Monthly Archives: March 2016

Chase Performance, Not Fatigue.

Training more than once per day is possible, actually it can be incredibly beneficial and has been used by various athletic coaches for many many years. There has also been a lot of chat from well respected coaches such as Nick Mitchell, Charles Poliquin and alike about training a muscle group multiple times, with each workout being spaced 5-7days apart.

If you want to know how to write a program that will allow you to safely and effectively workout twice a day and provide you with some of the best results you’ve ever had, then I invite you to keep reading.

This is my personal philosophy towards this style of training & the secret to making this style of training work:

“Chase Performance, Not Fatigue.”

What do I mean by that?

If you were deciding to train once per day then adopting the age old principle of “I must ache or this workout has been wasted!” is not so much of an issue, however outdate it’s principles might be – though they do have a place.

Training twice or more per day will require you to leave a session feeling worked but not destroyed, pumped but not stiff, do you get my drift? It will also increase muscle protein synthesis.

Leaving your first session you should feel worked with a good pump in the muscle you were working, then after say 3-4hours you should be feeling ready to tackle the weights again for round two.

Once you undergo your second session (depending on your desired goal) the same principles will apply, the only differences would be your selection of exercise choice and their purpose – Strength might mean Heavy Sets with Low Reps in the AM followed by Medium loading and higher reps and lower sets in the PM.

Structuring two workouts in one day is not as hard as you might think, it simply requires you to hit the same muscle groups with different exercise variations, different sets, different reps and different loads. When you understand the basic principles of loading/sets & reps you will be able to plan an efficient twice daily training program.

Here is a great structure to follow:

AM:

  • 2 Compound Lifts Tops (best in jump set fashion A1 – Rest B1 – Rest – A1 )
  • 1-5 Reps
  • 10-25 Set (10×5, 12×2, 15×1 etc)
  • Rest as needed

PM:

  • 4-6 Exercise Variations (2-3 for each AM lift, these work well in traditional super sets & tri-sets)
  • 8-12 Reps
  • 4-6 Sets
  • Rest 60-90 Seconds

You can train how ever many days you have free or ideally do a 4 on 1 off rotation – Legs (anterior focus), Chest/Back, Legs (posterior focus), Shoulders/Back.

Remember, Chase Performance, Not Fatigue.

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You Need to Press More.

We all love a good Bench Press, however it’s far more impressive to put a heavy weight over your head and all in all you will be far stronger because of it.

In the average gym there is the milestone of hitting 100kg or 220lbs, many strive to do this and most of them hit that magical target, however you will often find that these same people struggle to press 60kg or 135lbs over their head with good form for one rep… shocking.
While it is common to Bench Press more than your can Press having such a large strength deficit between the two can lead to some serious imbalances and eventually injuries if the proper precautions are not taken.
There are lots of benefits to pressing a heavy weight over your head, here are some of them:

– Mass & Strength builder: excellent form of overload to build shoulders, traps and triceps.

– Plateau buster in the bench press: One of the best ways to build a strong bench press is to train overhead pressing . Because of various strength imbalances that lead to neural inhibitions, your bench press progress is often stalled until you spend time on the overhead press. Much like your upper back strength and your dealift, if you have a weak upper back your brain will tell your body (hands) it can’t handle the weight and you won’t be able to fire enough Motor Units to lift it.

– Long term shoulder health: Training only the bench press is often the cause of many shoulder problems, basically leading to lots of internal rotation and overpowered front delts.

– Great for strengthening the lower back and deeper core/stability muscles.

Overhead pressing is also great tool for highlighting weak links in your chain. A weak lower back/core will severely limit how much you can press, well, a weak core will limit your performance on all of the compound lifts.

How much should you be pressing?

Your Press should be roughly 66% of your Bench press, this has been referenced by strength coaches such as Poliquin & Rippitoe.

