Tag Archives: lifting

Make progress with one set!

Something you may have heard or read in the past.
 
Is it true?
 
Yes, however you’ll need to know exactly what is meant by ‘one set’.
 
When people write or speak about making progress with the above, they don’t mean you literally only do one set.
 
What they mean is that you’re going to do one ‘working set’, you don’t include your warm ups in the mix, which could be was little as two sets or as many as 10 depending on how strong you are.
 
A working set is classes as an amount of reps performed at the target weight.
 
You also have the classic 3×10 by Delorme/Watkins which was as follows:
 
– 1x10x50% 10RM (warm up)
– 1x10x75% 10RM (warm up)
and finally…
1x10x100% 10RM (working set)
 
Going you one working set.
 
If we took the classic 3×8, this means 3 working sets, not including warm ups.
 
If you ever read Brawn, you’d find that lots of the programs had things like this written:
 
Squat 1×20
Press 2×5
Chin 1×6-8
etc
 
All of these are the working sets, as you cans occasionally they had 2 working sets.
 
The idea of this set is to much you to your limits and perhaps add some small amount of weight to be bar, improve the form, do it while having less rest and so on.
 
You could manipulate any variable to get progress so long as you made progress.
 
– Volume – perhaps got an extra rep at or 2 the same weight
– Intensity – lifted more total weight on the bar
– Density – had less rest than previously
– Frequency – performed this feat twice in a week instead of once
 
When you take a look at the principles behind this long spoken method of training it’s fair to say they’re pretty solid because they leave you nowhere to hide.
 
If you limit yourself to only one hard set, you’re more likely to give it your all and try to better that set in any which way you can.
 
The more modern approach of “Do all the sets & all the reps!” isn’t bad by any means, however it does often leave people working sub-optimally which is why some struggle to make any form of progress.
 
The repeated bout effect or repetition method is a solid one, that’s not being disputed, however those who get the most out of this are the ones who’ve spent a decent chunk of time hitting one hard ‘working set’ in the past.
 
You may also find working sets are called ‘top sets’ which can be found in those who follow a daily lifting routine – ala Bulgarian style training and daily maxing.
 
So, should you try this style of training protocol?
 
Yes, no, maybe, I really don’t know.
 
It certainly works, however if you’re making progress with what you’re doing then there’s no sense in changing, if not though, perhaps you might find this useful.
 
If you decide to work for top sets here are some pointers of where to start:
 
Top set recommendations:
Squat: 5-10
Presses: 5
Pulls: 6-8
DL: 3-5
Accessory lifts: 8-12
 
Enjoy,
Ross
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Warning…. Incoming R-A-M-P

This is considered by some to be the most optimal way of getting ready for you chosen activity.
 
You might have heard of this term in it’s non acronym form.
 
-Raise
-Activate
-Mobilise
-Potentiate
 
Today we shall break down what each of these elements means and how you can apply the to your workouts for better lifting and more gains.
 
Okay, Raise.
 
Might seem obvious, it’s getting your pulse up and your blood flowing. It can be from a movement pattern or some other means, dealers choice.
 
Activate, a buzzword or late however it does not mean what people think it means.
 
What it doesn’t mean is doing umpteen isolation or banded exercises to fire each individual muscle, it means performing the movements you will be doing in your workout. First with perhaps bodyweight, then added resistance which is increased as you do more warm up sets.
 
Mobilise, this falls in with the movements you’re going to be doing and can also have crossover from your mobility pattern you did at the start to help get your blood flowing and raise your pulse.
 
Lastly we have Potential which is directly linked with the adding of resistance to your movements in your warm up sets which causes increased muscle fibre/motor unit recruitment, this will help you lift heaver weights.
 
Your warm up might look like this.
 
Mobility routine to raise pulse and mobilise.
 
Warm Up sets on lift to activate/potential muscle.
 
Squats:
 
– Warm Up Set 1 – Bar x10 – feels fine
– Warm Up Set 2 – 40kg x5 – left hip feeling stiff – foam roll 20 sec
-Warm Up Set 3 – 60kg x5 – feels fine
– Warm Up Set 4 – 80kg x3 – left glute doesn’t feel like it’s firing – band around ankle for 15-25x abduction on left leg
– Warm Up Set 5 – 100kg x3 – feels fine
– Warm Up Set 6 – 120kg x1 – feel fine
– Warm Up Set 7 – 140kg x1 – feels fine – last warm up set
– Working Sets 5x5x125kg
– Working Set 1/5 – felt fine
 
And so on.
 
