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Level Up

What level of training are you currently at?
 
Beginner
Intermediate
Advanced
 
Or more importantly, which one do you see your self falling in to because there are a lot who try to take on routines that are above their capability to sustain and recover from.
 
We’ve all been guilty of trying to punch above out weight at some point and while it can be sustained for a brief period it’s never too long before the wheels fall off the wagon and things start to go wrong.
 
Here are some common mistakes encountered:
 
– A large increase in volume
– Higher levels of intensity
– More frequency
– Inappropriate specificity
– Variable training density progression
 
The thought process of the many is that ‘more is better’ when in fact it’s just more, better is better and that usually means progression and individual specificity.
 
When it comes to establishing what level of training you’re actually at that is where things get a little tricky because it will depend on what you’re training for.
 
Most of the time it’s said that anyone who’s trained less than 2 years is a beginner, 3-5 is an intermediate and more than this is advanced, however I feel that is a very flawed approach because unless progression has been achieved in each year then you could get someone who has been ‘training’ for 10 years and still fall in to the realms of a beginner.
 
To determine where you sit you’ll want to look at these elements:
 
– Strength levels in compound movements
– VO2 Max
– Skills
– Progress achieved
 
You might be advanced in some, beginner in others, it happens. The ones you want to access unwell be those that are specifically suited to helping you achieve your goal.
 
Let’s take bodybuilding as the example and see what makes and advanced practitioner.
 
Have you achieved the following:
 
– A notable increase in lean body mass (20+ lbs from starting)
– Visible abs and residual muscle definition all year round
– Aesthetic change to your body
– High level of muscular control (feeling each of the muscles working when training them)
– Optimally proportioned symmetry, no chicken legs.
– Basically you look jacked an tan
 
If you’ve got all of those then the chances are you’re someone who would be considered advanced, at the very least a high level intermediate.
 
The style of training that would come along with this may fall in to the realms of high volume, moderate intensity with a body training split for higher frequency. Then you’d have the nutrition which would allow full recovery and progress.
 
If a beginner tried to jump on this they’d fail to make progress simply because it would be to much for their underdeveloped body to take on.
 
Make sense?
 
Take a look at your training and honestly assess your ability because you might be doing a routine that is simply too advanced for you and that’s why you’re struggling to make progress.
 
I say this because I’ve been there, don’t make that same mistake.
 
Earn your stripes, have a coach who will help you level up and don’t be in a rush to become advanced just to please your ego.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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3 Easy to apply methods to increase your strength TODAY!

Making changes in body composition is a goal for many people, yet when it comes to doing that you need to increase your base levels of strength.
 
Being stronger allows you to accumulate more total volume, which means more potential for muscle growth.
 
If you have hit a plateau, here are three easy to apply methods to help you boost strength.
 
1 – Dead Starts
 
Stating a press or a squat from the bottom position (a power rack or suit stand pins will be needed) eliminates the eccentric loading/stretch reflex meaning it’s pure neural output and force production, this is a great way to help strength.
 
Pick one movement and focus on this for 2-3 weeks, then change to another movement or a different variation of the lift, this can be quiet draining on the nervous system.
 
Perform said lift 3x per week start off with 8×2 and add a rep until you hit 8×3, use 80%+ of 1RM, rest as much as you need but as little as possible.
 
2 – Pause Reps
 
An old classic but one that is super effective.
 
If you’re pressing or squatting, simply get to the lowers point in the lift and pause there for a minimum of 2-3 seconds (4 is the point where most people lose all potential energy stored by the eccentric portion of the lift), build up to longer pauses over time.
 
So say week 1: 3 seconds, week 2: 4 seconds, week 3: 5 seconds etc.
 
You can also pause pulling movements, the main difference being you pause at the top of the lift (contraction peak), I believe it was Phil Learney who said if you can’t hold at the top for 3 seconds then the weight is too heavy and your back is too weak – other top coaches have said similar and I have to agree wholeheartedly with this statement. Leave your ego & your momentum at the door in pulling movements.
 
If you choose to pause deadlifts stop in either the concentric or eccentric, both are very effective at building strength – aim to pause at your common ‘sticking point’ as that’s where you’re power output is at it’s weakest.
 
2-3 week blocks advised, one lift focus per block.
 
3 – Partial Reps
 
Eek, gasp!
 
Yep, partial reps are a great tool for increasing strength, provided you have the equipment necessary to perform them with good form.
 
Say you have a sticking point, you’d simply set up the bar at the post just before it and just after it and press or squat through that small ROM to build your strength/force output in that area.
 
