Tag Archives: strength training

Pushing your sets all the way

Working out is easy, it’s training that’s hard.
 
When it comes to the mental aspect of lifting weights we’d all like to think that we’re putting in the effort we require and while some certainly do, most don’t.
 
You can tell by the results people achieve.
 
Let’s take for example the classic 5×5, if you look back at its inception the idea was to either do 3-4 warm up sets where you start working towards a top set for the day, some would even do 2 top sets after 3 progressively heavier warm ups, this would actually be quite hard.
 
To push a set of say 5 for everything you had, with good form of course, is quite draining and very few people will ever really do it. Most will lift a weight for 5 that they could have really don for 7, maybe 8 if they’re honest.
 
This is one reason a lot of us don’t get the progress we really want.
 
I’m guilty of this that’s for sure.
 
Now this isn’t to say that people don’t ‘work hard’, rather it’s just pointing out that many haven’t quite grasped the concept of really pushing a set to it’s limit. if they did they’d find training say 3 days per week is more than enough to make progress, rather than their standard 6 with back to back classes and AM/PM runs.
 
Good old fashioned honest hard graft isn’t pleasant, it’s tough, however it’s what produces results, especially when combined with solid nutrition and plenty of recovery.
 
Try doing 5×5 and having 3-4 of those sets being warm ups, then really go all out on the last set, you should feel sufficiently worked, you may have one more set of 5 at that weight, if you do then go for it, however if you get it right that one hard set of 5 will be enough.
 
The loading might look like this:
 
5x60kg
5x100kg
5x140kg
5x180kg
5x200kg
 
Done, move on to the next exercise and repeat the same process.
 
Just something to think about.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Can’t add any more weight?

Three ways to progress without adding weight to the bar –
 
1: Add Reps
2: Add Sets
3: Reduce Rest
 
We all love lifting more weight, it’s very rewarding, however it’s not always possible and because of that reason we need other ways in which we can keep progressing.
 
Above are three simple adaptations that we will cover.
 
1 – Adding Reps
 
Say you’re doing 5×5 at 60kg, yet you can’t hit the same 5×5 at 62.5kg.
 
Now you can add in fractional plates to your training that weight as little as 0.25kg however if you don’t have those then adding reps will be your best bet.
 
Perhaps you set out to add a rep each session until you are doing 5×7, or perhaps 5×10, the choice is yours, however what you will find is that by adding reps and setting a rep goal you’ll be able to add weight easily once you hit the added reps with ease.
 
2 – Adding Sets
 
Similar to above except the reps stay the same, so 5×5 might end up being 10×5 and so on.
 
You could even choose to combine the two and start off at 5×5, work to 5×7 then add a set and go back to 6×5, build that to 6×7, then on to 7×5 building to 7×7 all the way until you hit 10×7, you get the idea.
 
3 – Reducing Rest
 
This falls in to the category of Density Training with increases Oxygen debt and EPOC, getting the same amount of work done in less time is a great way to not only make progress in terms of strength and lean muscle mass but also stripping fat off.
 
If you’re doing the standard 5×5, the rest might be say 5min, you can easily make a dent by taking it down by 15-30 seconds each session until you’re at just 1min rest between each set. From here you’ve got the choice of adding weight or perhaps even utilising one or both of the methods from above if you’re still finding adding weight a tall order.
 
The three options above are simple and very easy to apply, however it will retire you to stay on the same workout protocol for a while, at least on your main lifts and this can be an arduous task for some people, you’ve been warned.
 
If in the event that you can’t add any more weight, you’ve hit your limit for that move, you can change the exercise to a different variation, so perhaps overhead press turns in to incline press, or incline press in to close grip bench press and so on.
When you stall on a weight drop it by say 5-10% and then utilise the methods above, you won’t regret it.
 
The secret to progress is progress, achieve it in any way you can.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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4 Movements you should be able to do.

Well you don’t have to be able to do these, however life will be much easier if you can.
 
1 – A full ROM overhead squat
2 – A full hinge
3 – A get up without the use of your hands
4 – A full ROM pull up
5 – A handstand – advanced
 
Why those 4?
 
In terms of general health you’ll find it’s these qualities people lose over time and as such their quality of life depreciates, however if you keep a good amount of strength in these movements you’ll find you age proof yourself throughout the years.
 
Let’s look at them all individually.
 
