Millions of people commit many of hours out of their schedules at health clubs working out. The sad fact is, most fitness enthusiasts who regularly visit gyms know little about what makes up an effective workout system. In this article, I want to dispel 90% of the hype and help you understand exactly how to build your routine so it will guarantee that every second you spend in the gym will help you get stronger. After all, you spend a lot of time lifting weights; don't you want to make sure your workout time is spent as efficiently as possible?
With so many strength-training systems on the market today, it becomes difficult to cut through all the noise and find a training system that is based on solid science. A good indicator that a strength training system is less effective is if it uses a one-size-fits-all approach. Your body is unique. You are different than anyone else. It simply doesn't make sense that if you do exactly the same thing in the gym as everyone else, you will get the same results as everyone else. To get the best results, you must understand your body's individual needs. If you can give your body exactly the exercise it needs, nothing more or less, you will maximize your training results while not wasting even a second of your valuable time in the gym.
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Another solid indicator that a strength training system is bogus is whether it is based in biology. Many strength-training systems are simply anecdotal. Some fitness gurus peddle their opinions, passing them off as training gospel just because it feels right to them. Be careful. A good training system should be backed up by the physiology of the human muscular system. The more a strength training system is steeped in the actual workings of the human body, the more customized it will be to your body type and the better it will work.
Now that we have explored a couple of indicators of less effective strength training systems, lets take a look at a system that IS based solidly in physiology and IS completely customized to your body.
Scientifically steeped high intensity training (HIT) power-packs your strength training routines. HIT training teaches that muscles grow and adapt more efficiently if they are worked intensely for short bursts of time on a relatively infrequent basis.
Three elements make up an effective HIT workout regimen; slow lifting cadence, timed sets, and adequate rest and recovery time between workouts. Lets take a closer look at these three elements.
SLOW LIFTING CADENCE Cadence, as related to strength training, is the time it takes to perform one full rep of exercise. Use of a slow lifting cadence is an excellent way to make every second of your workout count.
Fast, explosive weight lifting introduces many problems. First, it is less effective. Your goal, during a set of exercise, should be to spend every available ounce of muscular energy; you can't hope to accomplish this goal if you continually throw the weight past the most demanding parts of the exercise. Second, explosive lifting is dangerous; you can expose yourself to hazardous acceleration, velocity, and momentum spikes. These spikes can lead to loss of control of the weight, causing painful, and possibly permanent, injuries.
To get the most out of your workout, use a slow lifting cadence with every exercise. Each exercise should be divided into 3 lifting phases; move:hold:move. As a rule of thumb, use a 5:2:5 lifting cadence; 5 full seconds to move the weight from an exercise's starting position to its fully contracted position (the most difficult position at which to hold the weight); 2 full seconds to hold the weight in the fully contracted position; 5 full seconds to move the weight back to starting position. It should take a total of 12 seconds to perform one rep of exercise. If you lift enough weight and use a slow cadence, you can be sure that you are firing as much muscle fiber as possible.
TIMED SETS By timing your sets, you can determine the correct weight to rack up for each exercise. You can also be certain that your muscles are sufficiently spent during each set.
We have long been conditioned to break weight training exercise into sets and reps. Many strength training systems prescribe a consistent quantity of sets and reps for every person, regardless of sex or body type. This one-size-fits-all approach might not be optimal for you. Your muscular system is different than anyone else's. It's important, if you want big-time training results, to adapt your exercise regiment to your body's specific needs. Timed sets is the best way to determine how much exercise is best for each of your muscle groups.
To time your sets, you will need a stopwatch. At the beginning of each set, start the clock. With the seconds ticking, perform the exercise until you hit muscle failure. Don't worry about counting reps; complete muscle failure is your objective. Lift until you can't move the weight another inch, then try one more rep. After you have spent every ounce of your muscular energy, stop the clock. Your final seconds count is called your time under load--the total time spent performing the exercise.
A good set of exercise is not made up of a quantity of reps; it is made up of 30 to 60 seconds of high quality, slow cadenced exercise, with muscle failure at the end of the set. As you gain muscle mass, you will have to increase the weight you lift to keep your sets at between 30 to 60 seconds.
ADEQUATE REST AND RECOVERY TIME With adequate rest and recovery time between workouts, you will hit the gym mentally and physically ready to workout with precision and energy.
Overtraining is a chronic problem among gym rats. Too often the success of a strength-training regimen is measured by the quantity of hours spent in the gym. Each time you workout, you spend a tremendous amount of muscular energy, leaving your muscles in a state of controlled shock. It takes a number of days to fully recover. If over-trained, muscles can remain in a continuously weakened state--a state at which they cannot perform beyond their usual, daily workload. Unless muscles are trained at a level far beyond what is usually expected of them, they cannot adapt by growing, hardening, and strengthening.
You must allow your muscles to fully recover between workouts. This means your strength-training regimen should have more off days than on days. To start, take 2 days off between workouts. As you gain muscle mass, you will need to add additional rest and recovery days. If you experience a stall in your strength gain progress, take a full week off from training so you can hit the gym recharged and strong. Often, the best way to break through a training plateau is to workout less frequently, not to increase hours spent in the gym.
When it comes to workout frequency, don't fall victim to the more is more mentality. Your strength gains stay with you for months before beginning to fade away. As long as you stimulate your muscles into growth and adaptation on a regular and relatively infrequent basis, you will make steady, satisfying progress.
There you have it. If you are after tremendous muscle mass gains and satisfying fat loss, high intensity training is the key. With a relatively infrequent, hard-hitting strength training routine, using slow lifting cadence, you can skyrocket your training success into the stratosphere.
- Craig, Nybo
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