I sadly realized that I haven’t touched on training in a REALLY long time on here. Why? Because nutrition plays such a huge role in health goals and because I think it confuses people the most. However, that being said, I know people may also be confused about training principles, training for their goals, and proper technique in general.
It’s next to impossible to address proper technique via a blog (short of posting a ton of pictures), so I’ll direct you to a source which has done that work for us – bodybuilding.com Head over there, check out their training resources (there are a TON), and their pics and videos of every exercise imaginable. Added tip: watch yourself in the mirror and make sure you look like the videos, and ensure you’re working the muscle you’re trying to target. For more information on this, remember the mind to muscle connection idea.
I wanted to focus on training for your goals. If you head to the gym just to check physical activity off your to-do list, moving from one random machine to another (because they’re available or because you know how to use it), you likely won’t see much in the way of muscle growth. You may lose weight if your diet is in check while being active, so if that’s your goal – keep it up! But, for anyone looking to gain muscle mass or strength, you need to focus your training around that goal.
Generally speaking, as a bodybuilder looking to gain size, the majority of my training is done in the 8 -10 rep range for 3 -4 sets. If I can do 15 reps, I increase my weight on the next set. I’ll incorporate drop sets and super sets with some exercises for some added benefits – especially during prep when I’m trying to drop weight. Keeping the heart rate high and moving quickly between exercises is a great technique (and much more fun than cardio).
For me, training with low rep ranges and a maximum weight isn’t going to get me to my goal. I have no idea what my one rep max is, nor do I need to. One thing I heard and will always remember – the judges will never ask me how much I squat / press / curl when I’m on stage. So, I don’t worry about the weight, and focus more on my rep ranges.
Another factor to consider is your training plan. It never fails when we’re at the gym – we see people move from biceps, to quads, to back, to shoulders. That’s a BIG training session! If you’re covering a lot of body parts in one workout, you’re likely not getting the most from your session (unless you have numerous hours to spend at the gym). Muscles are complex and have many parts to them. For example, your shoulders consist of front, medial, and rear delts – make sure you hit all aspects in your workout for complete development. Focus on one big muscle group, or one big and one smaller group, per workout for maximum impact.
Some additional tips:
- PLEASE warm up! I cringe every time I see someone walk up to the squat rack, load a few plates per side and start squatting. Do you hate your body? It’s just smart to work up to your max weight – letting your body get used to the movement patterns and warming up the necessary muscles. Personally, my first set is always a bit lighter to allow my body to safely adjust to the new movement.
- Stick to a plan. Once you decide on your goal and training methods – stick to it. If you’re constantly altering your training style, you’ll never see any results, which would be incredibly frustrating. Give your plan a solid 6-8 weeks before you try something different (if you want a change).
- Every day is different. Each time you walk in the gym, your workout will be a different experience. What you ate, how you slept, what else you’ve done throughout the day will all impact your energy level and focus. Don’t kick yourself if you lift less today than you did yesterday – listen to your body and react accordingly.
BUT, the most important lesson to take away from this – train with intensity! Without intensity, your rep range won’t matter. If you’re just moving the weights around while your mind wanders, you won’t benefit at all. To be honest, some of the best workouts I’ve had, which have resulted in some serious muscle soreness, were ones in which I lightened my weight a bit and really concentrated on the work. I solely focused on the targeted muscle, focused on slow and controlled movements with a deep contraction. Take the numbers out of it and focus on how the muscle feels.