting those muscle fibers, which are not yet fully tired.
Deep reps are done to recruit additional muscle fibers. A simple illustration would be squatting slightly passed parallel, performing deep dips, or doing chair pushups for a deep stretch. It is important that proper care is employed, and proper warming up is done, so not to overstretch or tear a muscle.
Slow negatives is a technique that is slightly different from Static Training in that it is typically used at the end of a set when your muscles are failing but you want to get more out of the set in order to drive it into the critical "growth phase."
How it is performed is that you simply slow down the eccentric portion of the exercise (the eccentric portion of the exercise is the portion in which the muscle is lengthening under tension). To illustrate this point, if you were to do a slow negative with a barbell curl, you would slow the rep as you lower the bar towards your upper thigh; would constitute the negative or eccentric portion of the exercise.
A simple approach is to perform the eccentric movement taking 4 seconds, while taking 2 seconds during the concentric movement (in the case of a barbell curl the concentric movement would be the positive part of the exercise - the action of raising the bar towards your shoulders).
With this method, it is common to also employ the Cheat Principle during the concentric movement to maximize the amount of weight and number of reps that can be performed. This technique in my opinion is very effective and can be used at any time - even when training alone.
Static training is an advanced training technique designed to generate high intensity by maximizing weight while minimizing hold times. How this is done is by holding on to the muscle's particular position for an extended amount of time (typically five to fifteen seconds) to give the muscle a new way of training and experience a different load.
This technique in my opinion is very effective because when used sparingly provides the muscle with a force not typically employed, and as such it can also employ the recruitment of additional supporting muscle fibers. It is also a favorite of mine because it can increase intensity on the muscle without having to add a lot of additional weight, which can pose strain on the joints. Another good benefit is that it can be used at any time even when training alone.
This technique involves changing the speed that you perform the reps, while maintaining proper form. Often utilizing quick explosive movements at the point of force. Then employing slower static training methods during the negative (downward) rep.
Consider Increasing Intensity
- Approach this in a systematic way to avoid injuries. Weekend warriors typically get hurt and drop out before success. It is great to get inspired, but approach your increase in intensity is a smart way.
- Stretch and properly warm up to reduce the chances of injury. Stretching FOLLOWING an intense workout is just as, if not more important than stretching before the workout to reduce chances of injury, and to increase recovery.
- Feed the Fire. Ensure that you get enough calories and proper nutrition, supplementing vitamins and minerals when needed. Failure to do so can result in overtraining, and as a minimum will limit your growth.
- Ensure that you get enough rest. Your muscles don't grow when they are being worked; they grow only when they are at rest. If you give recovery time for the muscles, they will become bigger and stronger. Getting enough rest will also help prevent overtraining. If you are not giving time for recovery, the muscles remain the same and there will be no growth in the muscle.
- Be aware of signs of overtraining. Symptoms of overtraining include lethargy (tiredness), aches, pains for extended periods of time, reduced strength, reduced stamina and reduced immunity. If you experience these symptoms, stop working out, take rest and start back with a new routine.
- Hydrate. Water is also the most abundant nutrient in the body, not to mention the most important. It is the most critical nutrient for health, growth, and development. In order to move muscle, you need water. Muscle is considered an active tissue and water is found in the highest concentrations in active tissue. Although water does not provide energy in the same way carbohydrates and fat do, it plays a very important role in energy transformation. Water is the medium in which all energy reactions take place. Therefore, you need to drink a lot of water for health, stamina, fuel, and building muscle. Failure to hydrate will diminish your performance in the gym. It will result in decreased strength, decreased endurance, potential cramping and more. Also of importance, most lethargy is caused by dehydration. Instead of running for that red bull that will leave you crashed after the initial "high" try drinking enough water. You will be amazed at the difference in your overall energy levels. Remember, if you get thirsty, you are already in dehydration mode. Solution: drink at least 16 ounces before and immediately after your work out, and also try to drink water during as well.
- It’s also essential that you drink water for health and building muscle. Without it, muscle strength, control and stamina are all weakened which will reduce your ability to build muscle. Drinking water is important because it helps bring nutrients to the muscles and helps pass toxins from your body. Water also helps out with the lubrication of your joints. Water is an ingredient in the makeup of the synovial fluid, which is the lubricating fluid between your joints. If your weight lifting diet is lacking in water, even for a brief period, less fluid is available to protect these areas.