Give it a go and you’ll find your workouts are more productive and also far more time efficient. After all, it’s better to spend 10-15min doing this and being able to get in to your working sets than it is to follow a 30min instgram activation routine before even stepping foot near a bar.
 
If you would like a nice technical read then please take a look at this link:
 
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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40+ Lifting

The ravages of time effect us all, it’s something none of us can deny.

Eventually the days of working all the hours under the sun followed by a hard night of partying and then getting up at the crack of dawn and crushing a workout can only last so long.

In the end the body says “Nope, just no.”

So why does this happen?

Let’s look at what we know:

– Hormonal profiles are less optimal
– Your ability to recover declines as you age
– Sleep becomes paramount
– Tolerance to alcohol, highly processed foods declines
– You can actually train harder as you age due to better and more mature/developed neurological connections that create more in-road each session (plus you might have made strength gains from your early days, hopefully)
– Basically you’re no spring chicken anymore

Some people think raging is a bad thing, it’s not, it’s simply a process of life however if you plan your training correctly you can make plenty of progress in your later years, and for some people even make the best progress they’ve ever made.

Personally I’ve had clients who go on to outdo themselves ten-fold from their youth because as an adult they possess the following quality that only come with time:

– Wisdom
– Patience
– Accountability
– Common sense

A typical younger version of yourself might train 5-6 days per week and hit a combination of weights/cardio, not a bad thing, however from experience the attitude of most is that of this “I’m maintaining what I’ve got.” whereas as you age the attitude becomes “I’m looking to become stronger and improve what I have to prevent further decline.” – obviously note true for everyone, just most people.

As youths we truly are ignorant and take what we have for granted. If we had known that the foundations we lay in the early years will serve use to help keep our youth for longer more people would put in a conscious effort to train for strength/progress rather than just aesthetics and maintaining what we have.

^^ Always train for strength, performance and progress, that’s the bottom line. If you do aesthetics will come regardless of age.

Below is a winning formula I have used for people over the age of 40 who have become more invested mentally in their training.

– Train 2-4 times per week (more isn’t necessary)
– Focus on strengthening your posterior chain
– Focus on stretching your anterior chain
– 2-6 movements per session is great
– Conditioning is important (use 1 session to hit CV 80%+ HRR)
– Lower reps with more sets trumps all
– Average intensity will be around 80% 1RM
– 2-3 weeks of hard training followed by 1 week easy is king
– Take 4 total rest weeks of a year (12 week mesocycles)
– Food is fuel, eat mostly whole foods
– Enjoy life, if you want to eat loose do it, just don’t go nuts to often

If you’re new to lifting I advise you hire a coach to help you with the below. Kettlebells are a great tool, however they require practice so leave your ego at the door, focus on longevity.

 

You’ll improve strength/conditioning/mobility/flexibility with kettlebells, they’re the perfect tool as we find ourselves hitting the later years. If you have never used them I suggest hiring a coach to help teach you their ways.

Enjoy,
Ross

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Volume goals and low reps.

Morning all,
 
High reps, low sets are popular for getting in a lot of volume, however you can do the same by using submit weights and lower reps and we shall look at why you should be doing this.
 
Why use low reps higher sets to hit a daily volume goal?
 
1 – You use a higher % of 1RM – say 85% (a technical 6RM) for multiple sets of 2-3 reps until you hit perhaps a 50 rep target. 16-25 sets required.
 
2 – It stimulates more muscle due to it being a higher relative load, more muscle fibres used means more adaptive need, this means more progress.
 
3 – Lifting heavier weights is more fun and provides what is called ‘functional hypertrophy’ – essentially you’re strong and look good, rather than just looking good with nothing back it up.
4 – It’s way more fun.
 
Here is a simple structure to use:
 
High volume workout – 80%+ 1RM – 50 reps – 3 lifts per session: these don’t have to be the sam lift each workout, cover the following movement patterns across the week for optimal results.
 
– Full body – snatch, clean/jerk etc)
– Loaded carry – farmers walk, sand bag carry and so on
– Hinge – deadlift
– Squat – umm well… a squat, obviously
– Pull – Chin up or row perhaps
– Push – Press or a dip
 
^^ The options are endless, just pick a moment and find a lift to go with it.
 
Train movements for miracles.
 