1 – A full ROM overhead squat.
 
Now this doesn’t have to be with maximal loads, it’s just a movement that will show your bodies potential limitations in ankles, hips & shoulders which are common because of daily life.
 
This skill can be linked to getting out of a chair or up from sitting on the floor. 
If you’re really strong you can do this on one leg too.
 
2 – A full hip hinge
 
This is in reference to a full hip flexion with minimal knee bend while not losing upper thoracic position, it will basically allow you to lift things correctly and minimise injury while firing up your hamstrings, glutes, erectors and musculature of the posterior chain.
 
It will also cross over in to picking something up and carrying it for a distance or time, a skill we NEED in everyday life.
 
3 – A get up without the use of your hands
 
If you’ve ever watched the difference between a elderly persona and a youth when it comes to getting up you will see the difference, however keeping the ability to get up without the use of your hands shows total body connection and strength which if kept in to old age can help keep you out of a retirement home.
 
The above being said, having the ability to perform a Turkish Get Up is also a great skill to have at any age.
 
4 – A full ROM pull up
 
Climbing is something we are meant to do. The ability to pull up your own body weight is an essential skill because it shows health & strength, plus if you’ve gotten in to your golden years and have slipped over and perhaps twisted your ankle the ability to grab something and lift yourself up will be most welcome.
 
5 – A handstand
 
Balancing on your hands was an old favourite in the days past and showed not only strength and total body connection along with wrist, elbow and shoulder health.
 
Inversion is a great skill as it requires concentration, bracing, controlled breathing and calm.
 
Now these movements are very useful for overall health and longevity, if you wish to specialise in a sport then you will have different needs which may go against the best interests of your health/longevity, this is the sacrifice you make.
Being able to move is also great for your mental health too.
 
If you want to work on these then you can either take up a movement class or perhaps some form of advanced yoga.
 
Being able to move is important, don’t lose it, the difference between a young body an old one is the ability to move.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Too good not to share

I came across this article while browsing through the inter webs for knowledge and it’s too good not to share.

https://www.t-nation.com/training/tip-get-ripped-with-4-rep-sets?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=article4844

Christian Thibaudeau is one of my favourite and his knowledge is phenomenal, you’ll enjoy this read.

I will certainly be giving this a go as I am currently short on time in my own training.

Ross

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5-3-2 or 3-2-1 or maybe 1-1-1

What do they mean would be the best question to ask first of all.

These numbers are in reference to the frequency of training a muscle group, or if you are less about the aesthetic and more about performance it will be in reference to movement patterns.

So 3-2-1 is ideal for beginners and people who are short on time yet still want to make a decent amount of progress in terms of strength, hypertrophy, performance and fat loss.

For example:

Squat 3 days per week
Press 2 days per week
Deadlift 1 day per week

I’d also add in pulling (elbow flexion) and hip extension movements (rows, pull ups, face pulls, reverse fly, swings, rope pull throughs etc) to the three day group as these patterns are often left out.

Press vertically and horizontally both days, this would also encompass all elbow extension exercises – skull crushers etc.

The reason many will do well deadlifting once per week as they can often lift more weight in this lift and as such will cause more metabolic disturbance.

Taking in to consideration what is above you can guess where 5-3-2 is going.

Yep, more frequency for people with more experience who fall in the intermediate level and need more exposure to the movements.

Depending on goal you may find you squat 3 or 5 times per week, the sam gif true for pressing/pulling it might be 3 or 5 days, you can adjust this as you need to.

Example:

Press/Pull 5 days per week
Squat 3 days per week
Deadlift 2 days per week

Over the years it has been shown that more often than not the more frequently you train something (the more exposure it has to training stimuli) the stronger it is and the more developed the muscle/area/movement looks.

Now these guidelines aren’t gospel, they’re just a guide to give people some direction.

What is 1-1-1 then?

Yep, you’ve probably worked it out.

You may even find that you’re one of the luck ones who can train things once per week and make progress, if that is the case then stick with what works because there is no sense in fixing what isn’t broken. If this is you, just make sure each session you give it your all for maximal progress, due to the low frequency you will need to hammer the muscle to hit your required volume/intensity/work capacity needs.

In terms of my own training I will tell you that higher frequency has very much helped me gain high levels of strength relative to my size (what is needed for the combative sports is partake in), however when I dropped my frequency – it was still a minimum of twice per week per muscle group – I made more hypertrophic progress, this was due to not only a different style of training but also eating in a caloric surplus*.

