My Actual Lifts
Every. Single. exercise, set, and rep.
- Curls: 4 x 15 (22.214.171.124)
- Exercise: Sets x Reps (Tempo)
- Curls: 20, 16, 12 (126.96.36.199)
- Exercise: Reps for Set1,Reps for Set2,Reps for Set3 (Tempo)
Eccentric (going down) / Isometric Stretch (rest pause) / concentric (the lift) / Isometric Squeeze (squeeze at the top)
Training Program Building 101
The Basics. “I’m just starting out, there’s a lot of terminology that I don’t understand.”
Reps – A rep is basically performing a movement exactly once.
Sets – A set is a group of reps, performed in sequence right after each other with no rest in between.
Rest – time taken between sets to recover your energy, so that you can perform to your best on the next set.
Exercise – An exercise is a type of “movement/workout”, but specifically when talking about reps and sets, an exercise refers to all of the reps and sets with rest in between for one movement, before moving on to the next movement (aka exercise).
Tempo / Phases of a Movement/Exercise:
1) Eccentric phase – This is the time when the weight is going WITH the force of gravity, typically with free weights this means the weight is lowering; sometimes with pulley systems the bar may be going up during the phase (but notice the actual weight is actually going down with gravity). During this phase, the weight should remain in complete control, and not allowed to quickly jerk you back to the start.
2) Pause – You can pause at any point during an exercise, but often in lifting, a pause might occur when the muscle is fully stretched, compared to the contraction, where the muscle is fully squeezed.
3) Concentric phase – the is the part of the movement where you are squeezing your muscles and bringing the weight against the force of gravity. For example, bringing the dumbbell toward the shoulder during a bicep curl.
4) Contraction/Squeeze – this is the point where the muscle is squeezed as much as possible. If you think about how you would flex a muscle to show it off, this is often in the maximally contracted state.
Tempo – tempo refers to the speed or amount of time spent in each of the 4 phases of a movement, and is measured in seconds. If you spend 4 seconds in the eccentric part of the lift, 2 seconds in the pause, 1 second in the concentric phase, and 1 second in the squeeze phase, the tempo split would look like this: 4/2/1/1 Sometimes the Last two are lumped together: 4/2/1
Actions of a Muscle:
It is important to note that each muscle can act as an agonist, antagonist, synergist, or fixator in different circumstances. A muscle might be a fixator in one exercise but the agonist of another!
Agonist – The agonist is simply the primary mover of the muscle action you are trying to accomplish. The Biceps Brachii is the agonist for flexing your elbow. The Quadriceps is the agonist for straightening your knee. The Triceps is the agonist for straightening your elbow.
Antagonist – the antagonist is any muscle that opposes another muscle, it should have the opposite effect at a joint. Example: the Biceps and Triceps are antagonists to each other. The Quadriceps and Hamstrings are antagonists to each other. Often, people will superset antagonists with each other. Another reason these come up is because having limited range of motion in one direction can be caused by tight muscles on the antagonist side (So Stretch!!!!!).
Synergist – a synergist is a muscle that helps perform an action, but is not typically thought of as the prime mover/agonist. Example: The biceps is the main flexor of the elbow, but the brachialis (which sits underneath the biceps) and the Brachioradialis (it’s in your forearm. Think “hammer curls”) also assist with bending the elbow.
Fixator – Fixators are your “stabilizer” muscles. These are the ones that hold the rest of your body still so you can perform the exact movement you want to. Example: When doing bicep curls, your deltoid, pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, and rotator cuff muscles all act to stabilize the shoulder in place while you perform the curls.
Building a Workout
A split is how your week is organized in terms of what muscles you will work out on what days. There is no one right way to do this, it all depends on your training goals and experience level. Although not necessary, most people work on a 7 day split, so that it fits in with the days of the week on a repeating cycle; but you could have a 5 or 8 or 9 day split if you wanted.
Less experience lifters might be able to benefit from a low frequency split, and only workout every other day or 4 times per week. As you progress, you will be able to reduce your recovery time and workout more frequently. Also, if your goals are to build muscle mass, you will likely need to be working out at least 5 times per week. It is not generally recommended that you workout the same muscle group to exhaustion two days in a row, however if you have to use a muscle as an accessory muscle to help with targeting a new muscle, this is generally okay.
The “Bro” split
This split is focused on the idea of isolating each muscle group on a different day, giving each a full week to recover. Of course, some muscles that are trained one day, may still be used as helper muscles as necessary.