Moderate volume workout – 80%+ 1RM – 30 reps – 3 lifts per session
 
Low volume workout – 80%+ 1RM – 10 reps – 3 lifts per session
 
This volume cycling will allow you to get some much needed recover if you start feeling beaten up, you can utilise the H-M-L as you see fit. A weekly loading high look like this:
 
M – H
T – M
W- L – or off
T – H
F- M
S – M
S – L or off
 
Aim for 80-210 reps of volume per movement per week.
 
Make sense?
 
If you lift heavier weights more often you will find a lot of benefit to strength, muscle mass, fat loss and less boredom from doing endless high rep pump sets.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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The most common deadlift flaw.

The deadlift is a great test of strength, you simply grab something and lift it off the floor. If that isn’t a the best indicator of someones ability to generate raw force then who knows what is.
 
When it comes to this lift there are a great many faults that occur, however the most common is not the rounded back, although that is a very close second.
 
The most common flaw is not pulling the slack out of the bar.
 
Addressing the bar with a correct set up is something everyone can learn easily, the same is true for keeping a fairly neutral spine, however pulling the slack out of the bar take some time to master because it removes any extra momentum and this is what people usually use to break the weight off the floor.
 
If you use a jerky momentum to get the weight off the floor you will fin that you lose position, end up with no leg drive and make the lift quite difficult.
 
The reason people use momentum is due to the fact that they feel the bar won’t break the floor unless they do, which is wrong and also dangerous until you’ve got 100% solid form. The bar won’t break the floor if you fail to generate the necessary amount of force to do so, taking the slack out gives you the best chance of achieving this. Even if it does feel like it won’t move to begin with.
 
How do you pull the slack out then?
 
Once you’ve set up and taken hold of the bar, start by gripping it tight and locking in your lats, then start to lift your chest and pull the bar up, if you do this correctly you will feel the bar flex slightly, meaning you’ve pull out the slack. You should hear a small ‘chink’ if you’ve done it correctly.
 
 
Keep the slack out by staying tense and pulling against it, then use your legs and push the floor away.
 
Spend some time mastering this technique and you will find your deadlift numbers increase and you injury rates go down.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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A lesson in being humble.

Morning All,

You might think that for people who work and write about fitness, training, lifestyle change or anything of a similar ilk that they’ve got it all sorted, they never fall to the traps of ego or pride and everything is as it should be.

I’m here today to tell you that if you assume that, you’ll most certainly make an ass out of you and me.

This morning I personally fell to my own hubris.

There was a lift I assumed would be hit and there would be no issues, it can safely be said that that was the mother of all mistakes because the lift was missed three times do to poor tricep strength in the lock out portion of the lift.

Anger ensued, disappointment was rife, clarity was gained, a lesson was learned.

Don’t assume anything until it has been done.

The next time you find yourself struggling and look to others and start thinking “They’ve got it so easy.” or anything similar, remember that chances are they have failed int he same way you have, they’ve learnt lessons you have yet to know even exist and made progress, it just took time.

Enjoy,
Ross

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Structure Considerations

Ah Wednesday.
 
Half way through the working week, which means you can basically start to relax now an plan the forthcoming weekend because that’s what life’s about. We can also talk about workout structure and where/what your bias should be in programming your training each session.
 
This morning I stumbled across a rather nice piece by Vladmir M. Zatsiorsky, Ph.D. It was a great read on the average, sets, reps, intensity and total training volume of Russian lifters (there was also some reference to the Bulgarians as well), keep in mind this was written about weightlifting and developing max strength but the principles can be carried over to other endeavours as well.
 
How do you currently structure your workouts?
 
Here is the link, it’s well worth reading:
 
 
The short version:
 
– Average training load 75-80% of Comp Max
– Average reps (main lifts) 2-3
– Average sets (main lifts) 60
– Average reps (accessory lifts) 3-6 – Rep Max Correlated
– Average sets (accessory lifts) 15-25
 
There is also talk of protein degradation/synthesis and how training stimuli can effect this and what effect it would have on Strength, Hypertrophy etc.
 
The Short Version:
 
– For optimal Hypertrophy through a nice balance of degradation/synthesis multiple reps (8-10) with a 10-12RM for multiple efforts to fatigue is optimal (adjusting rest time helps to provide optimal fatigue – my own tip would be to repay your efforts until you lose significant speed on the bar, then stop before form goes to pot).
 
You can also get some great info on muscle fibre/motor unit recruitment and HOW you can get the most bang for your buck and which training methods suit this best – Maximal Effort, Repetition Effort, Dynamic Effort.
 
