The following tips and instructions can be applied to pretty much any sport, and any other fitness goal you have.
I Will Be Covering:
- Resistance Training - (Sets/reps, weight, rest times, tempo, programs, addressing weaknesses)
- Nutrition - (Good/bad foods, nutrient timing, liquids, cutting/bulking, harris-benedict formula)
- Supplementation - (Proven supplements, money management, myths and unproven supplements)
- Other Training Aspects - (Recovery, conditioning, stretching, rehab, prehab)
I have broken it down into friendly standard outline form. Every Roman numeral represents a totally new subject, every regular capital letter represents a new part of the topic. If you have a question, critique, or general comment, either PM me, or post it on this thread. Enjoy.
I. Resistance Training: An Absolute Must
If you want to excel in sports, you must use resistance training. Without it, you will have a hard time improving strength, hypertrophy. Why you ask? If you just do cardio and bodyweight exercises, you will not gain a significant amount of muscle.
You might see good gains in body composition the beginning, but soon results will diminish and you will plateau, not too mention have little or no strength gains to speak of. That does not mean you should never incorporate bodyweight exercises. Many can be beneficial if made tougher than usual. We will cover that later.
A. Compound vs. Isolation Lifts
This is the debate that always comes up with inexperienced athletes. They LOVE their vanity exercises like curls and flies, when they should be doing compound lifts targeting multiple muscles, and moving the body in a certain direction.
It has been proven that compound lifts will make you stronger, induce more stress on muscles, allow you to accomplish more in less time and burn more calories than isolation lifts.
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B. Isolation Exercises Have Their Place
Don't worry, there is a reason to do isolation lifts, just not the ones you think are good.
In My Opinion, Isolation Is Good In Two Areas:
- Addressing weakness
These two can be intertwined, called prehab. First, let's talk about weaknesses. Everybody is different when it comes to weaknesses, but generally, most high school athletes have weaknesses in their rotator cuffs, posterior chain, core, and ankle area. You'll notice that most of these areas are not "mirror muscles".
Most athletes adapt the mantra "If I can't see them, I don't need to train them". Big mistake. Bringing these body parts back up to par with the rest of the body will not only make you a better athlete, but also more injury proof.
If you strengthen the rotator cuff, even though it is not injured, you are helping prevent injury, called prehab. For more on prehab, I suggest checking out Mark Verstegen's Core Performance.
C. Compound Lift breakdown: Movement planes
Now that you are keen on doing compound lifts, you must learn their movements in order to make a complete program and a balanced program. Lets start with the upper body.
There Are 4 Movement Planes:
- Vertical pushing
- Vertical pulling
- Horizontal pushing
- Horizontal pulling
It is important to balance your push and pull exercises, so you do not develop an imbalance between your push and pull muscles. Now on to lower body.
Leg exercises are divided into two groups:
- Quad dominant
- Hip dominant
- An example of a quad dominant exercise would be a squat (although if you do go below parallel, it does have a good deal of gluteal involvement).
- An example of a hip dominant exercise would be the deadlift.
Most athletes emphasize the quad dominant exercises, which creates a terrible imbalance between the quadriceps and hamstring. It is better to over-emphasize the hamstrings until they are of equal strength so you can avoid a leg injury.
A special note needs to be brought to attention about the hamstrings. They have two movements, knee flexion and hip extension. A Leg curl is an example of knee flexion, while a deadlift or romanian deadlift is an example of hip extension. Hip extension will generally strengthen your hamstring more, as long as you use heavy compound lifts like good mornings and deadlifts.
D. The Smart Way To Go About Setting Up A Routine
(Incorporating certain lifts)
If you are a beginner, basic compound lifts are the way to go. It's probably best to start out with total body workouts, and as you gain experience and gains, you can begin to do "splits" (not the gymnastic movement, but splitting up the exercises onto different days).
If you are doing a 3 day full body workout, I suggest having one upper body push exercise, one upper body pull exercise, one quad dominant exercise, and one hip dominant exercise. Pretty simple.
After that, you can add on any other COMPOUND lift you desire (as long as you do not go over the desired set total, which I will talk about later).
