Training Specifics: What Needs To Be Done At Each Session.

There are certain variables that need to be in place, before success can be realized in any training program. In this article I dive into the realm of a pre and post workout session.
There are certain variables that need to be in place, before success can be realized in any training program. To achieve outstanding training results, the training program itself should be structured in such a way as to allow the athlete a certain period of time per session to focus their attention on variables so essential for success.

What exactly are these variables? Well, every program should begin with adequate nutritional support, commence with a warm-up and end with a cool down and post-workout meal, be based upon pre-determined goals, and entail specificity - all of which will be explained in detail soon. Additional, recommended variables, are, visualization and support in the form of a training partner, or coach (these will be explained also). Think of a training session as a business venture.

In any business venture, there needs to be a definitive plan of attack, before even considering starting up. If one does not plan accordingly, the best idea in the world might fail to get enough traction to even succeed for a small period. Same with training. Before any workout, which, as part of a periodized macro-cycle (a key component of a planned training cycle), is essential to goal attainment (factoring in variables such as diet, rest and supplementation), the aforementioned set of variables need to be in place. Not considering these essential training components, is akin to failing to ensure that insurance requirements are in place after purchasing a business.

In other words, without the correct foundations, ones training goals will be achieved to a minimal degree at best - the worst case scenario being a gradual regression and a complete failure to achieve training objectives.

Training Requirements For Every Session

The following training requirements should form the basis of every session, otherwise, as with the systems of the body, there will be a systemic failure, and, as a result, a gradual breakdown in training performance and goal attainment.

1: Pre-Workout Nutrition.

    Prior to any training session, it is important to ensure energy requirements are sufficient. In fact, training, when the body is in nutritional deficit, is the worst possible start to any session, as the body simply will not perform to the required standard. The highest motivation levels and most impressive goals and training strategy, will not counter a lack of energy resulting from inadequate pre-training nutrition.

    An excellent strategy is to consume some protein and carbohydrates, about one-hour prior to training, as this will place the body into an anabolic state, and provide the requisite energy levels to power through the session. There are an endless array of combinations to choose from when considering pre-work nutrition. A whey protein shake and bowl of rice work well for most.

    During training, there is a marked increase of blood flow to the muscles. Consuming protein before training is thought to take advantage of this window to enhance amino uptake by the muscles. It is also thought that consuming simple sugars directly before training will have a glycogen sparing effect, enabling more in the way of this critical component to reach the working muscles during training.

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2: Post Work-Out Nutrition.

    Although it will have no effect on training quality of a particular work-out, post-training nutrition will significantly enhance recovery by aiding protein synthesis and carbohydrate storage. If these essential needs are not met, it will be harder for the muscles to adapt to the new training stimulus, and results will suffer greatly.

    Popular post-workout recovery-strategies include, a whey protein shake and carbohydrates of any type, provided they are taken in sufficient amounts (at least 30-grams per post-session serving). Post-training nutrition should be consumed within 45-minutes of training to realize maximum benefit, as this is an optimal storage time. Of course, fluid in the form of water should be taken before, during and after training to maximize nutrient uptake and prevent dehydration.

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3: The Warm-Up.

    Warming up before training has many benefits, which include, in descending order, psychological preparation, the establishing of a training flow, and physical preparation. Psychological factors such as, motivation, and generation of mental energy, both critical components of any training session, are bought about largely through a thorough warm-up.

    A warm-up prepares the body psychologically in the sense that one will feel better equipped to engage with the heavy poundage's if the mind is prepared for this physical battle - during the warm-up phase one is able to motivate themselves and think about the task at hand. Diving straight into a workout is done with a degree of apprehension.

    The possibility of injury is pre-eminent in ones mind, should they forsake the warm-up. The warm-up will also, obviously, help with regards to injury prevention. Loosening up stiff muscles will better prepare them to lift progressively heavier poundage's, while providing for greater economy of movement throughout the session, as there will be a lowered viscous resistance within the warmed muscles.

    Other Physical Benefits Of A Warm-Up Include:

    • An improvement in oxygen utilization due to hemoglobin's (the oxygen carrying molecule) ability to release oxygen at a higher temperature.
    • An improvement in muscle blood-flow as vascular beds dilate, which increases metabolism and muscle temperature.
    • the facilitation of motor unit recruitment due to more efficient nerve transmission, as a result an increased body temperature.

    For Bodybuilding Purposes, A Warm-Up Should Consist Of The Following:

    • Five-minutes on the exercise bike.
    • Ten-minutes of static stretching for specific muscle groups.

How Long Do You Warmup Before A Workout?

I Don't Warmup.
1 minute.
2-5 minutes.
11-15 minutes.

4: Goal Setting.

    Goal setting is of obvious importance; given a failure to plan may result in unrealized training objectives. Before even beginning ones first training session, it is advisable they plan some short and long range goals. Failure to do so could be likened to traveling to a destination without the correct address. One will simply lose their way.

    The SMART Way To Set Goals!
    The SMART Goal Setting principles will help you reduce your chances of setting goals that you wouldn't be able to obtain even if you had some sort of superhuman powers.

    The key with goal setting is to have a series of achievable, specific, targets. Unrealistic goals will result in disillusionment. In terms of bodybuilding, the idea is to build an idea in ones mind as to exactly how they want to look, and plan their program accordingly. For example, the acquisition of mass will involve training hard and heavy and eating enough calories.