The Short Version:
 
– ME = Best for strength – neurological facilitation (FT muscle fibres nailed)- max weight, low rep, lots of sets
– RE = Best for hypertrophy/strength – MF/MU recruitment optimised through fatigue and repeated effort with a sub-maximal weight, basically nothing is left un-hit.
– DE = Best for power – Sports/skill specific focus, good to add some ploy’s before a heavy lift for extra MU firing/recruitment or after for further exhaustion of potential FT fibres missed in RE.
 
You will find that reading this give a pretty logical view of how you can use all three methods (if you choose) to make a great training session, or even just one if that is your primary focus. Just remember that when you add more of one you need to take away from one of the others, for example: higher intensity = lower volume otherwise you may literally die as you’re slowly crushed by a heavy lift.
 
I tend to use this as a guideline for putting a session together:
 
– Main lift 15-25 reps (5-15 for heavy deadlifts) – 85%+ 1RM
– Accessory lift A 25-50 reps – 5-10 RM based
– Accessory lift B 25-50 reps – 5-10RM based
– Accessory lift C 50 reps – isolation/weak point focus – Focus on feeling the muscle, weight is 10-15RM based typically.
 
Enjoy, 
Ross

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The Science of Lifting, should you really care about what the science says?

Morning Guys,
 
I’m sure many of you are aware that the term ‘evidence based’ coaching has become incredibly popular over the last few years, almost to the point that it’s becoming quite annoying because people won’t break out of their comport one to try something different unless it’s had a study done on it’s validity with several peer reviews. Seriously, I know people who think this way.
 
In the last few years it almost seems that people have become snobs and quick to dismiss those who don’t have a Phd or 100 studies to back up a point. The age of the PubMed warrior has truly arrived.
 
Another note worthy point is some of the strongest, leanest and most muscular men & women never read the science, they learn from others and give what ever they’re doing there all. There are also a lot more of these people than you realise as well.
 
Don’t get me wrong. I very much enjoy reading the literature as to why something works and the fact that there are people willing to prove how/why something works is great, but let us not forget that before al the science was widely available there were plenty of people who made progress without it.
 
How did they do it?
 
Experience, anecdote and best of all; trial & error.
 
Have you ever taken that leap of faith and tried something based on recommendation? Of course you have, but now in the world of lifting people have become paralysed by over analysing things (I am guilty of this).
 
I remember reading a quote from Brooks Kubik that struck a cord with me, it went along the lines of “Simply try it. What’s the worst that can happen? Nothing, in which case you can go back to your old routine, but if I’m right and you start getting the best results of your life then it was worth the risk. Wouldn’t you agree?” – I’m sure I’ve mixed in several different quotes there but you get the idea.
 
The one thing I want you to take away from this post is this:
 
The science and proof of things is not to be dismissed but sometimes a little faith can go a long way. There’s no harm in trying something for 3-6months that hasn’t been scientifically proven, you can always go back to what you were doing if it doesn’t work.
Remember you don’t need scientific proof as permission to try a different training method.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Limited Choice

Afternoon Guys,
 
Did you know that having a limit to how many exercises you do in a workout can actually increase it’s effectiveness.
 
The reason being that if you take out excess you’ll find that you need to maximise what you’re doing with what you have to get the most bang for your buck, thus meaning an increase in intensity and metabolic disruption which leads to more potential progress.
 
I have challenge for you.
 
It will involve 12 weeks of commitment and effort on your part, if you feel up for it then keep reading.
 
The 2-3-4 Step Guide to Break Plateaus
 
In the first 4 weeks I want you to hit the following targets:
 
– 75 reps per week, per muscle group
– 70-85% average intensity
– Hit each muscle group 2 times per week
– Use only two exercises per muscle group
 
In the second 4 weeks I want you to hit the following targets:
 
– 100 reps per week, per muscle group
– 70-85% average intensity
– Hit each muscle group 2 times per week
– Use three exercises per muscle group
 
In the third and final 4 weeks I want you to hit the following targets:
 
– 125 reps per week, per muscle group
– 70-85% average intensity
– Hit each muscle group 2 times per week
– Use four exercises per muscle group
 
Doing this will give you an idea of what it takes to put together a program that delivers what you need with minimal confusion, take some time to think this through and opt for exercises that give you the best bang for your buck, such as Squat & Good Mornings as a pairing for example.
 
Also remember that an exercise such as Weighted Chins will also sufficiently hit biceps as well as annihilate you back, pair these with deadlifts and you’ve got a great back workout.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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