Friday: Quads & Glutes
Alternating upper and lower body, and also alternate compound lifts with Isolation lifts.
Monday: Push/Pull – Bench, shoulder press, Pull ups, rows
Tuesday: Legs – squats, deadlifts, leg press
Wednesday: Core / Mobility / Plyos
Thursday: Push/Pull – Triceps, biceps, chest flys, shoulder flys, pull overs
Friday: Legs – leg curls, leg extensions, glute kick backs
Saturday: Core / Mobility / Plyos
This split is exactly as it sounds, it is a 3 day split, which repeats, sometimes day 4 is a rest, sometimes you can do 2 cycles before a rest.
Monday: Push day – Chest, shoulders, triceps + accessory muscles
Tuesday: Pull day – Back, Traps, Biceps + accessory muscles
Wednesday: Legs – Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings + accessory muscles
Thursday: Push day – Chest, shoulders, triceps + accessory muscles
Friday: Pull day – Back, Traps, Biceps + accessory muscles
Saturday: Legs – Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings + accessory muscles
Drop sets – A drop set is when you lower (drop) the amount of weight you are using for your set part-way through the set. . The goal of the drop set is to do a higher than normal number of reps in one set. To accomplish this, the weight is lowered (dropped) a couple of times due to fatigue. For example, an exercise with 4 sets with 2 drops, and 12 reps per drop would look like this: Sets: 4, Reps:12-12-12.
Imagine using the leg press machine. Starting with 100 lbs, you do 12 reps. Immediately after those 12 reps, lower the weight to 80 lbs. Do 12 more reps. Immediately after those 12 reps, lower the weight again to 60 lbs and finish the last 12 reps. You should have now completed 36 total reps before taking a rest.
You would then complete this 3 more times for a total of 4 sets to complete the exercise.
Compound sets – Compounded sets are those in which two different exercises are completed back to back for the same muscle group. For example, immediately after finishing a set of 12 squats, without resting you then complete a set of 12 leg extensions.
Supersets – Supersets are those in which two different exercises are completed back to back for two different muscle groups. For example, immediately after finishing a set of 12 bicep curls, without resting you then complete a set of 12 jump squats. Often, many people use the term superset to include both true supersets and compound sets, and simply state what the two exercises are.
Giant Set – Similar to a Compound set, but with 3 or more exercises in a row before resting. Typically each exercise of a giant set is carried out to failure.
Circuit – 3 or more exercises carried out in sequence with no rest in between. Typically circuits are built with exercises that target a variety of muscles groups. This is done so each muscle group h as a chance to rest during a different movement, because often no rests are taken even between sets.
Just as we can split workouts, cardio also needs to be split according to your goals and experience level. Cardio splits can vary drastically among individuals due to preferred cardio type as well as differing goals. Some machines also utilize different muscles. The stair master uses a lot of glues and quads, where as the elliptical is more Glute and Hamstrings. However, ellipticals also have upper body bars that get your chest and back involved. Rowing is back and legs. Swimming is also heavier on chest and back than running is. The type of cardio you pick may help accentuate your workouts by targeting the same muscles, or you may use cardio to target your lagging muscles. If you are on prep for a competition, you may need to target certain muscles, or you may need to pick the one that allows you to maximize your calorie burn per minute; your coach should be able to help make this decision for you.
Intensity is a must in the gym. You must always be pushing yourself with every rep. I don’t want to you to hurt yourself, so if you are still a beginner, focus on learning your limits. But once you gain experience, I always encourage you to push those limits. Your body adapts when it senses it NEEDS to adapt, and for this to happen, you must always push the border of your comfort zone; stay safe but exert yourself.
Although, I always recommend to go heavy, that is not what I mean by intensity. I want you to set a goal, and get after it with every set. It can be a specific goal such as hitting a certain rep count or maxing out for a new personal record (PR), but more general than that always have the goal of doing your best. If your general rep count goal is 16, but you get to 16 and have the thought you could probably do 20 if you wanted to, then that means you need to go to 20 and you can pick a heavier weight next time. Those last few difficult reps that you almost skipped (#’s 17 – 20) are the ones where the magic happens. These are the ones where you are pushing your limits and creating change. Do this consistently (paired with consistent diet) and I promise you will find the results you are seeking.
If you aren’t going heavy, you aren’t going to grow.[PERIOD}.
This doesn’t mean only do heavy sets of 1-5 reps, but if your goal is 16 reps, pick a weight that you think you can do it 14-18 and then just do it as many as you can and don’t stop until you fail.