    To effectively achieve this goal a whole series of smaller goals - and the training session is central to this - will need to be overcome. Writing these down is instrumental to achieving them, so keep a goal log and tick off every achieved objective, as achievement of the main goal approaches.

    Indeed, every training session will need its own set of goals, and these should be planned for from the outset. Every workout will encompass a specific set of exercises, and follow the other protocols mentioned in this article.

    Main Workout Goals Should Include:

    • Pre, and post, workout nutrition.
    • Warm-up and cool-down.
    • Number of repetitions.
    • Number of sets.
    • Number, and type, of exercises.
    • Rest periods between sets.

5: Specificity.

    Training for any discipline needs to be specific: the question should be, what exactly are my training goals? Once training goals are defined, training sessions can be specifically planned for. Power-lifters, for example, will train specifically for power by implementing a certain type of training program, revolving around the three main lifts central to their sport: the bench press, dead-lift, and squat. The reps will be kept relatively low, an emphasis will be on heavy weights, and there will be extended rest periods between sets.

    Barbell Squats.
    Click To Enlarge.

    Bodybuilders, on the other hand, will focus on the type of training that will, by and large, enhance hypertrophy: a 8-12 rep-range, sufficiently heavy weight to achieve this aim, and shorter rest periods between sets. Both sets of athletes train with the same tools, but the training strategies are vastly different.

    Training for bodybuilding demands of specific set of protocols and failing to adhere to these will result in substandard results. Specificity dictates that running 10-15 miles per day, and training with 30% of ones one repetition maximum, will not result in a physique to rival the current Mr O. In short, if one has specific goals, which they should, then their training programs should be similarly specific.

    You'll Need Specific Training If You Want
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6: Cooling Down.

    Cooling down should utilize the muscles used in training, and essentially serve as a form of active recovery, helping to return the body to its pre-workout state.

    Additional Benefits To Cooling Down Include:

    • The aiding of waste product dispersal. During a bodybuilding workout, lactic acid builds up to a significant degree, impeding progress if not dealt with. Same thing with carbon dioxide.
    • Reducing the possibility of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
    • Reducing the pooling of blood, which could cause fainting or dizziness.
    • Reducing the level of adrenaline in the blood.

    For Bodybuilding Purposes, A Cool-Down Could Consist Of:

    • Five-ten minutes on the exercise bike.
    • Five-ten minutes of static stretching of specific muscles.

How Long Do You Cooldown After A Workout?

I Don't Cooldown.
1 minute.
2-5 minutes.
11-15 minutes.

Secondary Workout Elements

1: Visualization.

    Taking the time to vividly picture, in ones mind, exactly what is to be achieved in the course of a workout is the essence of visualization.

    Nothing compares to visualization, when it comes to psyching up for a sustained training effort. Merely thinking about the impending workout, does not equate to visualization, rather, imagining exactly how the workout will unfold, and acting on this, will enhance results.

    Setting some time aside, or using the warm-up period, for visualization, will have a profound psychological effect in terms of allowing one to lift progressively heavier weights, while maintaining perfect form.

    Indeed, running a mental tape of exactly how a technique is to be performed actually prepares the neural system for the exercises to follow. Visualizing, particularly in the moments before a heavy set, will also enhance concentration, and help to block out irrelevant cues, allowing for maximal productivity throughout the set.

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    It is thought, that if the mind imagines a particular result often enough, that result will occur. With training, I have found that clients who focus intently, and practice visualization, get more from their sessions and realize their goals faster.

2: Support.

    Training support includes having a coach, or training partner, to help guide you through the session. Training by oneself can be beneficial, in the sense that training pace can be dictated more effectively and the ability to block out external cues is easier to achieve. However, having a support person to train with can outweigh these factors, provided this person understands exactly what you want to achieve, as a trainer.

    Support Outweighs Any Benefit Of Training Alone.
    Click To Enlarge.

    Indeed, an effective coach/training partner can serve to motivate and provide guidance when it comes to technique. This person can also help with spotting, allowing for greater achievements in terms of maximal lifting. The key is to use someone who will enhance your training session, rather than wasting your time talking about irrelevancies - a good training partner/coach can be a great asset, a poor one can cause regression. The choice should be made wisely.

    Traits To Look For In A Training Partner/Coach Include:

    • High motivation levels.
    • Similar physical capabilities.
    • A strong mind.
    • Similar goals.
    • An unwavering passion for bodybuilding.
    • Knowledge.


Achieving ones training targets requires attention to detail when it comes to planning training sessions. There are many facets to take into account when planning a routine, and the actual training session itself encompasses many of these.

Pre, and post-workout nutrition, warming-up and cooling-down, goal-setting, specificity, visualization and support, all contribute to the total training experience.

Leaving just one of these variables out of the equation might result in training regression, so plan your sessions productively, and reap the rewards.


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  2. Gontzea I, Sutzescu P, Dumitrache S. The influence of adaptation to physical effort on nitrogen balance in man. Nutr. Rept. Inturn. 11:231-236, 1975
  3. Sports Coach.(1997). Warm-up and Cool-down. [Online]
  4. Yarasheski KE The time course for elevated muscle protein synthesis following heavy resistance exercise. Can J Appl Physiol 1995 Dec;20(4):480-6