Many people have massive holes in their training programs that are leaving them many gains on the table. They’ve been training for months and months and they simply feel gassed out with no real reward in their change of physique or mindset. They get discouraged and eventually quit. I’m here to change that. In this article, I’ll be discussing three variables that will allow you to get the most out of your training. My goal for this article is to plug the holes of wasted energy and time on things that aren’t working. These are three lessons from my own training that has also applied to every one of my clients. Let’s jump in.
Cardiovascular training is one of the missing pieces for many people. Yours Truly used to neglect cardio, especially during the winter seasons when I couldn’t go for hikes or enjoy a shirtless walk in the warm weather. But cardio training is necessary for a well-balanced program.
Here are a few reasons why:
- Strengthens your heart by increasing blood flow
- Increases oxygen intake to muscles
- Releases endorphins necessary for boosting your mood
- Will help you sleep better at night by releasing energy
All of these are beneficial to your long-term physical, mental, and spiritual health. To neglect cardio training is to leave a big gap in your program. Above are the benefits for cardio training on its own, but it also has crossover benefits to lifting weights. Have you ever felt that burning sensation in a muscle when doing a high-rep set? I’ve found this most prevalent while training Biceps and Calves. It’s a sensation where you feel like you can’t do any more reps because you can barely contract the muscle. This burning sensation you feel is due to lack of oxygen in your working muscle. If it can’t breathe it can’t move. Cardio training will help you hit higher repetitions with ease which will allow you to use high weights especially during hypertrophy training. Cardio training will also help you reduce the feeling of lightheaded while working on heavy sets. I can remember a few times where I was either Squatting or Deadlifting heavy and I would feel lightheaded after a heavy-set. Again, lack of enough oxygen in my brain. With all, what’s the best form of cardio?
That entirely depends on what your body is capable of along with your training goals. However, I’ve found these to be the most viable for the general population and can be done anywhere. But first, let’s start with a spectrum. On one end we have Walking: Long duration, low impact, and can be done anywhere. On the other end, we have Sprinting: Short duration, high impact, and can be done in a finite amount of space if nobody is in your way. Right down the middle, we have Jogging: High duration, high impact, and can only be done over long distances. If you’ve been following my content for a while, you’ll know that I recommend to all my clients to walk daily, and sprint 2-3 times a week. Look around you at all the people running. How many of them are lean and jacked? Very few. In fact, most are fat because they’ve been told that running, and only running alone, will help them lose weight. It will during the event of running, but once you return home, you’ll just eat all the calories you’ve burned. Running is also terrible for your knees if running on concrete. Because it requires to be high impact and high duration, no amount of cushion on your shoes will protect your knees and ankles from the impact they’ve receive. But if you do want to Run, Sprint, or even Walk for that matter, then I highly suggest you do it barefoot on grass. You’ll have yourself grounded on the earth and the soft ground will give you the natural cushion you need. If you want to add cardio to your training program, then incorporate Sprinting and Walking. It’s free and you’ll feel a lot better, you’ll lose fat, and you’ll be able to lift more weight for longer periods of time at the gym.
2. High Intensity Training
High intensity training is often correlated with Crossfit training. It is true that Crossfit does utilize HIIT workouts, but if you look at the top level athletes such as Mat Fraser and compare him to regular Crossfit gym-goers you can see quite a difference. But for the sake of argument, I won’t be talking about Crossfit. What I’m talking about is training with higher intensity than what you’re training now. If you feel like your training is simply going through the motions with no real purpose or zest, then its clear that your training lacks the intensity needed to see results. If it’s not intensity, then maybe you’re training with a program that isn’t tailored to you. Intensity is commonly known as how hard someone trains. For example, if you see a person sweating a lot in the gym while taking minimal breaks in between sets while still lifting heavy, you’d characterize this person as someone who is training with high intensity. I’ve found the best way to train with High Intensity without doing any kind of Crossfit is through Rest-Pause Training (RPT). I discovered RPT through a T Nation article that described a specific training called DoggCrapp, a program made popular by the bodybuilder Dante Trudel. The rundown of RPT is this: You’re doing one large set broken down into multiple cluster sets of max effort for heavy weight. For example, if I’m doing Close-Grip Lat Pulldowns for a Rest-Pause set of 12-15, I’ll make an effort to put on a heavy enough weight to hit 4-5 reps for 3 cluster sets. For each cluster set, you’re resting fewer than 30 seconds. All you need is one set for this type of training because the intensity is so high. You’re getting as close as you can to positive failure without having to do multiple regular sets to make this possible. For myself, this type of training works wonders, and it might work for you too if you haven’t tried it yet.
If you don’t want to train with Rest-Pause, the principles stay the same for training with High Intensity:
- Train with less volume (I’ll expand on this in the next section)
- Rest less between sets. If you’re training at 90% or higher RPE, you accord to take shorter rests between sets. You’ll feel more tired initially but as your body adapts to the stress, you’ll become stronger as you’ll increase your oxygen intake for your lungs and muscles.
- Use these two principles and your workouts will be quicker as you won’t have time to be lazy about your workouts
3. Throw Away the Junk Volume
More volume does not equate to better training.
You don’t need as much volume as you think you do. In fact, just because you do more volume doesn’t necessarily mean you’re adding anything beneficial to your workouts other than being tired. I remember when I did the Arnold Program for Mass from Bodybuilding.com. To say there was a lot of volume would be an understatement. The entire program had the German Volume Training as its foundation. German Volume Training does work as a program, especially if its tailored to your needs. However, at about the 4 weeks mark it begins to bog you down. It’s good for a blast to your body and will certainly add mass if you eat properly, but it’s not a great long-term strategy as your body and mind will eventually be gassed out. That’s how injuries happen.
So, what’s the best possible situation?
Ideally, you’ll want 3-4 sets and 3-5 compound movements per workout. You don’t need to be doing 3 exercises of 8 sets each for one muscle group. This will be an immense waste of time and energy that can be used elsewhere. Unless you’re training to be an elite athlete, or something sport specific, then you don’t need the extra volume. Your 2-3-hour workouts aren’t doing you any good. By throwing away the junk volume you’ll focus on those 3-4 sets with high energy and intensity. If you had 3-4 sets after that I can guarantee you’d be making excuses to save your energy for those last sets. This lowers your intensity and overall effort making only those last 3-4 sets worthwhile. If you’ve stimulated your muscles enough by training with High Intensity during 3-4 sets then you won’t need to train that muscle group anymore for that workout session. In fact, you’ll just eat a way at your ability to recover. Therefore, you’ll see guys who do too much volume will never feel like they’re fully recovered both physically and mentally. They’re gassed out. Train with higher intensity and throw away the unnecessary sets. Not only will you train harder, but you’ll also save time in the gym by focusing on what works and what matters to you.
I’ve covered how you can get the most out of your training through three variables:
- By doing more cardio to improve stamina and oxygen intake
- Training with higher intensity to stimulate the muscles.
- Throwing away the unnecessary volume that burns you out.
If you change one or even all three of these into your training program, then you’ll definitely see results. There are too many programs out there that aren’t tailored to the specific individual for their goals and needs. So, look at your own program, does it incorporate the three variables listed above? If not, then it’s time to change some things around to be the best possible athlete you can be. Because that’s what you are. You’re not a regular trainee, you’re an athlete training for your life.
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