Q & A With James Wilson # 4.

Learn how to determine your 1 rep max, how to make your client get a better pump, what cardio equipment targets the glutes and hamtrings and a great routine for women to bulk up their upper body and tone their lower body.
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What is the best way to find a client's 1 rep max (1RM)? I've read a lot about using a percentage of 1RM to determine your strength training load, and want to be able to be as accurate as possible. Do you know of any other good training tools to use with percentages of 1RM?

Well, the best way is to have them do an actual 1RM. Of course, this doesn't hold for clients who have some condition that would contraindicate such an effort, such as hypertension or lack of core conditioning. When dealing with a healthy client with a decent training base, a trainer shouldn't be afraid to have that client perform a 1RM. Have them warm-up to it, adding 10-20 pounds every set (5-10 as the weight approaches their 1RM), and allow 3-5 minutes of rest between sets to allow complete phosphagen (ATP/CP) regeneration. Remember that they shouldn't perform a lot of reps while warming up - you don't want fatigue to interfere. 5 reps or so should be the most they do in a set while warming up to their 1RM attempt.

If they can't perform a true 1RM test, then use the charts that estimate a 1RM based on another rep max test. Since there is some degree of error in such charts, it might help to get a couple and use the average of them.

Even when you know a 1RM, you have to be careful with how you use it. While using a percentage of 1RM to calculate training load is a good tool, it doesn't work the same for all muscle groups. Biceps, for example, will only be able to crank out 5-10 reps at 85% of 1RM, while some test subjects have banged out 34 reps on the leg press at 85%. Obviously, there will be a huge training difference between 5 reps and 34 reps, so I think that it is sometimes better to just go with basic rep ranges. I find the following ranges work best: 1-5 reps for strength with little hypertrophy, 6-15 reps to target hypertrophy and short term anaerobic strength endurance, and 15-20 reps to target tendons and ligaments, and work on medium anaerobic strength endurance. 20+ reps have some use for local muscular endurance and other specific applications, but shouldn't be used to a great extent for most clients.


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On the other hand, the rep test to estimate fiber type (described on page 439 in chapter 13 of the CFT text) is a great tool, so there is an example of where knowing a 1RM is handy. My point is just that you should be careful about focusing too heavily on percentages of 1RM.

Although they use perfect form and full range of motion, sometimes my clients can't "feel" their muscles working, or they feel it in the wrong muscle group. How can I help them focus on their target muscles? Is it that they don't know what to feel for? Would any particular exercise variations or techniques help them to get a better mind/muscle connection?

Not achieving that "feel" during an exercise could be the result of many things, some that we as trainers can control, and some that we can't. Beginners will often not feel an exercise, or else feel it in the weirdest places. This is because they don't know how to make that mind/muscle connection, nor what to feel for yet. There isn't much a trainer can do in that case, except continue to give good instruction and be patient.

Another reason could be that they are not as mentally sharp for whatever reason (lack of sleep, running late, etc.), so it could just be a down day for them. They might also be distracted by personal problems they aren't telling you about. Things of this nature can interfere with the mind/muscle connection as well, and again, there is little that a trainer can do about them.

If this is the case, then all you can do is continue to guide and support them in the gym; they'll get back into the groove once their distractions have passed.

Now, assuming that your client is not a beginner and is mentally focused, let's look at a few factors that we as trainers can control. A big reason that clients lose their "feel" is that their body has adapted to the same intensity range. Periodization includes cycling intensity levels as well as exercises, so if you haven't dramatically changed their rep and set scheme in the recent past (like 4 sets of 12 reps to 7 sets of 4 reps), it may be time to do that. As far as specific workout techniques, pre-exhaustion and drop sets are both great ways to punish a muscle and get that "feel" back into an exercise.

Perhaps you could add some plyometric or other power-specific exercises to their routine, doing them first in a session to help "wake up" the nervous system. The variations of routines and exercises are almost endless, so take a look at their records, see what they have done already, and try something radically different.

Beyond those suggestions, I have found success with clients who claim to never "feel" an exercise by having them close their eyes while performing an exercise and/or lightly stroking the targeted muscle in the direction that the muscle is pulling. Obviously, you have to be selective with your application of these techniques (you definitely don't want a client's eyes closed while performing squats or other complex exercises), and you also need to ask permission before touching a client for professional and legal reasons.