There Are Other Ways To Go About 3 Day Splits:
- Day A could be upper body push/pull
- Day B could be Lower body quad/hip dominant exercises
- Day C could be explosive lifts (more on these later)
You can also do 4 day splits, which I will leave to you to design, since you have the basics of split design down. All I remind you of is to balance push/pull, quad/hip, and lower/upper body. It will help you develop a more balanced body and more balanced strength.
E. Sets/Reps, Periodization, Tempo, Overtraining...
Another one of the most asked questions on this board, is: What is the best set/rep for this situation...
Here is the magical number of sets and reps, it is... no single combination. The key here is to switch it up. If you have been doing 3x10 for eight weeks, change to 5x5 or 8x2. If you keep switching it up, then it will give your body new stimulus to grow. Now that you know the general idea of sets and reps, lets move to the general rules:
- If you are going for HYPERTROPHY, you usually use 6-10 reps and 3-5 sets. This is a low intensity (50-80% 1RM), more volume oriented type of scheme.
- If you are going for STRENGTH, you usually work in the 1-5 rep range and higher amount of sets. This is a high intensity (80-100% 1RM), less volume type of scheme.
- If you are going for EXPLOSIVE/POWER, then you usually work in the 1-5 rep range and low sets as well. This is because lifts like plyometrics and olympic lifts are extremely taxing on the CNS, and lose their effectiveness if done too much or with sloppy form.
Easy To Use 1RM Calculator:
Do you want to find out how strong you are? Sure we all do. Need to know what your one rep max is for a new workout program based on percentages? It is simple! Use the following calculator and table to figure it out. Of course, this is only an estimate. Your actual one rep max could be higher or lower! (Hopefully higher!)
This second method is based on a formula comes from A Practical Approach to Strength Training by Matt Brzycki. Just do a set to failure on any exercise, then enter in how much weight you did and how many reps you finished (without help) into the form below.
Enter the amount of weight you lifted (Lbs/Kg) and the number of reps you completed. Your One Rep Max (1 RM) will appear at the bottom left, and your various percentages of 1 RM will appear on the right side.
It is good to periodize your set/rep schemes over the course of a year. If you have spent the last 4 weeks on hypertrophy/high volume type of workout, it would be excellent to switch to a strength/high intensity workout, just to provide a new stimulus to your body.
Tempo is something of a strange animal. Manipulate it a certain way, and ordinarily easy lifts become extremely hard. It's impossible to prescribe a precise tempo for all lifts, but in general, be in control on the eccentric (lowering) and concentric (lifting) portions of the lift.
If you are doing the bench press, don't bounce the weight off your chest, lower it in a steady and controlled manner, and press it back up in a controlled manner.
For a more advanced athlete, you want to lower the weight slowly, and lift it as fast as you can do have maximal muscle tension. Olympic lifts and their variations such as the snatch, clean and jerk, should have the concentric portion being done explosively, and the eccentric should be done in a controlled manner to prevent injury (if you are using maximal weights, some athletes drop the weights, since it is very hard to control maximal weights during the eccentric portion of the lift).
Overtraining is an often used word on this forum when describing a person's workout.
First let's define overtraining: To engage in excessive training.
When I tell someone they are overtraining, I usually see that they are doing a mind-boggling amount of sets or exercises, or a combination of both. Ian King (a great Australian strength coach) recommends for the average lifter, not exceeding 21 sets per workout.
If you are doing heavy compound lifts, this will be plenty. There are exceptions when you might do a short microcycle with more volume, or you might have workouts with sets way below 21 because the intensity is much higher than usual.
So when designing a routine, take into the account of how many sets you are doing, and how much intensity (% of 1RM) the exercises are in the workout. Considering # of days per week to workout, 4 is probably the max when talking about heavy taxing lifting. This does not mean you can do other aspects of training. You can do energy system work, prehab or other things, but as a general rule, have one day of complete rest.
F. Rest Times
Rest times can influence your workout as much as the exercises themselves. Having a watch or timer of some sort is a MUST when training. It is imperative to keep track of your rest time.
Generally speaking, if you are looking for general conditioning, it is best to lower rest times to below one minute. This will add another element to your workout. You could even do supersets, which are two antagonistic exercises done back to back, with no rest in between.