- Remember, if you are employing the advanced lifting techniques discussed above by adding more weight, more reps, and more sets (and thus more stress to your body), the demands from weight lifting on the joints will increase. Adequate water intake is imperative to support the protective fluid needed for optimum performance and to maintain normal healthy joints.
Intensity in the gym is good, however, it is important to remember that high intensity workouts can result in central nervous system overload. Therefore high-intensity exercise is effective for workouts of short duration only. With a long workout, high-intensity training results in overtraining and central nervous system burnout. One way to avoid this is to perform a high intensity workout for just one body part at a time, and if your training calls for two body parts to be trained, that the other body part be trained in a more traditional manner.
When you increased the intensity of your workouts you will not only see better strength, tone, and muscle size gains, but you find yourself even more dedicated to your bodybuilding workout!
Employ the intensity principles in a smart and consistent manner, get the proper amounts of rest, and fuel your body correctly with the proper nutrients, supplements and water and you will be surprised how quickly your efforts will pay off!
Going for the Gold
Before you can be the best that you can be, you must first master the physical discomfort associated with intense physical activity. "No pain, no gain" refers to the mental development of pain tolerance to push your muscular endurance to the absolute limits of failure - thereby stimulating muscle growth.
Strength and endurance athletes use such terms as "pushing it to the limit", "to the max", and "hitting the wall" to describe these upper limits of performance. However, these don't imply reckless and dangerous techniques for maximum performance at any cost. Just the opposite. With regard to exercise, the terms refer to the skilled use of weight training techniques systematically applied to a working muscle group sufficient to cause temporary failure - without causing muscular injury. Therefore, you need to distinguish muscle burn and muscle fatigue from the pain of injury.
The burn from muscle fatigue subsides within 20-30 seconds, whereas injury pain is pronounced, sharp and continuous. Know your physical limitations ad learn to read your body's signal.
Breaking the Pain Barrier
The next step is to break through the pain barrier. To do so, you must first develop pain tolerance.This is developed by progressively increasing intensity so your body gradually adjusts to sensory overload. Eventually, the same weight, pressure, endurance and muscle fatigue experience will feel less intense. To a beginner,a 20 pound dumbbell curl would feel heavy and cause considerable muscle burn and fatigue. After 3-4 workouts, those same dumbbells would feel much lighter. In a month, 30 pound dumbbells would feel the same as 20 pounders. In other words, your muscles adapt to the increased weight and respond as if the same weight was lighter.
Expect some pain. This prepares you emotionally for increased physical intensity. Unfortunately, pain has become a four letter word in our culture. All manner of media messages condition us to view pain as undesirable, something to be avoided. Television commercials direct us to treat pain with an ever growing arsenal of painkillers. We're often admonished not to strain ourselves, not to overdo it. Such statements program us to become pleasure seekers without first developing the discipline or the ability to work through pain or difficulties.
To combat this trend, you can psychologically alter the perception of pain as something to tolerate, even strive for. As time progresses, the same pain level feels lessened, And your brain reinterprets the pain as acceptable. Surprisingly, with continued physical work in the pain zone, your muscular responses of increased size and strength will be mentally perceived as pure pleasure. This is the very point where your brain begins to transform these pain sensations into feelings of euphoria. As well, continued neurological exposure to pain stimuli produces a diminished response to the same level of pain.
Brains over Brawn
To get your brain to reinterpret pain as pleasure isn't difficult. It requires three elements: 1) constant effort, 2) repetitive exposure and 3) absolute determination to succeed. Getting used to noninjurious pain is similar to gradual immersion into a hot Jacuzzi - you slowly allow your body to adjust to the intensity of the heat. In the same manner, if you gradually increase your training intensity over a month, your brain won;t experience abrupt feelings of physical discomfort. As time passes, muscle fatigue, muscle burn and the burden of weight become commonplace and expected. Once you've attained this upper limit of pain tolerance, it becomes your future barometer of intensity.
