It's an unfortunate reality that throughout the years there has been a growth of strength training techniques without any scientific proof to back them up. As in life, and in training, the simplest is always the best. Have a look at the facts presented in this outline of weight gain principles and make up your own mind.
Here are a few Scientific Guidelines for strength training that have always been around but are not followed by many training systems these days.
1. Limited Energy Level
A strength-training program should be short and simple as you only have a limited amount of energy per training session. Scientific studies reveal that blood sugar levels (energy) start to deplete after 30 mins, so exercise selection and the time taken to perform them is crucial. What you should be aiming for is stimulating as many muscle fibres in the shortest period of time available.
Your blood sugar levels deplete after high intensity training (usually between 20 - 30 minutes) and remember that you need energy to recuperate after the workout. The trick is to give yourself a high intensity workout before your blood sugar level depletes, and then you will have given your body the exercise that it requires to gain the maximum amount of muscle possible.
2. Progressive Overload
Progressive Overload is the main exercise principle you need to be aware of in order to get the results that you're after with strength training.
The two most important points are:
Complete your exercise with perfect technique
Push to total failure when doing a set and overload the weight on the bar progressively. (Overload your targeted muscles to beyond what there used to)
Basically this means that when the body is stressed by high intensity training beyond its normal demands, the body will adapt to these new demands of improved strength. When I say "normal demands," I mean what level of stress/strength your body is used to now.
An example: The set that you performed last week using the same technique and weight, your body will now have adapted to. If you stay at this level your muscles will not become stronger or bigger, so this is where the Progressive Overload plays a major part.
Once your muscles have adapted to a particular weight then it'll be time to overload them further (add more weight, speed, repetitions). You'll need to keep on repeating this process of overload if you want to become stronger.
Remember to always use GOOD TECHNIQUE. Technique must never be sacrificed for extra load.
3. Training Frequency
The sad reality is that the popular high volume type of training that you find in bodybuilding books and magazines (and used by the stars) is irrelevant to the majority of the population and has a shocking failure rate. What is good for Joe Star is probably not good for you. Everybody has different genetics; most of us have poor genetics and are not taking steroids like the stars.
The only way the majority of us can make any gains at all is to perform short intense workouts followed by long periods of rest so that we don't over-train.
Many studies conducted around the world have shown clearly that recuperation from strength training requires far more rest time than previously thought. Infrequent, short, high intensity weight training sessions, followed by the required amount of time to recover and become stronger is necessary for you to increase your functional muscle.
Here's what you need to do - allow your body enough recuperation time for over compensation to take place, so that the muscles can adjust to their new strength and growth.
5. Exercise selection for intensity
I can't stress enough of how exercise selection is absolutely crucial. There are only a few exercises that you really need to perform. These exercises consist of multi-joint movements.
These particular exercises are far superior to that of isolation exercises (working 1 muscle group at a time) because you are required to use more muscles from every muscle group. By using these exercises your whole body will be worked hard.
Over my 20 years in the industry, I've noticed that this area is by far the most neglected by mainstream health and fitness professionals... Most books or courses concentrate on the physical side of muscle gain or fat loss and completely neglect the mental side of things. By training your mental state as well as your physical body you can even further progress in muscle growth.
Strength Training Strategies
Here we discuss the training strategies to gain the maximum amount of muscle in the shortest time possible.
1. Training Frequency
The two main components of strength training are the intensity of the exercise and the recovery after the exercise. Infrequent, short, high intensity weight training sessions, followed by the required amount of time to recover and become stronger is what is needed to increase functional muscle size in the shortest period of time.
The latest research has repeatedly shown that muscles over-compensate (become stronger) up to a week after the previous workout, provided that the muscles are trained to failure. Remember it's not the training volume but the intensity and recuperation that are important when it comes to gains in strength and muscle.
2. Exercises Per Session
Tests under strict gym conditions have revealed that you've only got a limited amount of (readily available) energy to use for a weight training session. As we only have a short period of time to train before our blood sugar level drops, "Exercise Selection" is crucial. We have to use Multi-Joint or Compound movements, as these offer the most training stimulus for the available amount of time. In other words, we can train many muscles simultaneously and thus use our energy more efficiently.
Performing three to four exercises with high intensity during a session are what most people are capable of. All the main structures of the body are worked hard during this time. Working on these big compound movements has a knock-on effect throughout the whole body; there is no need for specialization techniques or isolation movements.
The fact is, the whole body is worked hard, rest and recuperation is allowed to take place and at the next exercise session we push out a few more reps than before with the same weight, then we have gotten stronger i.e. more muscle.
3. Number of Sets per Exercise
After performing one complete set of a compound exercise to total failure, it should be just about impossible to generate the same force and intensity for another complete set of the same exercise.
If you're able to generate the same force and intensity for this second set then it'll be pretty obvious that not enough effort has been put into the first set. Thus you'll have to raise the intensity level you put out for the first set.
If you give the first set 100% effort and work the exercise hard to total failure (eg. you cannot move the bar after the last rep) then there will be not more requirement for further muscle stimulation on that specific exercise.
If you think that volume training (multiple sets) is more effective then you're wrong! The latest research shows that single set training is as beneficial as multiple set training. Training one set will decrease the chances of over-training. It will also allow you to save more energy for other exercises required during the workout.
4. Number of Repetitions per Set
The development of muscle and strength is interrelated, it always has been. Strength training Sessions produce increases in strength that is equal to increases in functional muscle. (You'll become stronger and grow muscle).
Cycling intensity through changes in repetitions and weight throughout a ten-week program is an effective way to maintain progression and avoid training plateaus (slumps in strength).
Repetitions can be cycled, the higher repetition range will stimulate the slow twitch muscle fibres and promote endurance. Moving further down the scale, the lower repetition range will activate the fast twitch muscle fibres and increase strength and muscle size.
By Gary Matthews
All rights reserved. Any reproducing of this article must have the author name and all the links intact.
Biography: Gary Matthews has been a gym instructor for over twenty years. He has trained people from athletes to bodybuilders. His professional career began in the Royal Australian Air Force where he was employed as a Fitness Instructor. He believes in strength training programs that are short and simple, but with maximum intensity.
Gary is the author of several ebooks, including "Maximum Weight Loss in Ten Weeks" - the complete ebook and time-saving solution for burning away unwanted fat, and "Maximum Weight Gain in Ten Weeks"
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