Another great thought process comes from that of Pavel. He suggests that pressing everyday  is one sure fire way for shoulder health, you’re not going for maximal weight each day, you will be aiming for 15 reps total, this can be in the form os 3×5, 5×3, 1-2-3-4-5 and so on. I would suggest using a Heavy-Medium-Light approach to this and switch up what I am pressing with, for exmaple Dumbbells, barbell, Kettlebell etc. You can also use various pressing variations as well to further improve your pressing ability. Such varations could be the Behind Neck Press, Bottom Up Kettlebell Press, Seesaw Press and so on.

Now go, press daily and make progress.

Enjoy,Ross

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Sets, Reps & Loading… Oh My!

Morning Guys,

One of the most common questions asked is this:

“What sort of sets & reps should I do for XYZ?”

It has and will always be asked because people want to find that magic/perfect answer that will allow them to make the fastest progress with the least possible effort. However, the answer will usually stay they same as well. What is the answer?

“It depends.”

Or does it?

If you read enough and look in the right places you can find your answers, so long as you read objectively and understand that what ever your reading is only a snippet of the bigger picture.

The answer for building strength (motor unit recruitment) with additional hypertrophy is what we will look at today.

There are many fine books out there on the science and principles of training. They all have various things in common, one in particular being that Overload must be achieved through optimal stimulus that is specifically relevant to the goal. However due to the law of accommodation the original stimulus you expose yourself to eventually yields diminishing returns because your body always finds a way of becoming efficient and adapted, this is where you need to increase the stimulus to once again initiate this process (training facilitates an increase in protein synthesis meaning more potential growth, but that’s a topic for another day).

This is not a new concept, your body will adapt and progress, thus you will have a higher starting point for your next cycle of training. While you may have to drop some sets/reps to start again it will allow for recovery/adaptation so you can keep moving forwards. Think two steps forwards one step back.

Each time you subject your body to overload and recover/adapt from that overload you will be able to do more because of an increased tolerance/baseline (Strength, CV etc). In short the more you do the more you need to do to keep progressing or in fact maintain what you have. The old adage of ‘Use it or lose it’ is actually true, while it might not be in the form of muscular atrophy there will some motor pattern recruitment degradation which means you won’t recruit as many fibers in one go and lift less overall.

So what does that have to do with answering the question of the optimal set/rep range? Well thanks to a great many people who were diligent enough to record hundreds of athletes training routines spanning 50+ years, we can see a general pattern and what is more effective, in a general sense based on that particular mesocycle. A good book for your reference is the Science & Practice of Strength Training By Zatsiorsky & Kramer if you wish to know what I am basing this post on (it’s been a while since I read it, hopefully I won’t be too far out with the numbers.).

There are some factors you will want to keep in mind before we go on:

– Loading (weight on the bar)
– Number of Reps performed
– Volume (total amount of weight lifted overall with X weight)
– Density of Workout (sets performed in 1 hour)

The information I am basing this on was one that followed the Olympic Weightlifting teams in their run up to the 1972, 1976 & 1988 games. Their average reps in the assistance lifts – Squat, FS, Deadlift, RDL, Pressing, Rows etc (not the competition lifts of Clean & Jerk/Snatch) fell in the range of 2-7 reps with the most frequently used being 5-6, their average sets in this was logged at 24-26 (weekly for each cycle). The athletes did use 7+ rep ranges but the total sets were a lot lower, this was down to the overall mechanical/movement/muscular fatigue occurred that may impact the frequency of their training. It seemed that the average of 25-50 reps per session for assistance exercises was the norm. This was not on one exercise but across all exercises for the lower or upper muscle groups respectively.

When it came to their loading 35% of the total load was set at 70-80% of their respective maxes, then 26% in 90% and 24% in 60-70%. When you look at the overall they spent 59% of their time training in the 60-80% loading rage, this would be because of the ability to recover not only physically but also neurologically from this amount of load. When you take your loading to 90%+ you will find there is a heavy demand on the CNS and also the mind as well. The total volume for the 60-80% would be made up of multiple sets of 4-7 where as the 90+ would be 1-3.