Pleasure in the Pain Zone
What turns intense physical effort into pure ecstasy is the victory over your feelings, fears and self doubts. When you achieve that next big step by piling on more weights and grinding out those extra reps - continuing to strive beyond your previous limits - you've reached the benchmark of a true athlete. Those of you who can achieve this level will enjoy the sheer pleasure of victory over your past limitations. The next time you reach 12 reps on a set of squats, challenge yourself, and be confident that you can increase your poundage by at least 10% to the amount required to perform 8 - 10 reps safely. (Make sure that a skilled spotter helps you.)
Conquer or Be Conquered
Fear of pain, stress and failure may be grounded more in emotion than in your physical inability to succeed. If you're motivated by "fear reduction," you'll do anything to avoid fear rather than confront it and achieve a victory. Suppose that you can bench press 250 pounds, but you tremble at the prospect of pushing 275. This is precisely where you need to develop your confidence by moving forward and taking that next big step.
You get out of weight training what you put into it. Big, muscular gains are the visible signs of victory, but the emotional payoff motivated you to continue to training with intensity.
Old experiences of pain may teach you to avoid pain rather than confront it and work through it. A curious human phenomenon is that we cannot fully appreciate pleasure until we've fully experienced some sense of pain.
These days, we Americas are conditioned by television, technology and automation to reduce effort, avoid discomfort and seek immediate gratification. Consequently, we overemphasize pleasure, which weakens the discipline needed for achievement that requires intense and prolonged effort. Giving up is so much easier that pursuing a difficult task. This is why so few becomes superstars while millions remain wanna-bes. Take not: Prolonged effort is the chief ingredient for athletic success (not to mention riches and fame). If you're serious about making improvements, you must keep moving forward and challenge your fears of failure. Be confident that each attempt you will make will improve your skills and increase your strength.
Survival of the Fittest
While waging the internal battle between pleasure and pain, you must decide your long term goals. If you pleasure seek for only what feels good, you'll probably avoid most of the experiences that feel bad. The danger therein is that even a little bit of effort begins to feel bad, with the consequence that you avoid doing anything that requires any intense work whatsoever.
The work ethic may seem like an unpleasant choice, but in the long run, the rewards from your efforts are felt as a pure victory. Great achievements demand great efforts, and nothing worth having comes easy. If it did, then everyone would have it at no cost.
Triple Drop and Rebound Sets
This is a variation of a bodybuilding technique known as the "Triple Drop Set".
The Triple Drop Set is where you start with a heavy weight, do a set to failure, reduce the weight, do another set to failure, reduce the weight a third time and do a final set to failure.
Do the regular Triple Drop Set then quickly go back and do your starting (heaviest) weight again for a more few reps.
Usually you will be able to get one or two reps with it.
The reason for this is that the last of the drops uses a lighter weight, which recruits different muscle fibers than when you are using heavier weights.
Isolation/Compound Rebound Sets
Do a Triple Drop Set of an isolation exercise, e.g. flyes, then immediately go back and use your starting (heaviest) weights for a set of a compound exercise for that muscle group, e.g. dumbell bench press.
This is a type of advanced "Pre-Exhaust" training.
Pre-Exhaust training is when you do an isolation exercise (an exercise that involves motion at only one joint, such as a dumbell flye) immediately followed by a compound exercise (an exercise that involves motion at two or more joints, such as a bench press).
The idea with the Pre-Exhaust training is to basically exhaust your target muscle group (in this case the chest), by first working directly with one exercise, then doing another exercise that utilizes other muscles to assist it. This increases the intensity of the work done by the chest as the assisting muscles will you allow you to push the chest further.
By utilizing a triple-drop set format for the isolation exercise, you dramtically increase the exhaustion of the target muscle, allowing you to push it extremely hard.
This is a way of doing a large number of heavy sets for several muscle groups without losing as much strength from set to set.
Jump sets are best used on antagonistic bodyparts such as back and chest, biceps and triceps, or hamstrings and quads.
For example, if you plan on doing 5 sets of chin-ups and 5 sets of bench, start with 3 sets of chin-ups, then 3 sets of bench, then go back and do your remaining 2 sets of chin-ups and 2 sets of bench. The extra rest will allow you to be stronger on your last 2 sets than you normally would.
Jumping between antagonistic muscle groups also seems to benefit strength development.
This can also be done going back and forth on every set instead of groups of sets.
This is not a superset - take your normal rest period between each set.