*You need to be in a calorie surplus to gain weight, you’ll struggle if you’re not in one, regardless of set or rep range. If you want to shift fat you can train int he same way you will just need a caloric deficit, fact.

Take a look at your training and compete the frequency of your lifts to what body parts you have developed the most, you’ll probably find the ones you train the most are the best, or as some might say “Those are you naturally strong areas” – well duh, you train them more, they’re going to be stronger than the ones you avoid.

Training is all about learning, applying and adapting until you find what work best for YOU.

Let’s get started.

Ross

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Short on time? Better back off.

The introduction and more frequent use of ‘back off sets’ has become quite popular of late.

You’ll find you can use them to determine suitable loading for your next session, increase total TUT and even help you maintain your progress if you find your gym training time has been chopped down due to life getting in the way.

In the past this has happened several times and as such a way and to be found to get in some quality work, here is an option for you, it will take anywhere from 20-30min tops, try not to spend longer than 30min (especially if your time is limited), just focus on hard work.

This protocol will:

– Provide suitable mechanical tension for strength
– Generate metabolic stress for adaptation
– Create muscle damage for new growth

All you need to do is follow the guidelines and put in all your effort, eat the calories required for your goal (I’ve written about this previously), sleep and stay focused.

Let’s get down o the details.

– Use compound movements (Squat, DL, Press, Chin, Row, etc)

– 1 or 2 per workout (A1/A2 pairing)

– Ramp up your weights each set, start off with 5’s and work to one heavy set, then add a little more weight for a 3, then finally a little more for 1 single. The triple/single aren’t all out efforts, only the 5, they’re just for extra neural stimulation.

– Take 70% of the top 5 and perform 1 back off set of 10-20 reps unbroken

– Rest is minimal between sets, go as soon as you feel ready

– 3 sessions per week is a good minimum to cover the full body

You will be in and out in no time at all.

This short style of workout will allow heavy enough loads to trigger a host of positive things and the back of set will further potentiate this.

If you find you’re doing all of this in 20min then use the extra 10 for some accessory movements (arms, calves etc).

The protocol above is nothing fancy, it’s devised to get maximum results out of minimum time and as such leaves no room for dilly-dallying.

Enjoy,
Ross

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A progression option

Accumulation & intensification

Basically the way you can structure blocks of training to help improve one or multiple elements of training.

These can be used in 2,3,4 week blocks each time or even sometimes as long as 6 weeks a piece, you can even do 6 weeks accumulation and 2 weeks intensification, this will all be down to how the individual responds.

Let’s look at some examples:

Day 1
A1 – Squat
A2 – Chin

Day 2
A1 – Press
A2 – Row

Day 3 – Off

Day 4
A1 – Deficit Deadlift
A2 – Dip

Day 5 – Off

Day 6
A1 – Front Squat
A2 – Dumbbell Clean & Press

Day 7 – Off

Acc – Weeks 1-3 – 6×6-8×70% 1RM wk 1, 72.5/75% wk 2&3
Int – Weeks 4-5 – 8x3x85% wk4, 87.5% wk5
Acc – Weeks 6-8 – 6×6-8×72.5% 1RM wk 6, 75/77.5% wk 7&8
Int – Weeks 9-10 – 8x3x87.5% wk9, 90% wk10
Deload (volume reduction or 30-60%)
Start process again for another 10weeks, starting Acc 75%, starting Int 90%

You get the idea.

The same would apply for CV training, you’d start off with a moderate intensity based on the fitness assessment results of your clients initial tests, then plan in steady state work, intervals and so on.

Each Acc/Int phase will differ in set/rep/load planing based on the clients goal, etc.

Example rep/loading ranges:

Strength – 1-6 – 85%+ 1RM
Hypertrophy 6-20 – 60-85% 1RM

Some people will need more variety and change ever couple of weeks (dopamine dominant), others may do well to stay on the same protocol for 6weeks (balanced across all neurotransmitters), it’s up to you as the trainer to find out what is best for the client.

Enjoy,
Ross

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All Bar One

Keeping things simple is always appealing, especially when it gets results too.
 
