The following are some of the most common questions asked by readers:
What is the best way to train my body? What do I need to do? How much time will it take me? Do I have any advantages over others with regards to training? Can someone else teach me how to train better than I could myself? Is there a secret technique that only certain individuals possess?
These are all valid questions, but they’re not really the right ones. If you want to build muscle and strength, then you need to make your own decisions based on what works best for you. You don’t need anyone’s advice because nobody has ever done anything for you before. There is no magic formula that will get you results faster or better than anybody else. You’ll just have to figure out things on your own.
However, if you’re interested in learning more about how to train yourself better, then read on. Here’s what you need to know…
1 – Training Frequency
Frequency refers to the number of times per week you perform a given exercise or movement pattern. Although there can be a lot of variation in this area, the most successful training programs seem to cluster around three to five sets per exercise performed two to four times per week.
Some people do well on as low as two days per week of weight training, while others need upwards of six days per week. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, some people respond better to weight training than others.
Some can get away with far less training than others and still get great results.
With that in mind, your training frequency should be determined by how YOU respond to the training stimulus. If you’re making good progress on two weight training sessions per week, then there’s no reason to add a third session or increase the frequency.
You may hear people say that more is better, or that three sessions per week is required for making maximum progress. The problem is, more is not necessarily better and three sessions per week is far from a requirement.
Of course, I should note that there is a limit to this rule. You can’t expect to get bigger and stronger by training one muscle group once every five days.
Although you might be making some gains, you’re not giving your body enough of a reason to grow. With time, you’ll start to plateau if you don’t give your body a reason to overreach itself. It’s this overreaching that leads to new gains, which is one of the reasons beginners can make progress for a long time without getting smaller and weaker before the plateau.
You may also have to change your frequency based on your life circumstances. For example, most people will need to reduce their training frequency if they’re suddenly involved in lots of physical labor or athletic activity.
For most people, this means reducing the weight training to just one session per week.
2 – Training Volume
Volume refers to the amount of work (sets and reps) you perform during each weight training session. Higher training volumes are typically associated with hypertrophy (muscle building), while lower volumes are associated with increased strength.
Of course, as with most things in life, there are always exceptions to the rule.
Most people do well with between one and three weight training sessions per week, with one session per week being on the low end and three sessions per week being on the high end. Once again, you have to be the judge as far as what is best for you.
As a general rule, most people will need to increase their volume as they become more experienced, or if they get stuck for several weeks in a row with no gains. Higher volumes are also recommended for most athletic endeavors.
3 – Training Intensity
This refers to the amount of weight you use during each exercise. For beginners, new exercises, or those who have been away from the gym for an extended period of time, low intensity training isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
It allows you to become accustomed to a certain movement pattern and gradually work your way up to more difficult exercises.
For example, if you’ve never squatted before in your life, it would probably be best to start with a much lighter weight than you might otherwise move, especially if you have no one around to show you the proper form. In fact, if you’re just starting out, I highly recommend that you seek out the help of a personal trainer who can teach you the proper exercise technique and make sure you don’t get hurt.
As you become more experienced, you’ll need to be gradually increasing the amount of weight you’re using. Once again, you’ll need to be the judge as far as how much is right for you and your goals.
For most people, high intensity training (heavier weight) is more likely to lead to increases in strength than increases in size. However, contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice size in order to increase strength.
You can – and probably will — still get bigger if you’re training with high enough volumes of weights.
As a general rule, most people will need to gradually decrease the amount of weight they use as they become more experienced and their bodies adapt to the training. This is especially true if you find that you’re no longer making gains.
4 – Training Type
The different training types are the various exercises you’ll be performing on a regular basis. This would include the big primary movements such as the squat, bench press, deadlift, seated row, overhead press, as well as any secondary or tertiary movements you may decide to include in your routine (i.e.
barbell curls, tricep pushdowns, etc).
As a general rule, changing your routine (what exercises you’re doing) approximately every four to six weeks is sufficient for continued gains in strength and muscle mass. So you may change the order that you do your exercises, the sets and reps that you’re doing, or the order of the days that you train.
You could also change all of these things in combination with one another.
As a beginner, you’ll need to be more mindful of this than someone who has been doing this for a longer period of time, as your body is still learning proper form for all the exercises. Changing your routine on a regular basis will prevent you from getting stuck in a plateau by constantly challenging your body with something new.
Even professionals vary their routines to keep from becoming bored.
5 – Training Volume
This refers to the amount of work you do in a single training session. As a beginner, you may be used to doing one set of 8-12 repetitions for each exercise in your routine.
However, as you become more experienced, you can start doing multiple sets of that exercise (2-4) in order to complete more work. This helps to encourage greater strength and size increases.
Sources & references used in this article:
The Art of Mindful Movement by J Pilotti – breakingmuscle.com
Prevention of chronic disease in the 21st century: elimination of the leading preventable causes of premature death and disability in the USA by UE Bauer, PA Briss, RA Goodman, BA Bowman – The Lancet, 2014 – Elsevier
The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises: Four Weeks to a Leaner, Stronger, More Muscular YOU! by J Romaniello, A Bornstein – 2013 – Random House
Core training: Evidence translating to better performance and injury prevention by A Campbell – 2009 – books.google.com
The lean six sigma guide to doing more with less: cut costs, reduce waste, and lower your overhead by S McGill – Strength & Conditioning Journal, 2010 – journals.lww.com
I’ve Tracked Down 8 Of The World’s Top Personal Fitness Trainers From The US, Canada, And Australia And Assigned Them ONE MISSION… by MO George – 2010 – books.google.com
Stress management versus lifestyle modification on systolic hypertension and medication elimination: a randomized trial by SHTBM FAT, M BUILD – atozfitness.com