This technique enhances recuperation by providing more rest to the bodyparts but within the same workout time and allows you to do more weight for each exercise.
Is more better? Not necessarily. The optimum training intensity varies by a few percent between individuals (that's where a coaches can be helpful in finding that extra few % for a performance advantage for an elite athlete). It is generally accepted that maximum aerobic improvement occurs at 85% of your VO2max (approximately 90% of your max. heart rate), and REGULAR training above this level only increases the potential for injury and burnout without a corresponding benefit in cardiovascular (or musculoskeletal) adaptation. Lower levels of exercise - 60% maximum heart rate for 45 minutes or 70% maximum heart rate for 20 minutes - will modestly improve (or at least maintain) general cardiovascular conditioning. The use of the "long slow distance" approach, where your maximum heart rate is always kept at 60 to 80% VO2max will not optimize your personal performance for high level aerobic events but is instead a strategy to be used for endurance training alone. A West Virginia U. study assigned 15 women to either a low intensity (132 beats per minute) or high intensity (163 bpm) group exercising both for 45 minutes, 4 times a week. There was an increase in VO2max for members of the high intensity group, but not the low intensity one.
The optimum length of a training session depends to a great degree on the intensity. Ten minutes of 70% maximum heart rate will be of some benefit, but 30 to 40 minutes are even better. Does going 60 minutes give you a proportionally greater benefit? That is less clear and it makes sense that at some point the negative effects of exercise to break down and injure muscle tissue outweighs the cardiovascular benefits.
Does 30 minutes of 80% MHR equate to 40 minutes at 70% i.e. increase the intensity to compensate for decreasing the duration? For endurance training perhaps, but certainly not for improving .
As proof of an upper limit for the benefits of aerobic training, a group of swimmers training 1.5 hours per day was compared to a group training with two equivalent 1.5 hour sessions. There was no difference in the final performance, power, or endurance between the two groups. For endurance aerobic training (continuous, not intervals) at less than 90% maximum heart rate it makes the most sense to look at the duration of the planned event, and train:
Q. As I have a rather flexible schedule I was wondering which would be most advantageous to build my endurance and fitness during the winter months of shorter daylight hours.. 5 days a week of 2 - 3 hour rides or 2 days 4 - 5 hour rides and recovery rides in between?
A second part is that I have had beginning riders ask a more extreme version: "What if I rode once a week for 2 hours vs four 1/2 hour rides, which would be best."
A. It all comes down to the purpose of your riding/training.
If you are training for endurance (length of time you will be sitting on the seat of the bike) you need to work up to riding at least one longer ride (near that time duration of that planned ride) a week. Thus if you are training for 3 hour ride, you need to work towards riding a single 3 hour training ride. 6 one half hour rides will not get your body (muscles, shoulders, butt) use to 3 straight hours on the bike like a single 3 hour ride will.
If you want to ride faster, then 2 one half hour rides at 80 - 90% VO2max may be almost as good a single one 1 hour ride (at the same clip).
Studies indicate that maximum aerobic conditioning (measured as an increase in VO2max) occurs with 3 workout days per week. So unless you are trying to burn Calories to lose weight, or are working to get the musculoskeletal system (back, shoulders) in shape for a long endurance event by increasing mileage on the bike, it is better to take 2 to 3 days per week off the bike to allow for muscle and ligament repair and decrease the risk of cumulative stress resulting in an increase in training injuries. Interestingly, it appears that the 3 days per week will maximize aerobic conditioning equally in any combination - i.e. 3 days in a row with 4 off, alternating days of exercise/rest, etc.
Q. I was reading the other day in Joe Friels Cyclists Training Bible that he feels training twice a day is better because you release a second dose of growth hormone during the day. I haven't found any literature behind his comment. Have you got in more info about training twice a day compared to once? - J.
A.I am not aware of any literature supporting twice a day training other than as a "work around" for a training schedule limitations (such as work commitments). In fact I would suspect that if there is any effect it would more likely be a negative rather compared to a single longer session.
MIXED RESISTANCE AND AEROBIC TRAINING
Anecdotes abound about the negative impact of combining resistance and aerobic training on the same day. More details on this phenomena, called "exercise antagonism" is available in this NY Times article.