Superset Video Guide:
||View The Video:
Choose your version:
This is a good way to train if time is limited. Supersetting involves doing two exercises with no rest in between. There are a number of different types of supersets.
Same Part Supersetting
This is the most common type. Do two different exercises that work the same bodypart, e.g. incline curls then barbell curls.
This is essentially pre-exhaust supersetting. Do a set of an isolation exercise then a set of a compound exercise, e.g. dumbbell flyes then bench press.
Do a set of an exercise for one bodypart then immediately do a set of an exercise for the antagonistic bodypart, e.g. barbell curls then tricep pushdowns.
Upper Body/Lower Body Supersetting Do an upper body exercise then a lower body exercise, or vice versa, e.g. chest then calves or calves then chest.
In-Set Superset Do two different exercises within a rep.
Do not superset muscles that assist with the other exercise unless you do them second, e.g. do not do pushdowns then bench press - tricep fatigue will limit your bench press work. You can, however, do the bench press first then do pushdowns.
An exception to this is if you are doing it to push your triceps further with the assistance of the pecs and shoulders. Then do triceps first. This would be a type of pre-exhaust superset.
Supersets are defined as doing one exercise, and then another exercise that targets the antagonist muscles from the first exercise. So you might do bench press, immediately followed by seated rows. Another possibility is to do a circuit, which are 3 exercises or more in a row without rest.
If you are doing a strength routine, it is better to allow yourself time to recover, so 2-4 minutes is optimal. Same with explosive movements.
G. Explosive Lifts
Explosive lifts such as olympic lifts and plyometrics can improve your athletic ability greatly. Unfortunately the drawback is a tough learning curve. Olympic lifts are notoriously hard to learn, and to master. Even though most high school programs incorporate them, most coaches do not know correct form, and players might suffer. If you do execute them correctly, they have vast benefits to any athlete.
They are total body exercises, which can make the CNS much more efficient concerning muscle control. If you wish to learn how to do them, I suggest doing three things: Analyze good form on internet video demo's, buy a book about olympic lift training, and find a professional to teach you how to do them.
Learn more about athletes and olympic lifts in Dr. Squat's latest article Athletes And The Olympic Lifts!
H. Bodyweight & Unilateral Exercises
Both bodyweight and unilateral exercises can be beneficial. Unilateral exercises can be used to address weaknesses such as strength imbalance between limbs.
Bodyweight exercises can add freshness to a stale workout. Most plyometric exercises are bodyweight, and bodyweight exercises are great for when you are on the road and there is no gym equipment around. Jumps, pikes, pull-ups and dips are all great.
Of all the unilateral exercises, hamstring unilateral exercises are the absolute best to do because of the weakness in the hamstrings.
Nutrition is a major part of any sport training formula. Unfortunately, nobody ever talks about it! You may think lifting is hard, but eating right is even harder. You need enormous amounts of discipline to be able to eat clean, especially when you have friends and family egging (pun intended) you on to eat chips and fries.
In our culture, it's ok to exercise, but if you pay the same amount of attention to nutrition, then you must be downright weird! Screw em. Nutrition is your ticket to a great physique and superior athletic performance. This is how you can get a step ahead of the competition in high school. Not many teens know how to eat right. Let's begin:
A. Good Foods, Bad Foods
You probably think you have an idea of what good foods are. Well you don't. What mainstream media tells you is healthy, is pretty much crap. That low carb, low fat stuff is loaded with high fructose corn syrup and sugar ethanols, and will wreak havoc on your body.
General Rules About Food:
- If the food has a perishable date (expiration date) then it is probably good.
- If it has a shelf life of 20 years and is no where near the refrigerated section, run far away.
Here Are Some Examples Of Good Foods:
- Vegetables (the greener the better)
- Wheat products
- Natural peanut butter
For a more complete list, look at John Berardi's articles.
Now that you know what good foods are, what about the bad foods? Anything heavily salted, added flavors, and anything that is manually (changed by humans) low fat or low carb. If it is a natural food that was in the good foods category, disregard the above statement.
Any fats that are solid at room temperature is bad. Basically, if it does not have an expiration date, then it is bad. There are exceptions, if you think you found one, pm me about it.
