Getting all of your advice from your buddies down the gym can be helpful but also damaging. After this article no longer will you waste time with exercises that don’t work or techniques that get you nowhere.
You may think that you know a lot about training but these are some tips that you may not have heard of that can make all the difference to your gym time.
1 – Leave The Best Until Last
Everyone has exercises that they don’t enjoy as much as others. Whether it’s squats, pull ups, deadlifts, military presses or anything else that isn’t bicep curls or bench pressing. Normally, we’re so excited for the gym that we just want to get stuck straight into the movements we love the most. Then if the equipment we need to use is already taken then we become angry and frustrated. How else could you possibly start your training? Is this bad luck? How long are you going to have to wait now?
Beginners, in particular, are most guilty of doing this. When you first start hitting the gym leg day is the last thing on your mind. All you want to do is arms and chest all day every day. Unfortunately (and fortunately) as you get more clued into bodybuilding you realise that leg day is important and has to be done no matter how much you dislike it. The squat especially is great for targeting all areas of the kinetic chain as well as teaching you how to brace your core. Missing out on this exercises is a huge mistake.
The problem with this is that not only do we have the least amount of energy for the last few exercises but we also have the least amount of motivation as we don’t enjoy them. This makes the end of our routine boring and often skippable.
What’s the solution? It’s simple. You need to stick the exercises you like the most right at the end. The exercises people usually like the least are big, compound, multi-joint exercises because they are the most draining. By starting your workouts with squats, military presses, bent-over rows, bench presses, and other big exercises then you can enter into them with more energy and you might even find that you enjoy them more now.
2 – Shake Things Up (But Not Too Much)
We’ve all heard the mantra ‘keep your body guessing’ and it’s a training mentality that a lot of gym goers stand by. Each day, each week doing different exercises with different sets and different reps. Fundamentally, the idea is not wrong. If your body gets used to doing the same thing day in and day out then it has no reason to grow. It’s where it needs to be so it’s not going to adapt.
However, too much change can make the body confused, simply put. The real driver behind the muscular growth is volume and progressive overload. You want to get stronger so that you can lift heavier weights for more reps. The only way of doing this is consistency. Yes, you need to change your training up every once in a while not only so that your body can receive a new stimulus but also so that you don’t get bored in yourself.
When you do change your training don’t change it completely. Swapping a bicep curl for a hammer curl is a good idea. Little changes mean that your body receives a new stimulus but is still working to adapt the same part of the body.You can also swap up your rep and set targets. Instead of hitting three sets of 8 try doing 5 sets of 5. It’s still a similar volume but you’ll be able to lift more weight with each set.
Try incorporating different techniques such as forced reps, negatives, partial reps, drop sets as well.
If you stay in your comfort zone then your body has no reason to change. If you hit a plateau then boost up the intensity for a few weeks before returning back to normal.
3 – Remember When To Hold Back
A lot of us are guilty of going too hard in the attempt to make more gains. Unless you go to failure it can seem like you haven’t worked hard enough. This is especially present when you train with a partner. ‘One more rep!’ You scream at each other and make sure to help people on every single set when the other one can’t lift the weight anymore.
Luckily, this is a misconception. The whole idea of training is to create a stimulus for your muscles to grow; not break them down so that you’re sore for weeks and can’t even walk up the stairs. As long as after each workout you’ve challenged yourself with each exercise then your body will grow and adapt.
Taking a set to failure once each workout is not a bad idea it’s just when it becomes a staple in your training then issues can arise. You’ll become drained, exhausted, and frustrated that you lose steam halfway through a workout. Overtraining is a real and prominent issue seeing as a lot of individuals looking to grow train around 6 days a week, a lot more than what is needed for the average beginner or intermediate lifter.
When you overtrain you’ll become more stressed inside and outside of the gym. Overtraining has been linked to reduced levels of muscle building hormones such as testosterone which is the main reason as to why less growth is seen when people increase their gym time past the necessary point.
4 – Spice Up Your Training
The basic big exercises are all well and good but they’re not the be all and end all. There is a large exercise library which you have access to thanks to the internet. All of these movements can be used by different people for different outcomes and are just waiting to help you with your gains.
The best approach to training is to use compound movements as your bread and butter then assistance exercises to boost growth in areas that are lacking. For example, on a leg day you want to be using squats, deadlifts and lunges as the base and then leg extensions, leg curls, vertical jumps, glute bridges and other assistance exercises to increase the volume. If you have trouble growing your quads then you’re going to want to focus more on leg extensions. If you want to get more powerful then you may do more vertical jumps. Compound lifts are for everyone and then the finish assistance exercises you can make more individual.
A simple way to twist up an exercise for the upper body is to simply switch your grip around. Using an overhand grip for bent over rows will place more emphasis on your upper back whereas using an underhand grip will include your biceps more. This is similar to the difference in a pull-up and a chin-up.
Always try different positions, techniques and postures for your assistance exercise as you may find that they hit your muscles harder and are more enjoyable to perform.
5 – Strength First, Pump Second
Arnold Schwarzenegger first introduced us to the pump after professing his love for the feeling over and over. Ever since bodybuilders have been chasing this build up of blood and treating it as the magical elixir behind major gains and getting big. Sure, the pump will get you bigger but compared to other methodologies this idea really lacks.
Your main focus in training should be getting stronger. If you can increase the amount of weight that you’re lifting in big, compound movements then you’re going to grow. Always begin your training with the lower rep exercises.
Then at the end of your workout, you can start your higher rep pump training to strategically increase the volume in a lacking muscle. If you really want your arms to grow then you might use drop sets on bicep curls and cable extensions after your main exercises.
At the end of the day, there are a lot of components that make up good training and these are just some of them. It’s down to you to be wise with your training and determine what’s best for you at this moment in time.
If you’re bulking then focus on getting stronger and using strategic assistance exercises to increase your gains in important areas. Aim for 4-8 reps on your compound lifts and when you hit the upper limit move up a weight.
If you’re cutting then you may find it more useful to increase the volume and do higher reps so that you burn more calories. Somewhere in the 6-10 range is. The same with bulking, if you hit the upper range during a given exercises then move up a weight. It’s a myth that you can’t get stronger whilst cutting but because people believe this is true then they never push themselves.
This is equally down to the fact that they think they need to eat a lot less than necessary to lose weight. Just cutting 200-300 calories from your BMR will be enough to see progress and any more will just make you feel burned out, stressed and lethargic. Having less energy means that you’ll be able to put less effort into the gym and therefore not be able to burn as many calories. You want to preserve as much muscle and strength as possible whilst losing weight which means taking things slow.