As each type of training impacts the muscle cells in a unique and different way, focused scientific studies have provided an answer. An abstract for those interested concludes that there is little difference ..."within muscles whether the men performed both aerobic and resistance training or aerobic training alone." And it makes no difference as to the order i.e. if one does their aerobic workout first that day - or the resistance training.
For those of you, especially triathletes, who have complex training schedules, this removes one additional worry factor to make your planning easier.
- Studies on maintenance of the benefits of aerobic training revealed that a 2/3 reduction in training frequency i.e. going from 6 days a week to 2 days a week (keeping the same maximal intensity for each individual workout) maintained aerobic gains. Thus you can cut a 60 minute, 6 per week program to similar 60 minute sessions 2 times a week and maintain your aerobic fitness level, BUT you CANNOT maintain a similar fitness level by cutting the intensity of the 60 minute session and keeping them at 6 times per week. If intensity is held constant, the frequency and duration of exercise required to maintain fitness are much less than the effort needed to attain that fitness level in the first place.
- METHODS OF TRAINING - anaerobic intensity versus aerobic intensity
- Training needs to be structured for the intensity and duration of the planned sporting event. Anaerobic (oxygen independent) exercise is generally brief (less than 60 seconds in duration) and is fueled by the anaerobic energy pathways in the cell (ATP, creatine phosphate). The classic anaerobic sport is weightlifting. Sprint activities also use anaerobic pathways. If the sprint lasts more than 5 or 10 seconds, lactic acid production (and clearance) also becomes an limiting factor due to the negative effects of lactic acid on muscle performance. Training focused on anaerobic sessions will enhance the ATP and CP energy transfer pathways in the cell as well as improving the tolerance for and clearance of lactic acid.
- Aerobic training (important for cycling and other sporting events lasting more than 60 seconds) provides its major benefits through improvement of the cardiovascular and oxygen delivery systems to the muscle cell. These include improvements in both cardiac output (amount of blood pumped by the heart per minute) and changes at the muscle fiber level that increase the removal or extraction of oxygen from the blood cells in the capillaries. In addition, there is an improvement in the efficiency of the cellular metabolic pathways which convert glucose into ATP in the presence of oxygen.
- There is always a combination of anaerobic and aerobic metabolism ongoing in the cell. As the level of exertion (measured by %VO2max) increases, there is a transition within the muscle cell from this balance of an almost entirely aerobic metabolism (and minimal anaerobic metabolism) towards an energy production process with a more anaerobic component. There are always areas of relatively lower perfusion within a muscle - and these areas are thus more likely to be functioning anaerobically. So even at 50 to 60% VO2max some anaerobic conditioning is occurring. But at 85% VO2max (the "anaerobic threshold" for most individuals) there is an abrupt increase in anaerobic metabolism throughout the entire muscle. Even though some cross training of the anaerobic systems takes place during exercise at 60 to 80% VO2max, a training program for sprint performance needs to include several exercise sessions per week above 85% VO2max. Long slow distance may be good training for aerobic, endurance events, but it will not improve your sprint performance.
- A good training program will be designed to include both aerobic and anaerobic exercise sessions. It is the art of finding the balance of the types of exercise (aerobic vs anaerobic; interval training, continuous training, and fartlek training) in your overall program which will determine its effectiveness for the competitive event for which you are training.
- "Doing intervals" refers to sandwiching periods of intense physical activity between periods of recovery. Intervals develop your ability to maintain longer periods of exertion at your peak performance levels - and get there more quickly. One study (in runners) demonstrated that continuous, maximal performance levels could be sustained for only 0.8 miles before exhaustion occurred, while a similar level of peak exertion could be maintained for a cumulative distance (duration) of over 4 miles when an interval approach was used.
- If one is training for sprints of up to 20 seconds in duration (which do not involve significant lactic acid buildup and basically are training the ATP and CP energy systems), it is recommended that the duration of the training interval be 1 to 5 seconds over the usual best time for the sprint distance (with exercise intensity or maximum effort being that of the event for which you are training. For example, if one is training for a 100 yard dash, and has a personal best of 12 seconds, the training interval should be a 13 or 14 seconds sprint at the same pace (ignoring the total distance being covered in the 13 or 14 seconds) with a rest (lower intensity activity) period 3 times longer than the training interval recommended for recovery - 42 seconds in this example.