If you look back on this page you’ll find workouts using only Dumbbells, Kettlebells, Bodyweight and more, however there is little in the way of Barbell exclusive workouts, keeping this in mind that is what we shall look at today.
 
How can you use only a barbell (plus weight plates, obviously), to achieve a great workout and even make a ton of progress?
 
When I say just a bar, I mean just a bar. Not squat rack, squat pins nothing, just a bar and plates.
 
Easy, you have a few options:
 
– Complexes
– A1/A2 Jump Sets
– One Lift a Day
 
Let’s break down each with some examples for you.
 
Complexes –
 
A barbell complex is like any other, it’s a series of movements performed back-to-back with a set number of reps for each movement before moving on to the next.
 
You can have a little as 3 exercises or as many as 8, possibly more if you’re a sadist.
 
A nice one to try is as follows:
 
RDL, Power Clean, Press, FS, Row – 5-10 reps for each.
 
This can be done with progressively heavier weights to a top set, it can be done at the same weight for as many rounds as possible for time, the options are endless. A great method for stripping fat, improving cardio and slapping on some lean muscle.
 
Next up,
 
A1/A2 Jump Sets –
 
The classic pairing of two exercises is always good for helping shift some heavy poundages when performed in this way, this option is great if being big and strong is the goal.
 
It might look like this:
 
A1 – Deficit Snatch Grip DL – Rest 60 seconds
A2 – Floor Press – Rest 120 seconds
Repeat this sequence until desired sets/reps are hit, this could be 8×3, 5×5, 10×5
 
Depending on how many days per week you have to train you can alternate floor press with standing press and the deadlift with cleans etc.
 
Lastly we have the ever forgotten method known as…
 
One Lift a Day –
 
I’m sure you might be able to work this one out based on the name, it’s quite a good hint after all.
 
All you need do it pick one lift, just one and rep out for a solid 45min (this includes warm up as you can start off with some mobility then the bar and add weight to potentate until ready for working sets).
 
With this option you can either go for a high volume day, a high intensity day, a light pump day, the choices are yours depending on what you feel needs the most attention.
 
Here is an example of how you might structure a week:
 
1 – Snatch Grip Deadlift
2 – Press
3 – Row
4 – Off
5 – Clean
6 – Floor Press
7 – Off
 
Don’t forget old school exercises such was the bent press, side press, 2 hand any-how and other classics.
 
You can use any lift you choose of the the 45min block, this can even be skull crushers or curls if you fancy something like that. Its also worth noting that 45min is a guide, you could go for 30min or less if that’s all you have.
 
Each of the options above are easy on paper yet brutally hard when put in to practice, however that hard work will transfer in to progress and results, provided you give 100% and stick at it for longer than a week.
 
As a recommendation, wave the loading between Heavy-Light-Medium so that you can give you body some time to dissipate any accumulated fatigue. Go heavy as often as you can but don’t be afraid to have some easier workouts too.
 
Now the next time you find yourself in a pinch with only one a bar and some plates you’ll have some options.
 
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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Take my strong hand!

Are you uneven?
 
While the pursuit of strength is the most important element of many good training programs there is a lot to be said for being aesthetically balanced.
 
Apart from looking symmetrical you’ll also be more protected from injury.
 
Typically you’ll find people have one strong and one weak side (often the hand the write with gets more development), this can lead to overall muscle imbalance which starts to take you down the winding road towards of poor posture.
 
It’s not uncommon to hear this little gem:
 
“I can do 10 reps with this weight on this arm but only 5 on my other one.”
 
Now since common sense has long since vanished from our world you’ll find people laugh at this and continue to work the stronger side harder than the weaker one because their idiots.
 
A nice tip I give people in response to this statement is this:
 
“Start with your weaker arm and max out the reps, them match it on your stronger one.”
 
This is often followed by confusion as they say ‘but I can do more on that arm.”, due inevitable face palm.
 
Aside from matching reps on both sides it’s also a good idea to use unilateral movements to even up muscle/strength imbalances.
 
Here are some examples:
 
– Dumbbell Pressing
– Dumbbell Rowing
– Lunges
– Single Leg Deadlifts
– Single Arm Pulldowns
 
You get the idea.
 
While it is true you won’t replace compound movements (bilateral) in terms of getting the most out of your workouts, it can be useful to add in periods where you focus on some unilateral movements as accessory work to help even out those lagging areas.
 
Enjoy,
Ross
 

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