If your interested in weight and strength training chances are you have at some point wanted or currently want to get bigger not just stronger. Over this article I will outline 10 rules to follow to make sure you are making the most out of your training and achieving your goals.
Rule 1 – You must get PROGRESSIVELY STRONGER on barbell lifts.
With any good size or strength programme you will be performing at least 1 or 2 heavy compound lifts per body part these lifts are going to require the maximum amount of force production and thus are going to innervate and damage the most muscle fibers. If your not pushing yourself to maximum effort on these lifts the rest of your porgramme and diet will be a wash.
Regardless of the programme or training system you use this will be a common key to success, if you put 20 kg on your squat/bench/deadlift/overhead press/row/pull ups/Dip numbers you will put on muscle mass and quite a lot of it no two ways about it.
Rule 2 – You must EARN your off days.
If you are not feeling like the body part you have just trained has been in a car wreck for at least 48 hours after words then you are not inducing sufficient muscle damage or you are on steroids. Assuming you are not on a form of synthetic testosterone you should be feeling DOMS in the area you have worked for two to three days after you have trained it.
To do this you need to be doing sufficient volume (sets x reps) and intensity (weight on the bar) every time you come into the gym. If your not getting residual muscle soreness chances are your not training hard enough to induce hypertrophy.
Rule 3 – To recover you need to eat sufficient CALORIES
Your body is going to require energy to repair all of the damage that your going to be doing to it in the gym by training your ass off. To support this you are going to need to eat enough calories to sustain some tissue gain. The role of macro nutrients has been far over played by supplement companies and rocket science fitness writers. Protein, fat and carbohydrates are of course important but first and foremost you need to be eating enough food to give your body the energy and raw materials it needs to recover from the stress of training.
Rule 4 – When performing barbell exercises for size your form is important but the WEIGHT ON THE BAR is MORE important.
This is a real issue of contention both in gyms around the world and of special interest on youtube comment sections. Areas where contention exists abound a few examples of such “controversy” – Squat Depth, Touching Chest on a Bench Press, Back angle on barbell row et al are all very entertaining for their own reasons but they will not make or break your success in the gym FAR from it.
To illustrate a point we will looks at two people and I will pull from youtube and have a look at their squat form and juxtapose it with their leg development.
Rule 5 – you should perform isolation exercises and accept that FORM IS MORE IMPORTANT then weight on the bar/machine.
Isolation exercises like cable, dumbbell and machine work get knocked around by internet gurus all the time but they are an easy target for moron’s to poo-poo so they can sound different. Truth is all bodybuilders who have gone on to high levels of development have used isolation and machine training in their programmes to great effect.
To allow isolation work to perform it’s role you have to put it into the correct context in your programme. Isolation work is supplementary volume during your session that will allow you to put more work load onto a fatigued muscle group. For example a properly ordered chest routine might look like.
Bench Press –> Incline Bench Press –> Decline Dumbbell Press –> Machine Press –> Cable Flys and variations
By ordering your workload in such a way you can move down the force spectrum and allow a low percentage exercise like flys to do more more since your muscles will be fatigued.
When performing isolation exercises it is essential to feel it in the target muscle, whilst barbell lifts are just about shifting as much weight from a to b for as many reps as you can isolation movements are about putting muscles and joints into positions that will allow for the target muscle to do the majority of the work. If you are performing lat pull downs in your programme and are not getting localised DOMS in your upper back and lats chances are your form is off on that exercise etc.
In the next article we will look at rules 5 to 10.