- Using intervals to train for longer sprints (up to several minutes) produces significant lactic acid buildup in the muscles along with stressing the anaerobic metabolic pathways. To train for these longer distances (several minutes of maximum output), it is suggested that the distance for which you are training be subdivided, and the training interval effort focused on that shorter distance. For example, if one is training for a personal best in a mile ride on the bike, and the best time for the entire mile is 3 minutes on the bike (with the best 1/4 mile segment being 30 seconds and the best 1/2 mile segment being 80 seconds) the training interval could be set at either 1/4 or 1/2 mile and the time for this training interval set at your personal best minus 3 to 5 seconds. In this example the training interval might be chosen as 1/4 mile with a goal of a 25 second time. And the rest interval should be 2 times the training interval (as lactic acid clearance does not require the same recovery time as recharging the intracellular metabolic machinery).
- A risk to be considered is that training program drop out rates can double when intervals are used, so they should be used judiciously. Don't use intervals all year round, limit them to twice a week during your peak season, and separate each session by at least 48 hours to allow adequate recovery. If your long ride is on the weekend, Tuesday and Thursday make the most sense for your interval training. The goal should be at least 10 to 20 minutes of hard pedaling per training interval session, not counting warm up, recovery, or cool down. A good place to start is with 5 minutes of peak effort per daily interval session.
- Another approach is to use one day a week for short intervals (i.e. five - 60 second and five - 90 second intervals) and a second for longer intervals (two - 3 minute and two - 5 minute intervals). Allow 3 to 5 minutes for recovery between intervals and don't forget a 20 to 30 minute warm up and a 15 minute cool down. It has been shown that as few as a half dozen 5 minute intervals (separated by one minute recoveries) during a 300 km training week will improve both time trial and peak performance.
- If you have a heart rate monitor, an alternative is to key intervals to your maximum heart rate. Ride your intervals at 80 to 90% of your maximum heart rate and spin easily until your heart rate drops to 60 to 65% of maximum.
Continuous training refers to aerobic activity performed at 60 to 90% VO2max for an hour or more. When done at the lower end of this range, it is often referred to as long, slow distance (LSD) training. This level of training is ideal for those starting off an exercise program, those wishing to maximize Caloric expenditure for weight loss purposes, and as an option for an active "rest" day in a weekly aerobic training program.
This level of exertion can be maintained for hours at slightly less intensity than you may have used in personal competitive events in the past, and is particularly suited for endurance event training. It is thought to have a preferential benefit for the slow twitch muscle fibers (as opposed to the fast twitch fibers used in sprint interval training). It is suggested that a distance of 2 to 5 times the actual competitive event be chosen for this daily segment of a weekly training program.
This form of training is a combination of interval and LSD training. It is not as structured as an interval program and is based on a personal perception of exertion rather than specific time or distance intervals. It mimics the "sprint to the line" that is part of many road races. While there is little scientific proof of its benefits it makes sense physiologically; and psychologically it adds a feeling of freedom to those long slow days. How many sprints, and for how long?? The choice is up to you, but the intervals are probably in the neighborhood of those used for interval training.
SPRINTS OR DISTANCE?
People usually are changing their training program for one of two reasons - they want to ride further or they want to ride faster.
If you are training for the goal of riding a long event, and your speed is just fine, it is important to make sure you are putting in the weekly miles (at any intensity). No intervals needed. It is about getting your body use to sitting on the bike for longer periods of time.
If you want to increase your top speed (MPH), which means you need to increase your VO2max, you will want to train your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) with at least 2 days of intervals a week, with the intervals increasing your heart rate to at least 90% of your max heart rate).
If you want to improve both you need a combination of intervals and longer rides in your weekly program. Doing more than 2 days of intervals a week increases the rate of training burnout and injury - so I suggest limiting interval training to 2 days a week.
THE BOTTOM LINE - KEY POINTS FOR AN AEROBIC TRAINING PROGRAM
A mileage base of 500 miles is essential to minimize the risk of training injuries.
A training regimen should be designed based on both the intensity as well as the duration of the planned sporting event.
Long slow distance training is important at the beginning of the training season (while developing the training base) and in preparation for very long endurance events.