Spot Training – many people want to target a problem area of “stubborn fat.” Unfortunately, this isn’t possible through conventional methods (workouts and diet). Over time, as you become more fit and healthy, the problem areas will begin to fade. Everyone has different spots, and everyone loses weight from different spots in a different order, and this is all genetically determined and unique to you. Just keep working and it’ll disappear before you know it!
When losing weight, the simple truth is your body will loose too much muscle if you try to cut weight too fast. As a basic biology principle, our bodies are built for survival so they will try to hold fat more than muscle in extreme deprivation to help ensure long term survival. We want to lose weight slowly so you can maintain your muscle. Over time, as you tone or build your muscle, and continue to eat well, your metabolism will shift and you will lose weight/fat!
What about losing weight for a competition?
You may want to try to lose 3 pounds every single week and only need to do a 4 week prep, that’d be cool if you could. But your body would likely reject such extreme loss so quick and slow your metabolism down to compensate. This will not only have the potential effect of having a bad rebound week on peak week/show day but make reverse dieting difficult. It is also more risky if you want to win your competition because f you are relying on losing 3 lbs a week on a 4 week prep vs. a longer, slower prep, you open yourself up to the risk of not making your show date. Not losing the final half a pound on a half pound per week prep schedule is much less noticeable on stage than not losing the final 2 pounds of a shorter prep in terms of how you will look.
Bodybuilding Training Philosophy
Hey Steph, why is my training such high reps? I thought low reps heavy weight was for growing and high reps are for conditioning?… I want to focus on growing as much as possible
For most people, and bodybuilding specifically, the plan is to build size, not power. Really low reps and really high weight will help build the fiber portions of your muscles, but it does nothing for the glycogen storage and mitochondria growth that hypertrophy needs. Mitochondria are responsible for ATP production and energy generation. Glycogen is energy storage. Both take up more space per gram then the muscle fiber part. That being said, you need both components for long term growth in either power lifting or bodybuilding.
The optimal reps target for power is usually about 6 reps or less. Bodybuilding people typically say either about 12 or 10-12 or 8-12 or some variation of that.
Basically the lower the rep count the more focus on fiber growth and higher rep counts on the other stuff. It’s a continuum of course; not black and white.
I often incorporate a 16-12-10 sequence in my lifts, which averages about 12 reps, so I hit the optimal hypertrophy range from both angles, a bit lower and a bit higher. Then sometimes I can do a set of 20 reps as well which leans just a tad towards ATP expenditure because this also aids in conditioning. Continual maintenance of conditioning is vital because you want to always be able to push yourself all the way through the rest of your sets and reps without breaking your form or things like that.
I also have some sequences of just 10 reps to kick the up the fiber growth a little bit more. For example, 10 sets of 10 on hack squats, going heavy.
It’s important to also note that this style of training also requires you to just barely make it to each rep goal and not just stopping because you’ve hit the particular number and then moving to the next weight and set. In some instances it may even seem normal if you can’t increase the weight much or at all the next set of you truly push hard enough to exhaustion. Overtime the goal however is that conditioning is good enough that you can increase weight each set despite working to exhaustion.
Once this is achieved, it basically means your mitochondria are capable (and in high enough quantities) that they can restore your ATP reserves in time for your next set and you are then able to push heavier weight that corresponds to the lower weight count.
If you have a successful workout of pushing to your strength limit each set without problems, you can keep ahead of the building curve and keep from plateauing by then increasing the weight you use on the next workout. (Basically this point represents both mastery of strength and conditioning for that workout and weight used) With the focus on building size and not power, you have to build at least enough power (fiber growth) to maintain the hypertrophic aspects long term. In bodybuilding, increasing power is still somewhat important because it is correlated with size, you need both.
Effect on Metabolism
You often hear people say more muscle = burning more calories at rest. Throughout the day (when not working out) the muscle fiber elements of the muscle need a basal level of constant energy supply to maintain themselves or the fibers will be broken down themselves to be used for energy. Essentially this is the reason why power lifters still should do some hypertrophic focused workouts from time to time as well, if not include a few hypertrophic sets at the end of their workouts or something like that.
Long story short, as long as you truly push yourself, all parts of your muscle will increase as both processes are tied to each other and one cannot happen with out the other. It’s almost more critically to regulate your diet and calorie/macro intake (not to say training isn’t also important). But the way I focus just leans more towards a bodybuilding style and is part of the reason powerlifters and bodybuilders have a somewhat different look.