(Note: The following post is courtesy Bruce Krahn of www.ebodi.com.)
Hi, Bruce here from www.ebodi.com.
I love weight training.
I love the feeling of lifting a weight and the sensation in my muscles as I challenge them to various feats of strength.
I also enjoy knowing that my body is strong and capable of almost any challenge that comes my way.
If you have been a reader of my newsletter for any length of time you probably are familiar with this and are likely to also enjoy this very healthy activity.
For those of you who are “into” lifting weights then, this email is going to be of special importance (and one you are sure to enjoy). I am going to discuss some of the most overlooked, misunderstood and abused components to a weight training program that can have a very significant impact on the results you will see.
Training until muscular momentary muscular failure
Training to failure is when you continue to lift a weight until no more reps can be performed or, in other words, until “failure.” This is a technique that is often used by bodybuilders and is an excellent way of breaking down muscle fibers and increasing strength. Science supports this as researchers at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) have concluded that going to failure is important for maximizing strength gains.
In this study, they had two groups of athletes perform either four sets of six reps (with failure on the last set) or eight sets of three reps (without failure) on the bench press.
At the end of the study, the failure group demonstrated double the strength increase (10% vs. 5%).
However, it is often abused. Training to failure on every set is not recommended as this often leads to overtraining and injury. If you do train to failure make sure you are exercising each body part once every 5-7 days. If you do not train to failure this rest interval can be reduced to once every 48-72 hours.
Strip sets, drop sets, forced reps, rest-pause, eccentrics, etc.
Advanced training techniques such as this are fantastic for breaking through a plateau and adding some much needed variation to your training program. The problem is that once discovered they are often abused. I can recall seeing one young man at a gym using three of these techniques within the same set! This is not wise. Pick an exercise and use one advanced training technique once per week for four weeks before switching to a different exercise and an entirely different advanced training technique.
Warming up with high reps
Performing high-rep warmups of “10-15 reps” is not always the best way to prepare your muscles for the work sets to come. Instead, your warm up sets should be thought of as a “primer” for your work sets. Think of your warm up sets as being a mental signal for your nervous system. If your work sets are going to be 6-8 repetitions then “prime” your nervous system with warm up sets of 6-8 repetitions. In addition, keep your warm up sets very light and save your strength for your actual “work” sets.
Time your rest intervals between sets
Anyone who has trained with me knows that I love my stopwatch. In fact, I think that a stopwatch or interval timer is one of the best pieces of training equipment in existence. If you want to increase strength, then keep the exercise rest intervals longer (2-3 minutes between sets). If you want to increase muscle size, then reduce this to 90 seconds (in order to increase cumulative fatigue). Finally, if fat loss is your goal, keep your rest intervals brief (60 seconds) and focus on putting more work into less time.
Pay attention to your rest between each rep
In bodybuilding there is a term called “the pump.” Arnold Schwarzenegger affectionately referred to this during a very famous scene in the movie “Pumping Iron” (a classic film and required viewing for anyone who is into bodybuilding). If you want to temporarily increase muscle size, then you will need to become familiar with the pump. The pump is when there is an increase in blood flow to a muscle and a temporary swelling in muscle size (hence the term “pumped”). If you want to achieve this look, then one trick is to reduce or eliminate the pause at the bottom and top of a repetition. This constant tension will increase the pump and the temporary illusion of increased muscle size. If you do not want this look (and are more interested in increasing strength), then insert a pause into the bottom and top portions of each rep and avoid the pump.
Stretching before lifting
It turns out that you can get too much of a good thing. Intense stretching before weight training can reduce strength and increase the likelihood of injury. In addition, while stretching post-exercise is vital, hyper mobility of a joint complex should never be the goal. The contortionist who brags about being able to fit their entire body into a tiny little box is not necessarily better off than the bodybuilder who has a hard time scratching the back of his neck. As with all things, balance is the key. The correct balance of strength and flexibility will produce the greatest performance results. This is why I often tout yoga as being an excellent adjunct to (but not replacement for) weight training.
This post is a bit longer than I originally had anticipated but there is just so much more to weight training and “3 sets of 10.” I hope you enjoyed this. Be sure to “like” on Facebook and feel free to share with your friends!