Maximum aerobic conditioning (increasing VO2max) occurs with 3 workout days per week ridden at or above 85% VO2max (which equates to approximately 90% Max Heart Rate). Additional training days should be at a slower pace to allow recovery and build musculoskeletal strength.
A training regimen should be designed based on both the intensity as well as the duration of the planned sporting event.
Long slow distance training is important at the beginning of the training season (while developing the training base) and in preparation for very long endurance events.
Maximum aerobic conditioning (increasing VO2max) occurs with 3 workout days per week ridden at or above 85% VO2max (which equates to approximately 90% Max Heart Rate). Additional training days should be at a slower pace to allow recovery and build musculoskeletal strength.
- Interval training is the optimum approach to achieve maximum aerobic improvement.
- Interval training should comprise at most 2 out of the 7 days of a training week.
- Exercising at less than 85% VO2max will still improve general cardiovascular conditioning (although at a slower rate) as well as overall musculoskeletal tolerance for exercise. It is suggested that one day a week be allotted to a long slow training ride equal to a distance of 2 to 5 times the actual competitive event.
- In training for endurance events (to be ridden at less than 90% maximum heart rate), one day a week should be at a level of exertion equal to your anticipated event performance and with a ride equal in length to that of the event + 10 to 20%.
- 2 rest days a week will improve your mental outlook and avoid burnout without impacting (sacrificing) training improvements.
- (see also USING A HEART RATE MONITOR)
- Based on the above principles, the following outlines the design of an ideal weekly training program with the 7 days including:
- (500 mile training base at the beginning of the season).
- 3 days of high level cardiovascular activity (85 - 90 % VO2max), 2 of which may be interval training days)
- a 1 day training ride equal to the duration of the event and at a similar intensity
- a 1 day LONG slow recovery ride
- the last 2 days should be spent off the bike or used for a short slow ride to "loosen up"
- Aim for a total time commitment per week of 10 hours. It's interesting that two of America's all-time great road riders, Greg LeMond and Connie Carpenter, both recommend the same total weekly training time -- 10 hours -- for fast recreational riders. They say if you devote that much to a mix to distance, speed, climbing and easy rides for recovery, you're likely to come close to your potential. And time on the bike seems to be the key, not the miles ridden. LeMond's Law is occasionally referred to in bike magazines. To paraphrase: when you record your daily workout, make your key entry the time you rode not how far you rode. The reason, says Greg, "twenty miles into a headwind is a lot different than 20 miles with a tailwind". The same holds for a ride in the hills vs. a ride on flat ground.
- For most recreational roadies, 7-10 hours of riding per week is plenty for steady improvement if you have an intelligent training program. Wouldn't more be better? If you do try to add in extra hours, you risk bothy overtraining as well as the extra stress produced by more time on the bike. Both physical stress on your body and the pressure it puts on responsibilities to family, friends, and profession.
SPECIAL CASE - TEAM EVENTS/MULTIPLE CYCLES
Team events where each individual does multiple repetitions are a special case. The following question illustrates my thoughts.
Q.I am taking part in a 24 hour mountain bike event in July. There will be 5 of us in a team, so we will be taking it in turns on a course that takes approximately 40 minutes. That means we will have roughly 240 minute breaks between rides. The question is how do you train for that?
My main concern is the disjointed nature of the event. I have an idea what to do to train for a 6 hour event or a 40 minute event, but as we will be racing hard for 40 minutes, 8 or 9 times in 24 hours do I:
Focus on the speed/high intensity aspect
Focus on the endurance aspect
Mix it up so I do short intense rides and 5 or 6 hour rides?
A. I would plan your weekly training program as if this was to be a 40 minute, high intensity event, with the additional focus being on what you need to do to maximize your recovery in the 4 hour break between "events".
I'd estimate the total mileage you think you would be riding in the 24 hours - and then be sure your baseline mileage (weekly) supports this distance. Train with your emphasis on intervals to improve performance for these 40 minute segments, and be sure you have one long ride a week at lower intensity equal to the total miles of the event + 10 - 15%.
Be sure you have maximized your glycogen reserves to start - and replace your expended Calories after each event using a liquid replacement as much as possible to minimize delays in gastric emptying and absorption. And be sure you replace sweat loses - dehydration over the 24 hours is probably the biggest risk to your performance.