This could also be done in stages across the entire full ROM of a lift, might look like this:
 
A1 – Press lock out 3×3-5
B1 – 1/2 rep to 3/4 rep and hold (pressing in to the pins on each last rep as hard as possible 3×3-5
C1 – 1/4 rep to 1/2 rep press hold as above 3×3-5
D1 – Bottom of rep to 1/4 rep press hold as above 3×3-5
E1 – Full rep 3×3-5
 
Easy on paper, brutal in practice, but 100% effective in getting stronger.
 
2-4 week block advised, one lift focus per block.
 
Bonus – Cheat Rep & Eccentric Overload
 
A classic cheat rep such as a push press, or cheat curl for example. This allows you to get the lift up to the end ROM and then slowly lower the weight using eccentric training.
 
There you have it, some simple methods you can add to your training to increase your strength today.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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4 training elements to remember

Volume – Total amount lifted per session (or per week/training block)

Intensity – The overall % lifted relative to your given Rep Maxes

Density – Doing more done in the same time/same done in less time

Frequency – How many times per week you train a muscle group

Four key elements of programming, however they are often overlooked by many.

When I say this it is in reference to how some novice/intermediate lifters don’t take in to account how to correctly plan them in their workouts to ensure constant progression over the long term.

Often people will look to progress volume and only volume, which sadly leads to a lot of junk volume.

Junk volume?

Your numbers on paper might increase in terms of total amount done, but this can be from adding in massive amounts of isolation exercises with very light weights, which does nothing but cause fatigue and provide little to no adaptive stimulus. Essentially the more volume you add in willy-nilly, the lower you make your average intensity.

To establish your total volume: Sets x Reps x Weight = Total Volume

Be careful of that trap.

Many know how to increase intensity. You simply add more weight, simple.

The downside with adding too much intensity is that there is a compromise in the amount of total volume you can lift, so while this is great for getting stronger and making neural connections etc, it does little for adding size because you start to lack the necessary amount of stimulus to do so.

You just can’t lift super heavy weights (relative to your own strength levels) for lot’s of reps.

In most good programs you’ll find the average intensity falls at around 85% of 1RM for each respective lift, with a decent amount of volume (volume differed from person to person specifically, however 80-210 reps seems to be the common theme for hypertrophy at a good average intensity).

How to establish average intensity: Sets x Reps x Weight (all exercises of session) / Reps = Average Intensity

Now, lets talk about density.

A quick example of how it works: You train squats for 45min, total volume is 10,00kg, average intensity is 80%, next session you hit those same numbers in 40min OR you hit 11,000kg in 45min, in both you have increased the density of the session.

^^ That’s also how you establish how dense each session is, how much you’re doing in what times.

Great for keeping your intensity/volume in the right areas while focusing on getting more quality work out and less faffing about.

This is usually a forgotten method of progression, however it’s one of the more useful ones.

Lastly we have frequency.

If you are training a body part once per week you will make progress, plenty of people do, however what they don’t seem to realise is that there is a high degree of crossover in training certain areas, such as chest & arms one day, then shoulders & arms another – both will actually hit similar muscle groups.

It’s common for en especially to have 3-4 upper body sessions in a week when following a standard Bro-Split and only one leg day, this is why their legs end up lagging behind.

In an optimal world you will train each muscle group 2-3 times per week, keeping in mind that some training sessions have cross over to others, here is the typical thought process of how to plans sessions to optimise that crossover:

– Chest/back/arms
– Legs: Anterior chain (Quads as main focus, hammies as secondary etc)
– Shoulders/back/arms
– Legs: Posterior chain (Hammies as main focus, quads as secondary etc)

^^ A good 7 day split that hits each muscle group twice per week, you’d do Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday each week 🙂.

All of the above will help you program a successful way to the gains you desire.

The key to progression is progression.

People forget that, please don’t be one of them.

How do you plan your progression in your programs?

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How to train full body in 8 moves – Sage advice from a random lifter

It’s easy for people to get caught up in looking for eldest variations of lifts, usually to ensure they hit all the muscle fibres from every angle.
 
…. Sigh….
 
Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a time and a place for extra variations of lifts, however for most people they are not yet needed.
 
Why?
 
A long time ago a wise and rather large lifter once dropped this statement that changed the way things were seen –
 
“You spend too much time faffing about, no offence intended but you’re not strong enough to warrant doing that many isolation movements. You aren’t earn the right or build a base of muscle from solid lifting and compound movements. Stick with these for a solid 6 months and see who you go, if it works then great, if it doesn’t you can go back to with you were doing.” *Writes down a program with set/rep ideas.
 
Here is what was given:
 
Day 1 – Pressing/Pulling
Day 2 – Squatting/Hinging
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Pressing/Pulling
Day 5 – Off
Day 6 – Hinging/Squatting
Day 7 – Off
 
A standard 7 day split with 4 training sessions per week, 2 upper and 2 lower.
 