B. Nutrient Timing
This is an advanced move, but I think most people can handle it. I am talking about eating certain foods at certain times of the day.
First we are going to talk about combining macronutrients (proteins, carbs, and fats) for meals. John Berardi has figured out that it is best to eat meals that are either protein+fat (with little or no carbs), or protein+carbs (with little or no fat). This is a good idea because when you eat large amounts of fat and carbs together, the end result is not what you want.
Now we have the basic meal style down, let's talk about timing. This is very simple. The protein+carb meals should be eaten/drank (pre-workout shake) in the morning and right after your workout, if you have one that day.
This is because you will burn most of the carbs off if you eat them in the first half of the day. The other meals should be protein+fat. If you have these later in the day and at night, it will provide slow digesting protein so you won't catabolize overnight.
Liquids are pretty simple. All you need to do is avoid every drink except for water and green tea. Ouch. Yes that's right, even milk is suspicious.
Although I will say this: If you are bulking or a teenager that is not hardcore dieting, go ahead and drink milk, it's a good source of protein and calcium. But generally speaking, its sugar content is cause for concern.
Soda should never be drunk unless it's a cheat meal or a situation where you have to drink it. Soda has the single worst dietary ingredient known to man in it: High fructose corn syrup. HFCS is a type of sugar that when metabolized, has a predisposition to metabolize into fat, instead of available energy.
Water should be drunk all times of the day. If you are not pissing multiple times per day, then you are not drinking enough (or you just might have the largest bladder ever). How do you know when you have had enough? Well a good indicator is the color of your piss. The more "clear" it is, the better.
Green tea, touted by John Berardi, has many benefits. It breaks up the monotony of dull water, and has many anti-cancer benefits. You may notice I did not cover protein shakes. I will cover those in supplementation.
A special note needs to be said about alcohol. Besides the fact that if you are under 21 its illegal to drink alcohol (in the US), it can hurt you in other ways. Alcohol is one of the strongest anti-testosterone substances. It can make you more adept to store fat, not to mention the dehydration. Also it is a scientific fact that alcohol kills brain cells. Nuff said.
First, let's define both terms.
- Cutting: Restricting calories in ones diet to lose body fat, while minimizing muscle loss.
- Bulking: Eating a surplus of calories over ones maintenance level for the goal of gaining lean muscle, while minimizing fat gain.
As you see, both of these nutrition actions require knowing your base caloric maintenance level. This means that if you ate this amount of calories every day, you would neither gain weight, nor lose it. How do we calculate this number? By using the Harris-Benedict Formula, which was formulated for this exact cause.
Calculate your HB formula here.
Now that you have your base level, we can either bulk or cut.
Let's try bulking first. Take your maintenance level calories, and add 500 to them. That is your new total amount of calories to eat, per day. That should allow you to gain one lb. a week, hopefully most of it muscle. Don't freak out if you gain some fat. Everybody does. Do freak out if all you did was gain fat.
To measure this, get your body fat tested before, during and after your bulk phases. Get your own body fat tester here. Most bulk phases should last between 4-8 weeks. It can coincide with a "bulking lifting plan".
If you want to only slowly gain weight, feel free to only add 400, 300, 200 or even 100. But realize that you will gain weight if you eat at a caloric surplus. Do not let your nutrition waver either. Eat the same clean foods, and avoid bad foods.
Next we will talk about cutting. Cutting is usually harder than bulking. First we restrict calories. 500 will do the trick and allow you to lose a pound a week (hopefully fat). Measure your body composition, not your weight on the scale.
If you are getting noticeably leaner, but the numbers on the scale haven't changed, you are doing well! You will lose some muscle mass on a cutting cycle, but hopefully with your sound nutrition and lifting, it will be minimized. It's probably a good idea to assess the foods you are eating.
Anything that has excess sugars, or is not on our good foods list, should probably be nixed. You can restrict fewer calories like 400, 300, 200, 100 but your fat loss might take longer. It's also good to have an energy systems workout, as well as a good lifting workout for cutting cycles to aid in fat loss.
F. Where To Find Good Foods
It's not easy to find the right foods. You will have to put forth a lot of effort to find good foods. First, take your ordinary supermarket. They will probably have the basics like fruit, vegetables, meat, and nuts. But you should probably check out high end market shops for good cheeses, peanut butter, leaner meat and other high quality goods.