*When strength training you want to recruit the maximal amount of fibers possible to elicit the largest response, put simply. This will help you make the most potential progress, provided you adequately recover and have optimal nutrition (while some functional overreaching is good, too much will result in burn out, no progress or potentially regression. It’s all about finding that balance in the most amount of work you can recover from while still increasing your work load over time.).

So what can you take away from this to help you build strength and size? Based on the higher end numbers, because no one really want to lift light weights, these are some guidelines to follow:

– Loading – 70-80%
– Reps – 4-7
– Sets – 6+ (25-50 total reps per session will influence this)
– Density – You may start with 25 reps for a total at 6x4x80% done twice per week being enough to elicit a positive adaptation while recovering, the density can increase by adding sets for example and building to 50 rep total 12x4x80%.

These are by no means rules that are set in stone, however they have been proven to work in the past. If you are looking to build a solid performance based foundation. For the average person I would advice at least 72 hours between sessions such as these. you might end up with something that looks like this:

Monday – Lower – squat, block deadlift, lunge,
Tuesday – Upper – press, pull up, bench press, row, dip
Wednesday – Off or CV
Thursday – Lower – deadlift, front squat, loaded carry
Friday – Upper – incline press, chin up, behind neck press, row, curl
Saturday – Off or CV
Sunday – Off/Foam Rolling

*You will do well to pick exercises that will give you the most band for your buck – large compound movements.

Use these guidelines and find the most you can do while still recovering and adding more. You can push typically hard for around 3 weeks, then you need to drop it back. This can mean lowering the volume/intensity to your original starting point before you undergo a new 3 week accumulation phase (remember the intensity will be higher than your first phase – eg phase 1 100kg 6×4 to phase to 105kg 6×4).

Enjoy,
Ross

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Jedi Mind Trick, For Lifting

Morning Guys,
 
Lifting more weight than you’ve done before is hard, not only physically but mentally as well.
 
Today I will help you lift more weights with the use of the Force and a Jedi Mind Trick.
 
First though, picture this:
 
Adding 5kg to the bar can feel like adding 50kg, thus meaning when you have an off day and unpack your new weight that feels like an absolute lump, you drop the weight and use your old one which now feels very light and easy.
 
Who’s done this before?
 
I have, that’s for sure. However if that now happens I continue to re-rack the weight but instead of taking weight off, I add 10 or 20kg on and un-rack said weight and do nothing more than hold it, usually for 30-60seconds.
 
Why?
 
Put simply, holding a weight over your working weight helps fire up your nervous system. This is a Potentiation technique (it increases the strength of nerve impulses along pathways which have been used previously, this is usually short-term for the day). It can also be known as contract training, popular with strength coaches such as Charles Poliquin. The length of the potentiation can last as long as 5min potentially, so this give you some time to have a brief rest, change the weights and get back under the bar without a worry.
 
Another great way to achieve this feeling is to do an ‘Over Warm Up’ this is where you warm up to a weight over your working weight, thus making your weights feel nice and light.
 
The next time you feel the weights are too heavy I suggest putting it back, adding more, holding it for a time (brace yourself properly and contract as many muscles as possible), unload it to your working weight and after a brief rest smash out some reps.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Changed

Over the years we are involved and surrounded by fitness we learn and grow, what we perhaps once used to value is no longer a priority and if that’s the case with you then allow me to be the first to congratulate you because you’re doing what many fail to do, growing.

The old views I used to hold were centered around high volume with a low-moderate frequency, I also used to train body parts, this has changed over time.

Below is what training means to me these days and how I look at and approach building training programs.

My current approach to training is as follows:

– Mobility before stability
– Stability before strength
– Patterns develop from the ground-up/midline-out
– Strength develops more with the patterns
– More does not always equal better
…in that order.