The touch technique works particularly well in helping to establish a mind/muscle connection with clients who are lagging in this department. The book "Touch Training for Strength" by Beth and Oscar Rothenberg does a great job of describing this technique in detail.

I'm starting an exercise program, and want to make sure I get the most out of it. At my gym I have access to just about every type of aerobic equipment that you can imagine (treadmills, EFX, stair-climber, etc.), and I need to know which one burns the most calories per hour for a 150-pound woman. In addition, could you please tell me which one(s) best targets glutes and hamstrings? I've heard that certain ones will help me to get rid of that cellulite I have on the back of my legs. I want to get rid of that first.

There are a lot of factors here to consider for a definite answer on the question of burned calories - for example; you would burn more calories at 15% bodyfat than you would at 30% bodyfat. Those "calories burned" numbers on the machines are just estimations based on averages, and can differ greatly from what is actually being burned. A machine that allowed for upper body movement (like a treadmill) would probably burn a few more calories than a piece of equipment that consisted of only lower body movement (like an exercise bike), but to be honest, the differences between machines are minimal. Those numbers and claims are basically marketing tools used by the equipment manufacturers to do battle with each other, and to make their new models seem superior to the old ones.

As far as what equipment supposedly better "targets" which muscle groups, I'm not really sure. It's pretty obvious what muscle groups are being used on a piece of equipment as far as legs and arms go, and I know that a recumbent bike would cause less hamstring activation than a regular exercise bike or other piece of equipment where you exercised upright. In addition, running or using the EFX machine backwards will shift some emphasis around, but I don't feel that these differences mean anything except to allow for some variety.

Cardio equipment is simply to burn calories and increase cardio-respiratory health. Unless you are an athlete or otherwise have special needs (in which case a qualified professional should advise you), cardio equipment shouldn't be viewed as "targeting" certain muscles or muscle groups, with the possible exception of the heart/lung complex. Again, this is a case of equipment manufacturers creating myths in order to help sell their products.

The only reason the aerobic equipment manufacturers talk about "targeting" muscle groups is to feed into the ever-present myth of spot reduction. The logic usually goes something like this - "If you do the __________(insert the machine being sold) backwards it will better target your glutes and help get rid of that cellulite". Since it's pretty well accepted that you can't spot reduce, it doesn't really matter.

It all boils down to this - pick whatever piece of equipment you like the best, and use it. If you want to change every time you go to the gym, feel free. However, do make sure you don't use the same type of equipment for longer than 4 weeks. Continually using the same style will eventually cause some repetitive use injuries, so make sure you avoid this by using a variety of aerobic machines.

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I am interested in bulking up my upper body, and toning my lower body. Even more than a typical woman, I have a dramatically disproportional upper and lower body. I would like to use something that would help me bulk up my upper body, but wouldn't cause extra weight loss. I'm already lifting high-weight, low-rep on the upper body and low-weight, high-rep on the lower. Would creatine be a good option for me?

If you are looking to add mass to your upper body while maintaining lower body mass I'd suggest the following workout parameters:

Upper Body Total Sets Reps Rest (Days)
Chest/Back 4-6 8-12 5
Bis/Tris/Shoulders 2-3 8-12 3

Lower Body Total Sets Reps Rest (Days)
Quads/Hamstrings 5-8 1-5 7

Calves and abs/low back can be worked in around your schedule. Remember that calves and abs consist of both fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers, making it necessary to train them with a variety of rep and set schemes, just like any other bodypart.

The moderate volume and intensities used by the upper body will stimulate muscle growth, while the high intensities and low volume of the lower body work will maintain if not increase strength levels, while minimizing muscle growth in the legs. High intensity levels will also "tone" a muscle much better than high reps and low weight will.

As for creatine, it would be a good option for any hard-training gym-goer, male or female. It may not be the best choice if you are looking to minimize weight gain in your legs, as some people have reported relatively large increases in bodyweight and size, and this would include the legs. However, creatine "super-responders" are few and far between, so odds are, it won't add much measurable size to your legs.

Creatine is a great supplement to help with recovery, both between sets and between training sessions, and this will lead to higher quality workouts more frequently, which will definitely help speed you to your fitness goals. Take 5 grams a day every morning, and another 5 grams after training on workout days. Loading, while it can give quicker results, is not necessary and is usually a waste of money.

Note: This Is Part Four, Click Here For Part One!
Click Here For Part Two!
Click Here For Part Three!

Thanks,
James Wilson, MSS