It may be expensive, so try to implicate your parents in this. Tell them that you are trying to live a healthy lifestyle, and trying to avoid the obesity epidemic.
Ah yes, the fabled supplements. Able to cure and allow you to do anything. Unfortunately, that's not true, unless you are talking about anabolic steroids, which we are not. I believe the most important quality when buying supplements is a sense of skepticism.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If it promises 400% gains in strength, its probably absolute crap. So lets begin:
A. Proven Supplements
I define proven supplements as supplements that have been proven in numerous studies to provide benefits to the user.
The Supplements That I Put In This Category Are:
- Protein Powder
- Various Essential Fatty Acid Oils
- Neurotransmitter Formulas.
Protein Powder - View All Protein Products
Protein powder is the staple of an athlete's nutrition supplementation. There are two different types of protein supplements. Meal Replacements or Post Workout.
Meal replacement powders usually have slower digesting proteins, a fair amount of carbs, and some fats. These are good for substituting it as a meal, or a late night snack. You can add
EFA oils or fruits or other things to complete your shake. Good MRP's include
Muscle Milk and AST Ny-Tro Pro-40!
Post workout shakes are a different animal. They usually consist of 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein. In high quality ones, the carbs of choice are d-glucose and maltodextrin. The protein of choice is whey hydrolyzed the fastest digesting protein. You can add creatine to this, because it delivers a sufficient insulin spike to deliver the creatine. Good PWO's include Relentless by Xtreme Formulations and Metabolic Diet Power Drink.
There are two different types of protein that I consider essential. One is casein protein. This stuff is great for late-night snacks, or when you need slowly digested proteins. Good products that I have seen include this type of protein are Ultra Peptide by Xtreme Formulations, and Muscle Milk by Cytosport.
Creatine - View All Creatine Products
Creatine is very simple to understand. It has been proven numerous studies to work, and so far no known serious side effects. Creatine is a combination of three amino acids that allow more water into the muscle, allowing it to create and use more ATP (energy for muscles). It is not a steroid, and the effects are not steroid-like.
Expect a slight increase in strength (10%) and slight water retention and weight gain. My advice is to skip all the kool-aid sugar formulas for creatine and just buy plain old creatine monohydrate. It doesn't matter the brand because they are all the same. Just put 5 grams into your PWO shake and you're done. That's right, I don't believe in loading or cycling creatine. When I was using it, I had 5 grams every day. That's it, and it worked. Higher Power has a creatine for under $ 20.
Multivitamins - View All Multivitamin Products
Multivitamins are probably the most essential supplement. Often times it's hard to get the RDV of vitamins and minerals through diet alone. That is why it's good to supplement with multi-vitamins. Make sure they have plenty of Vitamin B, or a Vitamin B complex.
Neurotransmitter formulas are more of a fringe supplement, but I use them regularly and they definitely do work, as there have been studies about improving brain function by using acetylcholine,
DMAE, and certain
I use these types of compounds for when I need a pre-workout boost, or when I need to really concentrate for studying. As far as good neurotransmitter formulas, I have had generally good experiences with EAS Kick Start and Cerebro by Syntrax.
B. The Other Supplements
There are a lot of supplements out there besides the basics out there above. I think most of these are a waste of time and money. I will probably set off some alarms in peoples minds about the stuff I am about to mention, and take it as an opinion.
Glutamine and arginine may help burn victims boost immunity and tissue healing, but in normal people, there has not been much evidence to say that they provide credible benefits. Click here to learn more about glutamine.
As for prohormones, those do work (most of them do). The problem is that teens should not be taking them. Why? Because why tinker with your endocrine system when it is still developing? Not to mention they are expensive. Spend the money on food instead.
Thermogenics are another touchy subject. I do not feel that ephedra should have got the ban, but again I feel that teens do not need this. If you are active and eat right and lift right, you should have no need for the stuff. They work by increasing your core temperature so you can burn more calories.
C. Money Management
Supplements cost money, sometimes a lot. But there are ways around this. Shop for supplements online instead of at local stores, because most times they are cheaper online.