Essentially, if you don’t have the ability to control your body/control your movement, you have no right adding strength on top of your dysfunction, there are too many people who end up injured and worse off because they rush in to things ignoring the values above.

When it comes to the movements I use, the list below is in order of LEAST importance to MOST important:

– Push
– Pull
– Squat
– Hinge
– Explosive Full-Body – Loaded – Carries Kettlebell/Barbell Snatches etc
– Various Rotary Movements – Get Ups

While you could further break each of these down to unilateral, bilateral, horizontal, and vertical, these 6 movements make up everything we do as athletes or strong healthy people. Each training program must cover all of these equally, however what you will find is that people are bias towards pushing moments – don’t be that person. Aim for a balanced ration of all exercises.

A great way to maximise your workouts is to build them with the mindset of ‘I only have 20min to workout’ if that was the case what you exercises will be more beneficial – Bicep Curls or Weighted Chin Ups?

Remember, Maximum Effort!

My current rules of Training:

– Use a limited number of “big bang” exercises (deadlifts, squats, presses; powerlifting 101)
– Lift 2-7 times a week
– Keep reps between 1-5 emphasising doubles and triples
– Keep the volume around 10 reps or 6 when using singles (that’s total reps for the exercise) – heavy reps
– Rest: 2-5 minutes between sets (practice fast and loose drills – mobility)
– Train in the 80%-95% 1RM intensity zone (always leave 1-2 reps in the tank)
– Go for a PR, single or reps, when feeling exceptionally strong but stop short of an all-out max (always back off for at least 2 weeks following)
– Vary intensity every workout
– Don’t stop strength training in comp seasons (any sport) instead reduce volume by 2/3’s to ½
-Finish your workout feeling stronger than when you started

It’s optimal to pick big bang exercises, keep the volume low but frequency high (greasing the groove), always leave one to two reps in the tank, and make sure you finish your workout feeling STRONGER than when you started.

Want some rep schemes to work towards after warming up? These will vary day to day depending on how you feel, or alternatively you can cycle them in a Heavy-Medium-Light fashion, it’s up to you.

– 3×3 (heavy)
– 5×2 (heavier)
– 2×5 (light)
– 1×10 (Light)
– 6-10×1(work up to “sort of max”)
– 5-3-2 (moderate)
– 4-3-2-1 (moderate)

There’s lots of fun to be had here and strength to be gained!

Now you can see that i have gravitated towards strength, if this is not your goal then that’s okay. It might be more body building or CV based, you will have learnt and adapted training to your own specific needs. The point of this post today is simply to show you that it’s okay to change.

There is a quote I like that sums up my thoughts on training these days:

“Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.”

Take a look at what you used to believe and what you believe now.

Enjoy,
Ross

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Hard & Smart

Morning Guys,

There is a long standing belief by some that you must train hard so that you can progress, however on the other side of that camp there is the thought process that you must train smart to progress.

Which of those two thought patterns is correct?

Technically both are, however I like to look at it from a different angle…

Train SMART so that you can train HARD.

Why focus on shifting as much weight as you can without a plan? And why make a plan that looks good on paper but just doesn’t cut it in the gym or even reach the gym because you spend so much time trying to get everything just right. It’s madness not to link the two together.

Let’s break down what both of these individual aspects mean.

Training Hard –

This is a golden principle of the early days of weight lifting. This was something lots of lifters all agreed upon and adhered to, this allowed for the mind set that mean you either add weight to the bar when you can, more reps or more sets or even take less rest so that you get more done in the same time. You’d leave feeling worked, covered in blood sweat and tears with an insatiable lust for more, this mean the next time you went back to the iron pit you would be looking to do more than you did before in any way shape or form. It was sadistically enjoyable.

That is what hard work is all about.

Training Smart –

As with Training Hard, the principle of Training Smart also comes from the early days of weight lifting, as hard as that might be for some people to accept, it’s the truth. Bob Hoffman (founder/owner of York Barbell) was among the first to write structured programs for people to follow, not to mention he would put endless amounts of valuable tips in his magazines and urge people towards continued learning.