Here were the exercises:
 
Legs: Squat & front squat
Back: Deadlift/Stiff Leg & bent over row
Chest: Bench press & incline press
Shoulders: Military press & high pull/upright row
Arms: Dips or close-grip press, chins and/or some curls
 
Pretty simple.
 
They were organised them in to the following:
 
Day 1 – Pressing/Pulling
A1 – Military Press
A2 – Chin Up
B1 – Incline Press
B2 – Curl
 
Day 2 – Squatting/Hinging
A1 – Squat
B1 – Deadlift – Stiff Leg – Light
 
Day 3 – Off
 
Day 4 – Pressing/Pulling
A1 – Bench Press
A2 – Bent Over Row
B1 – Dips
B2 – Upright Row
 
Day 5 – Off
 
Day 6 – Hinging/Squatting
A1 – Deadlift – Heavy
B1 – Front Squat
 
Day 7 – Off
 
The advice was to aim for 30 reps to start and build to 50 reps per movement on average including light deadlift which was more a stiff leg variation explained, 15-25 for heavy deadlift.
Personally I’d also chuck in some planks and calf raises as well at the end of each session.
 
“Add weight where you can, if you can add weight add reps, once you hit the target then add weight, simple.”
 
Now this is nothing magical but it worked and is certainly worth a try.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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A simple answer to a common question.

“How many exercises should I do each workout?”
 
^^ A common question, to which there is a very simple answer.
 
2-7
 
The average for a decent workout seems to be around 4, however the option to go a little higher or lower is useful planning an accumulation or intensification phase of training.
 
If you’re lifting heavy, then perhaps a simple A1-A2 set up is best, this will allow maximal weigh tot be shifted and ample time for recovery in your 45-60min training slot.
 
The same is true for using more exercises, you’d usually find this happens when you’re lifting a little lighter and aiming for more volume.
 
There’s your answer.
 
Pick anywhere from 2-7 exercises per session, utilise the following methods to help you regulate training and stave off boredom.
 
– Super sets: A1-A2
– Tri sets: A1-A2-A3
– Giant sets: 4 or more exercises for the same muscle group
– Circuits: 4 or more exercises for different muscle groups
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Why people hate leg day

Typically leg day is avoided for one if not all of these reasons:

  • Feigned injury
  • The lifter is weak in the squat technically & physically
  • Laziness

Now there are times where people will have legitimate reasons not to train legs, however for the most part people skip them because they’re being pansies.

Now you must understand that leg day is a hard day, especially once you get strong, it’s a gruelling process but anyone who’s anyone digs deep and hammer it out.

In an ideal world you will train your lower body twice per week with compound movements, for the most part. Sitting on machines faffing about does little for you.

Here are two simple lower body workouts that will give you the best bang for your buck and add well needed mass to your legs, if you’re one of the many who doesn’t train them that is.

Lower Body 1

A1 – Squat 10×6 + 50 rep back off set (hit 50 reps with 80% of 5rep weight in as few sets as possible)

A2 – Hamstring Curl 10×6 + 50 rep back off – as above.

Lower Body 2

A1 – Snatch Grip Deficit Deadlift 10×5

B1 – Prowler or Hill Sprints 15min repeated efforts until time elapse

Nothing fancy, just good old fashion hard work and trust me, it will be hard and you’ll want to stop which you can so long as you’re okay living with failure.

Enjoy, Ross

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3 steps to big arms.

Morning All,
 
It is the goal of many a man to have powerful looking arms.
 
You’d imagine with the title of this post that me, the write, has some mighty pythons busting from the t-shirt selves, I don’t.
 
Why should you listen to these tips then?
 
Simple, they are the things people who do have impressive arms do all the time, as for me I detest arm day and find training arms pretty dull, I’d rather squat.
 
Okay, here are the tips to help you turn those spud guns in to cannons.
 
1 – Train arms 2-3 times per week with varied movements. They get a lot of indirect training in your pushing/pulling sessions, adding in 1-2 movements at the end of a session will be all you need to start to build them.
 
Some good parings are as follows:
 
– Close grip bench & Wide Grip Barbell Curls
– Dips & Hammer Curls
– Skull Crushers & Seated 90′ curls
 
2 – Get in a decent amount of volume while alternating heavy & light days. Perhaps a 10×10 super set finisher for arms, or maybe some drops sets, the point is you push them until you can’t go any further at least once per week and the other day (if you train them twice) would be a nice heavy session of perhaps 8×3.
 
3 – You must FEEL the muscle, if you can’t feel your bicep or tricep working then it probably isn’t.
 
When it comes to arm training they require work, just like any other muscle, however be careful you don’t end up as one of those chaps who has an impressive set of pipes with a good bench and nothing else. The squat & deadlift are equally important in your training, don’t neglect them.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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If you’ve never lifted weights, these starting exercises will help you begin your journey.

