Firstly, anyone who makes a decision to join a gym and become more active, whatever their goal is awesome and it should be celebrated.
Joining a gym can be one of the scariest things you’ll do.
However how do you know if the training you are partaking in will actually get you closer to your goals?
Is there potentially something that could be more effective in allowing you to achieve this?
There are many different variables that can affect our training quality, and how successful the training we are doing is, is largely down to our own perception of success,
There certainly is however a more beneficial way to train and principles that should be followed if you want to continue to progress and get closer to your goals in the least amount of time.
Whether you goal is weight loss, muscle gain or just toning everything up, some form of strength training will enhance and accelerate this process, and before you ask, no ladies lifting some weights will not make you bulky/manly, no matter how smart your training is.
We are going to look at the Muscle and Strength pyramid and briefly explain the most important variables to consider when training to bring you the most success in the least amount of time.
Level 1- Adherence
It doesn’t matter how fancy or smart your brand new training programme/method is, if you can’t stick to it then it isn’t going to bring you the results you desire.
Your training programme needs to have an element of personalisation to you and fit within your schedule. Taking into account lifestyle factors such as time availability to train and energy levels.
Building a more toned physique and getting stronger takes a lot of time and consistency so finding something you can stick to is super important.
Far to often people pick up new programmes that take up to much time or cause to much fatigue meaning nothing ever gets adhered to.
Also remember, training should always be enjoyable, never a chore.
Level 2 – Volume, Frequency, Intensity
This is the most complicated level but one of the most important variables when creating a training programme that will produce results. These three factors all affect each other and vary depending on your training goals.
Ill try and keep it short and simple.
Volume is the amount of total work performed per muscle group per session (sets x reps x weight) and is a key factor to be aware of if building muscle/toning up is your priority.
A recommended guide of how much volume to include in your training programme if your goal is primarily to tone up would be 40/70 reps per muscle group, per session.
For example 3×10 Bench Press + 3×10 Incline Dumbbell Press would be 60 reps for the chest and triceps (which is plenty of volume for one session and a lot less than most people think they need to be doing).
Intensity – This refers to the load used and can be defined as a % of a persons 1 repetition max. The intensity of which we lift largely comes down to the adaptations we wish to occur from our training.
For the sake of this article we will talk about the intensity required for someone looking to tone up and build a little muscle.
For this i would recommend most training to be completed in the 8-12 repetition rep range per set. With some slightly lower than this (1-6 rep range).
Frequency – How often should we train each muscle group for optimal benefits?
A common mistake people fall into and one not optimal for the best results is training each muscle group individually on different days, I.E
Monday – Chest
Tuesday – Arms
Wednesday Chest and Arms
… you get the point.
The problem with this some muscle groups are potentially only trained once every 7 days (sometimes even less frequently). this is certainly not optimal for someone who wants to train 3-4 hours a week and get the best results possible from that time.
A more optimal way of using that amount of time would be to hit each muscle group 3/4 times a week using whole body sessions.
The bonuses being you achieve the same amount of volume if not more over the course of 7 days (giving you results quicker), less muscle soreness due to spreading the volume more equally and more calories burnt per session which can also help aid weightloss (Winner!)
Level 3 – Progression
A term we use a lot and one essential for anyone looking to continue to make progress over time is ‘progressive overload. Without implementing this within your programme you will fail to achieve the results you are working so hard for.
Progressive overload can be manipulated in different ways, it could be an increase in the number of reps performed at the same weight previously used, an increase in weight lifted on a particular exercise or an increase in the number of sets completed for an exercise.
Any of these methods will cause an increase in total volume, therefore leading to better results.
Which method of overload to be best used will be dependant on numerous factors such as time, lifestyle, training goals and phase of training etc..
Level 4 – Exercise selection
If your goal is just to tone up and build muscle a variety of exercises can be performed that will produce good results.
Exercise selection only really becomes more important for those competing in lifting based sports of for someone competing in bodybuilding.
My recommendation would be to pick exercises for each muscle group that you enjoy most and will therefore work harder when performing. It will also mean better adherence to your programme.
Level 5 -Rest periods
Rest periods is another variable touted by some to be super important to building more muscle and toning up. Research has been done that challenges this,de souza, T.p.J., et al., 2010, found no significant difference in muscle cross sectional area when comparing rest intervals of 2 min to rest intervals as short as 30 secs.
My recommendation would be to rest as long as you require to recover enough to achieve the necessary intensity each working set.
The only benefit could be to save some time for those who’s training time is limited due to other lifestyle commitments.
Level 6 -Lifting tempo
- Not all training is purposeful, in fact a lot of people could better use their 3-4 hours per week in the gym and start getting much better results for their time and efforts.
- Proper, well organised Strength training is under-utilised and is something everyone can benefit from, no matter what their training goals.
- Adherence and Volume, intensity and frequency of training are the most important training variables to consider.
- Rest periods and Tempo aren’t that important if you’re simply looking to tone up, look and feel better.
So hopefully you can take some of this information and use it within your own training to accelerate your progress and achieve everything you want.