So you're past the first, trembling steps on the road to physical excellence. Great! You've probably packed on a couple of pounds of muscle during the past months, and you're starting to feel confident in the gym. You know what you're doing, and you have most of the exercises figured out by now. The weights go up, up, up, and it's getting harder and harder to resist the urge to pull off your shirt and flex your biceps every five minutes.
Another thing that happens about now, is that progress seems to be slowing down a little. Six months ago, your entire body would ache from just looking a barbell, but now you seem to not only have gotten used to the workouts, but also have lost some of the effect.
Well, guess what—you're right! The workouts HAVE lost some of the effect! That means, that in spite of the fact that you use twice as much weight now, your muscles are still more prepared and able to handle that workload, than they used to be. When the muscles get less stimulus, they grow slower or perhaps even stops growing altogether. You don't want this. Therefore, we have to figure out ways to get around this problem.
Keeping A Sound Perspective
Keep in mind though, that you will probably never see such results as you did during your first months of training. That was a one-timer in your life.
Even if you gained 10 pounds in the first two months, you should mentally adjust to slower progress. 10 pounds a YEAR is to be considered great gains! Now, you have to focus on consistency and intensity—the keys to long-term progress.
Increased Body Split And More Rest
One thing you've figured out is how to actually make USE of your muscles more. That is partly the mind-muscle connection, where you've actually trained your nerves to use your muscles more efficiently, hence making you stronger.
It might be surprising to you, but just like we only use a few percent of the brain's capacity (except Dan Quale), we never make 100% use of the muscle fibers in our bodies. It can be trained to higher efficiency though, and as you may have guessed, weight training is the number one way of doing this.
Let's say that you've gone from using 50% of your total muscle fibers(!) to 75%. That is an increase in strength right there, without even counting in any gains in muscle mass into the equation.
Or to put it simple: Your capacity for high-intensity training has increased. That means that higher intensity is required for further progress, and the flip side of intensity is that you need more time to recover.
It's pretty simple, really—the harder you push your muscles, the more time you must allow them to heal and overcompensate. In addition, as you need to crank up the intensity to maintain growth, you probably will need to split your workouts so that you can focus more on specific muscle groups.
Even if you could get away with doing legs, shoulders, chest, arms, and back in one session before, the extra intensity will make you exhausted after legs and shoulders. That means your chest, arms, and back would suffer, since you'd have no energy to properly stimulate them.
The obvious answer is to split the body into 3-4 different days, and extend the rest to allow for full recovery. If you used to train your entire body in a single session, twice a week, it's time to back off. As you've learned to use your muscles more efficiently, 3-4 days of rest isn't enough—give it a full week!
This is NOT you being lazy, it's you having developed the ability to reach exhaustion. Remember: It's while you rest that you grow, not while in the gym.
Next week you'll get a sample workout and some pointers to think about, to ensure that you stay clear of the worst pitfalls. Last week we went into detail about why we need to split the body into several days as we become increasingly better at utilizing our muscles.
Simply put: You blow off all your energy in the first 30 minutes, and whatever muscle groups are left only get a couple of brief, exhausted sets before hitting the showers. Besides, you'll also need to let your muscles rest longer.
So, without further chit-chat, let's see what a typical Intermediate workout could look like. In this case, we're going for a 3-day split of the body—Monday, Wednesday, Friday. That gives plenty of time for rest and social life during the weekends, and with the three workouts being relatively brief (timewise), it's a schedule that should fit most people.
Matt's Intermediate Split Workout
- Inclined Dumbbell Press
- Pec-Deck Machine
- Dips or Push-downs
- Front Military Press
- Dumbbell Lateral Raises
- Bent-Over Dumbbell Laterals
- Lat Pull-downs
- Dumbbell Rows
- Dumbbell Shrugs
- Dumbbell Bicep Curls
- Dumbbell or Rope Hammer Curls
- Barbell Forearm Curls
- Squats or Leg Press
- Leg Extensions
- Seated Leg Curls
- Lying Leg Curls
- Standing Calf Press
- Donkey Calf Raises
- Cable Crunch