Morning All,
 
Starting out in the weight room can be hard, there are endless exercises to choose from. Below is a list to help you get started and the reasons why.
 
Top 6 exercises to start with:
 
– Front Squat
– Incline Press
– Chest Supported Row
– Seated Over Head Extension
– Seated Bicep Curl
– Plank
 
Apart from the Front Squat, all the other exercises can be done with dumbbells by people of any experience level.
 
Why those?
 
Front Squats help groove a good squat pattern, back squats can be quite technical for most due to the mass of the weight changing the angle their torso will be at. You avoid this with FS, while the front rack might be hard to hold, it’s worth learning sooner rathe than later.
 
Incline press, if you didn’t know, is the easiest pressing movement to learn because you have to have correct form or you simply can’t perform the movement. Think about it, if your elbows don’t stay in line with your wrists and you don’t pull your shoulder blades back as you descend you won’t press it. When this is correct you press up in a straight line, if not you won’t be able to lift anything, poor mechanics won’t allow it.
 
This move also stops you going too heavy and forces good form, unlike flat bench or overhead press (both great movements) which can be subject to power leakage.
 
Chest supported row, why this over bent over row or chin/pull up? Well when it comes to hold the correct posture for a B-O-R that takes time to learn, no to mention there can and often is a lot of added momentum that creeps in. As for chins, not everyone is strong enough to pull their own weight up from day 1, if they were I’d have both exercises in there.
 
Overhead extension & bicep curls, two back movements that everyone can do, they are simply the flexion and extension of the elbow. The seated curls will help reduce momentum and cheating, to a point. The overhead extension when performed seated will again reduce the chance of from breaking. Both exercises are good places to start to build up to better things.
 
Lastly we have a plank, everyone loves a plank. It teaches core bracing, diaphragmatic breathing and requires very little thought process to do correctly. They also help improve overall posture.
Now there is not things all of those exercises have in common, can you spot what it is?
 
They are all self limiting. The weights a beginner can handle in them will not be high, meaning they can groove their from and ego will be regulated accordingly. Unlike some other exercises where you can break from to get more weight, these ones don’t give you much option to cheat your form without it being highly noticeable for all.
 
Obviously these are not set in stone, however with raw beginners I’ve found they work very well and set the stage and understanding for good solid from. As said above, the base exercises chosen will differ from person to person based on their ability, however these are a good place to start.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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A little bit about the split.

Morning All,
 
A lot of people use the term ‘split training’ but it doesn’t mean hat they think it means, or at least in the context of the way they set up their training. Obviously plenty of you know how splits are meant to be applied, however some don’t so it makes it a god topic of conversation.
 
Did you know that optimally you’ll hit each muscle group or movement every 3-5 days (so 2-3x per week).
 
 
 
^^ Some reading on the topic.
 
For example, if someone says to me that they’re doing a 5 day split, my mind will come up with one of these options, logical:
 
Day 1 – Chest/Back
Day 2 – Legs/Abs
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Shoulders/Back
Day 5 – Off
Day 6 – Repeat day 1 to start 5 day split again.
 
Or perhaps
 
Day 1 – Chest/Back
Day 2 – Legs – Quad focus
Day 3 – Shoulders/back
Day 4 – Legs – Hamstring Focus
Day 5 – Off
Day 6 – Repeat day 1 to start 5 day split again.
 
Here is what most people mean:
 
Day 1 – Chest
Day 2 – Back
Day 3 – Legs, maybe
Day 4 – Shoulders
Day 5 – Arms
Day 6 – Off
Day 7 – Off
Repeat bro split, for additional results starting sipping at the tren bottle, it’s the flavour of the month.
 
As you can see what they actually do is a 7day split, as the routine repeat every 7 days, where as the 5 day split examples above repeat every 5, thus allowing for more frequency of training, the whole idea of splits.
 
You also find Upper/Lower Splits also run over a typical 7day split, they usually look like this:
 
Day 1 – Upper
Day 2 – Lower
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Upper
Day 5 – Lower
Day 6 – Off
Day 7 – Off
 
Or
 
Day 1 – Upper
Day 2 – Lower
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Upper
Day 5 – Off
Day 6 – Lower
Day 7 – Off
 
Make sense?
 
You have a lot of different training splits ranging from Full Body to Pull-Push-Legs, Push-Pull- Events or just a simple Push-Pull and so on. Them main take home from this this post is what the premise behind a ‘split’ actually is in terms of increasing the frequency of your lifts.
 
What is your current split?
 
Is it 3 day, 4 day, 5 day or 7 day?
 
Take a look and make sure it’s optimal for your goal.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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