10 tips. Is that enough? I consider the topic of weight training and doing it properly and I think of volumes of material, but I will do my best to condense what I consider the most important things into one article. Here goes.
1. Have A Plan
Why do most people fail? They do not set goals and write out detailed plans on how they will attain the goals that they set for themselves. You can go to the bookstore and pick up numerous books on how to train and they all say something different.
So which one is correct? They all are! Everything works just not forever. This is where planning comes in. I set up a training cycle in 12-week blocks. I further break the blocks down into 2-3 week mini blocks.
Each mini block changes so that different types of training are incorporated and the trainee gets exposed to the maximum amount of variation which will cause the most significant changes in their physique. Within the 12 week cycle we are always looking at bettering our own personal records for a given movement.
2. Keep A Journal
By keeping an accurate journal you will guarantee that you are making progress, and if you are not then the journal itself will have the answers to why you are not making progress.
The journal is the " facts" of your training and it cannot lie to you unless you write down the information incorrectly! It is pretty simple... if last week you did 100 lbs for 8 reps then this week you either need to do 9 reps or up the weight by 1-5 pounds. I know it sounds too simple, but if you do this long enough you will attain whatever goals you set for yourself.
3. Big Movements
Concentrate on doing the big multi joint movements like:
- Bench press
- Shoulder press
- Sit-ups (yes, I did say sit-ups!)
- Calf raises
Single joint movements are great at isolating a specific muscle group, but I prefer my clients to do the harder multi joint exercises because they are more productive at stimulating the muscles!
4. Pay Attention To The Tempo
Tempo is the speed at which you lift the weight. If you go to most gyms around the globe the majority lift at a pretty fast tempo, say a 1 second eccentric (negative or lowering) and a 1 second concentric (positive or raising).
You should vary the tempo at which you train and this can be worked into the "plan" in the mini blocks. A few examples of how to change the tempo are slowing down both the eccentric and concentric pausing in the top or the bottom of the movement.
I personally like to do a 5 second eccentric and the pause in the bottom of the exercise for 2 seconds and then explode up for a total of 7 second rep. This is significantly different than the 2 seconds most people do. By changing the tempo you will increase the time under tension and thus force the muscles to adapt to a different stress. This is something that should be part of your plan and it should be recorded in each session.
5. Rest Between Sets
The amount of time that you rest between sets is dependent upon the intensity at which you lift (how close to your maximum). If you are doing higher reps (12-15) then you rest periods will be shorter (45-75 seconds), but if you are doing only a few reps (1-5) then you will need longer periods (2-5 minutes) between each set.
I know it sounds backward, but it has to do with energy. The more reps you do the lighter the weight and the faster your body will bounce back for the next set. The heavier the weight lifted the longer it takes to recover the energy for another bout of the same movement. This again should be in the "plan".
6. Prevent Imbalances
Have you ever seen a guy that trains nothing but bench? His shoulders are pulled forward and rounded in. He will have trouble sooner or later because he has an imbalance between his horizontal pushing and pulling muscles.
When designing a program make sure that the program trains both the agonist and antagonist muscle groups. A few examples would be bench press and rowing, shoulder press with pull downs, curls with triceps extensions.
By giving the proper amount of work to all the muscles you will be able to prevent imbalances and the potential for self induced injuries from improper training!
7. Pre-workout Cardio & Stretching
I start every training session with 5-15 minutes of cardio. By doing the cardio before you train you will be able to increase your core temperature and thus be less likely to get injured while training.
When I do the cardio I generally do it interval style, going easy for 1 minute and the hard for one minute. This will not only raise your core temperature, but it will burn a few calories.
Before leg training I do 5 minutes (I don't want to do too much or it could effect my weights!) and before upper body training I do 10-15 minutes.
I follow my cardio with stretching the body part that I am going to train. Never stretch a cold muscle! The stretching should take 5-10 minutes and then you will be ready to train the weights.
8. Grip Work & Finishers
Most people think why grip and what the heck are finishers? I focus all my clients on real world strength or functional strength.
By training the grip you will have more wrist control (less injuries) and also you will be able to focus more and that will allow you to recruit more muscle fibers thus making you stronger. Finishers are stuff that is functional.
After a hard leg session go out and push your car around the block. I have my clients do plate clean and press, carry sand bags either in front of them or on there shoulder, or do the dreaded Drill Instructor special (this consists of 5-10 minutes of push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, deep knee bends, and running in place).
These will be functional muscle and not just the pretty to look at kind.
9. Post-Workout Nutrition
I know it is supposed to be about weight training. The most common mistake most people make is not eating after they train or not eating the right thing. This meal should contain a mixture of different types of carbohydrates such as a high-glycemic carbohydrate like glucose, a medium-gylcemic carb like maltodextrin and a limited amount of a low glycemic carbohydrate like fructose.
The glucose will cause an insulin spike to drive the nutrients into the muscle. The maltodextrin will be used to fill up the muscles with glycogen. Fructose should be included to replenish liver glycogen that has been used during training. The post workout meal should have at least 20% of the athletes daily protein needs and the best source of protein for the post workout meal is whey.
To calculate your post-workout protein needs take .20 times your body weight. (For example I would take 260 x .20 = 52 grams.)
This meal could be further enhanced by containing BCAAs , Glutamine and ribose. My post workout shake consists 1 serving of Pro Blend 55, 12 BCAA blend caps, 20 grams of Glutamine, 5 grams of ribose mixed with 8oz grape juice, 1/2 cup maltodextrin, and 1/8 cup fructose. I make this from ingredients that anyone could get at just about any health food store.
10. Take Time Off
Like I said before I set up programs that last 12 weeks and at the end of the 12-weeks (if not sooner) I put in a full week of rest. I know what you are thinking, but I will lose too much in a weeks time? No you will not and if you are like 99% of the rest of the population you will probably get stronger.
Recover takes a lot of energy and since most of us have real stress in our lives like jobs, family, etc. We give up a ton of energy to other things than training. This week will refresh you mentally as well as physically and set you up for great gains in the next 12-week cycle of training.