These simple tips should only take a couple of minutes to read but these minutes could make a massive and long lasting impact on the way you train for years to come.
Tempo, tempo, tempo
Considering that muscle growth is governed by the principles of time under tension and type of tension applied, undoubtedly the vast majority of gym rats work way too fast for optimum results.
Take the average bodybuilding chest workout. It’s Monday and you hit the gym for an hour to crush those pecs. Let’s use a standard old-school model of 4 exercises, 4 sets and 10 reps. I regularly see a 1 second up 1 second down tempo. This is usually not even a premeditated tempo. It just happens.
Here is a breakdown of time under tension (TUT). 2 seconds per rep x 10 reps =20 seconds per set 4 sets x 20 seconds = 1 minute 20 seconds per exe 4 exercises x 1 min 20 secs = 5 minutes and 20 seconds That is 5 minutes and 20 seconds of TUT in a workout that will often take one hour to finish. Not a lot is it?
Let’s revamp the method and use a more specific and beneficial tempo to maximise training response. Let’s use the same exercise, sets and reps but change the tempo to 3 down 2 up. 5 seconds per rep x 10 reps = 50 seconds per set 4 sets x 50 seconds = 3 minutes and 20 seconds 4 exercises x 3 mins and 20 seconds = 13 minutes and 20 seconds That is over double the workout time and much more productive.
Use the right weight
So many times I have seen the reps govern the weight. Meaning people choose a weight they can make 4 sets of 8 or 10 or 12 with at stop when they hit that number. It doesn't work like that. It's the other way around. The weight should govern the reps. If you need 10 reps you shouldn't physically be able to lift 12. 10 reps means 10 reps is the most repetitions your body can physically produce before muscle failure.
Don’t forget. The weights should also be lifted through a full range of motion.
Again we are talking scientific principles. 8-12 repetitions is a mean value assigned to the muscle hypertrophy range. Meaning, 8-12 repetitions to failure has been shown to the most appropriate when trying to stimulate growth in both slow and fast twitch muscle fibres. To elicit gains in strength then the reps range is reduced to 1-6 repetitions.
Again, tempo is also an important factor that has a huge influence on the amount of repetitions and the weight used for those reps. 5 reps with a 5 down 2 up temp is very different from 5 reps with 1 down x (fast as possible) up tempo. Don’t be afraid to reduce the weight if it means you hit your target.
Record your results
Only by documenting your workouts can you see that you are progressing or that you need a change. Again, most people don't do it and as a result they stagnate for prolonged periods lifting the same weights and doing the same workouts. In every gym I have worked in I have seen at least 50 % of the people remain completely unchanged for years.
Literally 0 results except maybe for the illusion of change and improved well-being.
For me that isn't enough. I want the proof and I want the pudding. I recommend that if you don’t already have one, that you buy a journal and monitor your weights and reps for every set.
I usually record my results as follows.
10 / 8 /7 /6
e.g. bench press – 4 x 6-10 reps. 90/100/105/110
Change your routine once in a while
Again, as pointed out above most people don’t record their results. This leads to stagnation.
There is a law in biology called the law of adaptation. It states that an organism responds to the stimulus as long as the stimulus is enough to provoke an adaption. Continue to apply the same stimulus and the body will slowly start showing fewer and fewer adaptations eventually coming to a complete standstill and possibly going into reverse!
There are numerous research papers out advising when to change your routine. Depending on your level of experience and your goals it could be anywhere between 2 and 8 weeks. Generally the more advanced you are the more quickly your body adapts and the more frequently you should change your routine. I would advise that you combine the information from the previous and following points and use them as a guide.
Overtraining is not fun. It’s often painful and demoralising. Overtraining occurs when stimulus becomes too much for muscular system or central nervous system to recover from. A muscle that is stimulated optimally can take up to 72 hours to fully recover. Working the muscle in the recovery period is a sure fire way to over train especially if subjected to repeated work.
Over-training can lead to increased risk of injury, lack of progress and central nervous system fatigue which can often take a few weeks to recover from. How do I know if I’m over-training?
· Loss of motivation
· Increased incidence of injuries
· Persistent muscle soreness
· Increased susceptibility to infections
· Decreased appetite