As a trainer I receive a lot of questions about almost everything exercise related.. I’ve created this blog based on the frequent advice I give; it’s meant to guide you in the right direction where I most frequently see people get lost or become frustrated.. Here are some ways to make your workouts more effective and efficient.
160 hours outside of the gym
You can’t out train a bad diet, and you can’t recover without rest. In the 160 odd hours during the week that you are not In the gym, there is a lot to think about. Unfortunately there isn’t a specific diet for everyone to follow to achieve the perfect physique, but there are lots of variables to watch. These include; macros, caloric intake, and avoiding obvious things like sweets and alcohol (without depriving yourself of a life). Also your body needs to rest. This means 7-8 hours of sleep and taking at least 1-2 days off between training the same muscle group.
As mentioned, rest is important and so is frequency of training. The days of chest Monday, back Tuesday and legs Wednesday are long gone as it has been proven to be highly ineffective.
Super compensation is the theory that our muscles fatigue post training and take 2-3 days to repair and recover. Immediately after the recovery period the muscle capacity has a rebound effect in which the baseline strength of that muscle group or movement is actually higher than it was during the previous training session. (Aka you can lift more during this time frame) This can create a linear progression of strength gains! In short, if you train legs on Monday, you should train them again by Wednesday or Thursday when the muscles have a higher capacity for increased performance immediately post recovery (that’s right after the 2-3 days of recovery). This is why split days are becoming more and more popular. Examples are; push/pull, legs and shoulders, light full body, really any combination you can think of as long as each muscle group recovers and is trained in some capacity immediately after (2-3 days later).
Adaptation and programming
Eventually your body will adapt to even the best workout, the movements will become automatic, you will have to work much less, and you will stop seeing a linear progression of results if you don’t continue to challenge yourself. There are times when you may need to scale back the weight and work on stabilization as well as times to increase the weight and work on strength and power. A good exercise program has all of these components but the main focus is on your intent (If your goals are mostly aesthetic, chances are this will be in the ‘hypertrophy’ phase of training)
Variables and hypertrophy
Much of muscle growth has to do with genetics; but we can all become stronger because it’s mostly a neurological adaptation by creating neuromuscular pathways… Some people can build muscle very easily while others have a hard time gaining muscle size. The best way to achieve muscle growth is a personalized and effective workout plan.
There are many variables that can be controlled in an exercise periodization program. We can control sets, reps, amount of weight, and exercise selection; there are specific reasons behind each of these selections.
In order to have hypertrophic gains you must still lift heavy but have a long enough time under tension to create the stimulus for muscle growth. According to the NSCA this occurs with 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions at the appropriate weight.
The weight used during any set should be heavy enough that it is challenge to finish all repetitions, yet light enough to finish with proper form. If you can complete more than 2 additional repetitions on your last set, it’s time to add more weight.
For major strength increases We rely on the neuromuscular system to become more efficient and Recruit as many muscle fibers as possible. Contrary to popular belief this does not always build muscle but instead creates efficient neurological pathways for autonomous movement patterns.
*I feel it’s important to address the idea that high repetitions with low weight does NOT create “long lean muscles” since so many come to me with this idea. This is considered muscle endurance work and can be used with stability and corrective type exercise, it does have a place in your program but is not the basis of achieving “long lean muscles”. Your diet will make you lean, but low weight with high repetitions can not create a stimulus large enough for ANY muscle growth. This will create increased muscle endurance and can help performance during any event lasting longer than a few seconds. I had to address this because so many men in the last few months have been asking me for help. They want to look like “athletic” like Ronaldo or Beckham; they have been lifting lightweight and running but haven’t seen results. My answer; Fix the diet, increase the weight and lower reps to hypertrophy phase, increase frequency, and focus on exercise specificity.
Staying on track
My suggestion for faster and better results is to find an educated trainer that you trust. Not only will a trainer create and walk you through an entire personalized workout program (which means you don’t have to plan workouts or worry about what to do) they will hold you accountable by scheduling your appointments, checking in on you, setting measurable goals for you, and programming you through plateaus so you can continue to progress and achieve results.
Many people use social media to hold themselves accountable. Whether it’s a gym check in or a progress pic; having friends support you and watch your progress can really help you stick to a plan (even if it’s just despite those who doubt you)!
Classes are also a great way to get in some cardio and muscle endurance! We can all become a little competitive and appreciate others cheering us on! It’s been proven most people put more effort Into a workout in a group environment versus doing it alone.
Any workout is better than none.
Staying active is important for so many reasons, any progress should be celebrated. If you have a specific goal or are having trouble seeing results please feel free to reach out to me, I am here to help!
Amelia Sofis, M.S., CSCS, PES