Here is an example: At my local GNC, muscle milk is $40, online it is $24.94 on BB.com. A good protein powder known for being cheap and still quality is ON's 100% whey. It is 5lbs of protein for $28.89. Can't beat that.
Creatine is cheap if you find the right brand. Click here for a list of creatine products sorted by lowest prices. Again look around. You can buy generic versions of multivitamins, EFA's, fish oils, instead of the brand name versions to save money.
If you look around and find what you are looking for, you probably don't need to spend more than $50 on supplements. Also pay attention to shipping. I have ordered from numerous sites, and even if they have good prices, but lousy shipping, I don't buy it from them.
It's not worth the $2-5 saved if I have to wait an extra week for the stuff to arrive. What is a good shipping time? I think if the cheapest option (Ground delivery) takes 5 days or less, then the company does a good job. (FYI: Bodybuilding.com averages 2-3 days shipping anywhere in the US.)
IV. Recovery, Stretching, Rehab, Prehab and Lifestyle...
Recovery, as well as nutrition, is another neglected area of sport training. With good recovery you will be able to limit soreness, have more energy, and hopefully get your body ready for your next sporting event.
Recovery takes on many forms. Let's try to cover different aspects.
First we start with something everybody should have access too, a shower. The shower can be used for more than cleaning the stink off of you. Strength coaches recommend using contrast shower methods to reduce soreness and improve recovery. This can be completely customized by you, according to your time availability and tolerance of temperatures. Try moderately hot water for 3 min., then switch to cold for 1 min. Repeat as you see fit.
Second, we take a look at something more expensive: massage. No person can give themselves a great massage, so you have to use the services of a massage therapist. As long as they know what they are doing, you should be alleviated of soreness or kinks in your body. This is kind of pricey, so whets the alternative? We will cover this next.
Third, lately there have been some great articles and portions of books expounding the benefits of Self-Myofascial release. This is performed on foam core. It costs around $15 if you search around, and can provide many benefits, similar to the benefits of a massage. Also, this method is touted in Core Performance by Mark Verstegen, a book that I use for workouts all the time.
Fourth, we have a method made popular by Arthur Saxon. It's called the 100 reps method. You use a light weight, pick a muscle group and do 100 reps in one day, spaced out in some way. For example, if your latissimus dorsi (lats) is sore, you can do straight arm pull downs for 100 reps spaced throughout the day. This gets blood into the muscle, hopefully expediting repairs.
Stretching is a strange animal. There has always been a debate raging over what is better, static, or dynamic. I usually stray away from those extremes, and instead do something called movement prep.
These are a series of stretches that get you warmed up (you might even start sweating!) and ready to go. The following is from Core Performance as well, I think it is the most valuable part of the book. Here is the link.
Just remember that static stretching can temporarily weaken a muscle, so if you are taking a vertical jump test, it might be a good idea to statically stretch the hip flexors.
This is a short topic because there are no generic rehab routine for certain injuries. Injuries happen, and rehab subsequently follows. My advice is to listen to your Physical Therapist or Doctor.
You may think you know more than they do, but this is their profession, their JOB, not some hobby. Do not try to rush rehab, because in the future you will regret not rehabbing properly. This is especially important for knee and rotator cuff injuries, which can plague you for the rest of your life if not taken care of.
This is something everyone should consider doing. Prehab, as I touched on way at the beginning of the thread, is the practice of preventing injuries from happening.
How do you go about doing this? There are certain areas that always tend to plague athletes. You should make an effort to strengthen these areas: rotator cuff/shoulders, lower back, hamstrings, the whole posterior chain, ankles, and sometimes elbows.
Obviously this entails some isolation, but not so much where it becomes your whole routine. If you would like to learn more about prehab, I would suggest purchasing Core Performance.
No not that type of lifestyle, but I am talking about your general living day-to-day. Always try to be low-stress, and avoid stuff that causes a lot of stress. Stress can induce a hormone called cortisol, which goes against most athletes goals; it will catabolize muscle, and promote fat gain.
Don't go out partying every night, or drink excessive alcohol all the time. This will mess up your performance big time. Try not to procrastinate things like homework or other things, otherwise stress will likely be induced. This is all common sense, but sometimes it takes a little adjustment before you can optimize gains.