Bob was one of the first (with a few select others) who understood that while you needed to train hard (which he certainly did), you will also need to train smart to ensure continued progress.

How can YOU apply these concepts to your training?

Easily and I’m going to show you. what you need to do.

To Train Smart:

First you need ONE specific goal, not several conflicting goals which a lot of people end up having.

Once you have your goal you will be able to start moving forwards and getting a plan in place. Your plan must contain the following:

– Specificity Towards the Goal
– Progression – Doing more than you’ve done before
– Total Volume Tracking* – The amount of weight lifted, rest taken, form and RPE
– Fatigues Management – Linked in with tracking
– Adequate Recovery

*A training/nutrition diary is a must. How can you know what you need to do if you have no record of what you’ve done? You can’t, so get one and start tracking.

You program must also be adaptable, this will help you regulate the intensity/exercise variation if needed (injuries, work and general life happen after all).

To Train Hard:

When you see a standard Gym Bro or Cardio Bunny who looks like he doesn’t have any ounce of a clue what he’s doing, yet he/she still makes some form of results, what do you notice? His poor form, Lack of control, grunting and groaning as he grinds out rep after rep or his steely focus and determination? The latter two is the reason he/she is making progress. They push themselves every workout and understand that you need to keep working harder to get results and this is something you NEED if you want to succeed.

When you link these two golden principles together you have something special, not just an arm chair expert or a meat head, you have a person who knows what they have to do and how hard they have to work to achieve their goal and most importantly, they are determined with a willingness to learn.

Training Smart gives you the tools and the vehicle to progress, Training Hard gives you the fuel. You won’t get very far without both.

Now go out and train both Smart & Hard.

Enjoy,
Ross

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Easily Forgotten

Morning Guys,

How hard do you train?

Do you train up to the point of your own individual maximal recoverable volume (or as close as educated approximations will allow)?

Okay, that is quite an open question however if you track you progress you should know that answer, by tracking you will be able to establish what your previous/current total volumes and how far past it you can push each in future training cycles to make progress (say +500kg extra volume each month for example).

The principle of Overload is easily forgotten, then again so is what progression actually means as well.

Progress is progress no matter how small. Let’s a person did 140kgx10 on the squat with a belt and knee wraps 6 months ago for a PR set, they would expect this number to increase to perhaps 145/150 for their mind to register that they’ve made progress, however that might not be the case. Progress doesn’t always mean adding weight, sets or reps, it can also be how you do handle your old PR’s, if you can do 140kgx10 without a belt and knee wraps although the weight may have remained the same you’ve certainly made progress because you no longer need your support to complete what you did before.

Make sense?

Personally I don’t use a belt or any supportive extras, not for a sense of ego or pride, more so for the fact I have never used them because I didn’t own any. I track all of my workouts, I know what I did this time last year and for what reps, this helps me see the progress I have made (I managed 1x5x160kg on squat with good form but it was hard, that now stands at 5×5 a solid 3x5x160, and the last 2×5 are tough).

Another thing I like to keep in mind is my 70% for my lifts and how many reps I can do COMFORTABLY with it. By comfortably I mean without feeling like I’m going to die. This is a monthly check to see how I’m doing, each month I like to see what was a struggle for 10-15 reps feel easy for 15 so i can give myself a little ego boost (yep, pure ego boost) and train safe in the knowledge that even though the progress feels painstakingly slow and sometimes nonexistent, it’s still there.

How do you measure/track your overload and your progress?

If the answer is “I don’t know, I just….” then the chances are you’re missing out on some potential gains. remember this doesn’t just have to apply to lifting weights, it can also apply to CV, Body Composition and Nutrition as well.

Now go and workout what you’re actually doing and not what you think you’re doing.

Enjoy,
Ross

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