The other day I sat down with a friend of mine to do an assessment of his movement, workouts, and to answer some questions he had in regards to getting better results in the gym.
He was doing a lot of the right things already. His movement was pretty good, and he was consistently strength training 3 days per week. But, as usual, there were a couple areas of opportunity when it came to his actual training program.
OPPORTUNITY #1 – TRACK YOUR WORKOUTS CONSISTENTLY
The first thing I asked him was whether or not he was tracking his workouts. Things like how much weight he was lifting, how many reps, his rest time, etc. When he said that he wasn’t we uncovered the first huge area of opportunity for him.
Last week we talked about Milo of Croton and his lesson in using the S.A.I.D. (Specific Adaptation To Imposed Demands) principle of progressive overload to get stronger and build more lean muscle. But how are you supposed to impose a higher demand on the muscles to make them adapt (i.e. grow and get stronger) if you don’t know how much demand you put on them last week?
OPPORTUNITY #2 – MOVE TO 3 FULL BODY WORKOUTS/WEEK
Next, I noticed he was trying to follow an “upper/lower” body part split workout program. This means his 3-day schedule would look like this:
Monday – Upper Body Workout
Wednesday – Lower Body Workout
Friday – Upper Body Workout
This can work for some people when set up properly, but for most people that are either just starting to lift weights, or are tight for time this isn’t what I would recommend.
I discussed with him moving to 3 full-body workouts per week instead. So every workout he would hit all the major muscle groups, using complex movements like presses, pulls, squats, bends/deadlifts and some core work.
This structure will allow him to put a little bit more volume on the muscles over the course of a week, leading to more muscle growth. Also, when done properly full body workouts should lead to less soreness and better recovery between workouts.
OPPORTUNITY #3 – BETTER STRUCTURE TO YOUR WORKOUTS
Finally, I took at look at the layout of his workouts. He put these workouts together himself based on working with a personal trainer before, and working out with me a few times. The structure looked alright, but still a lot of room for improvement.
There are many structures that can work, but the simplest method for busy people with real lives is to layout our workouts starting with the BIG exercises first, and finishing with the smaller exercises. And when you’re doing full body workouts like we talked about in Opportunity #2, it helps to alternate between lower body and upper body exercises.
Essentially your very basic Workout A could look something like this:
1. Barbell Back Squat
2. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
3. Walking Lunges
4. Seated Cable Row
5A. Tricep Pressdown
5B. Alternating Bicep Curl
6. Hanging Leg Raises
Of course this is just a very brief synopsis of what we talked about and there are a lot more variables to consider when putting together a properly designed training program. Things like your goals, fitness level, limitations, reps/sets, unilateral/bilateral movements, other workout splits, periodization etc. But these 3 areas of opportunity should be enough to get you started in the right direction to making better progress, getting stronger and building more lean muscle.
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