Building strength is impossible if you fall prey to common training myths. Slay these three exercise dragons and use this plan to make real progress in the gym!
by Todd Bumgardner
I’m usually a train-and-let-train guy, but sometimes I have to strap on my armor and slay a few dragons in the name of new lifters. Myth-busting isn’t just fun for sport; it’s also a useful teaching tool. By debunking common myths, it’s possible to learn new things and understand new perspectives.
Let’s put a few fictitious beasts to rest and narrow our training focus by exposing these three common training myths!
MYTH 1: “GROWTH REQUIRES VARIETY”
It’s disheartening to see a young lifter wander through a weight room and try every isolation machine in the name of “muscle confusion.” One of the worst myths is that growth requires extreme exercise variation to hit a muscle from X, Y, and Z angles.
Let’s put a blade through this dragon’s heart for good! Muscles need tension and volume to grow. Tension comes from weight that makes the brain, and the nervous system, recognize that it’s important to use and build more muscle. It’s not the result of a cornucopia of isolation exercises; it’s the result of putting a heavy barbell in the hands or on the back and moving it.
To quell the inefficient “variety” method and get stronger and bigger, load a barbell heavily, not necessarily to max, and move it through enough sets to total 20-30 total reps.
To further squash the variety mindset before you’re out of the gym and into an exercise circus, you need to explore the many uses of a barbell, settle on exercise variations that work, and use them repeatedly. Program jumping and constant exercise variation limit the body’s ability to adapt. Despite what infomercials say, the body wants to meet the demands imposed on it, not to be confused.
Focus on a deadlift variation, a squat, a few presses, and a row, and train them like mad!
MYTH 2: “YOU MUST ISOLATE EACH MUSCLE TO MAKE IT GROW”
Doing small and minor exercises yields small and minor results. Triceps kickbacks and alternating dumbbell curls won’t build upper-body mass like heavy pressing and rowing. The same rules apply to leg extensions and leg curls, which can’t match squatting and deadlifting to build full-body mass.
Unless you’re stepping on the Olympia stage soon, don’t worry about isolated growth. I’ve got a few greenbacks in my wallet that will say the pros on stage didn’t build their mass with minor exercises. They moved a lot of weight before they worried about sculpting anything.
Until you’re deadlifting twice your bodyweight for reps, can squat four wheels, and bench more than 300 pounds, don’t worry about making your biceps pop. If you accomplish these goals and want to keep progressing and growing, train to deadlift three times your bodyweight, squat five wheels, and bench 350 pounds.
MYTH 3: “MORE IS BETTER WHEN IT COMES TO VOLUME”
A thousand sets of a thousand reps of a thousand exercises—it’s a program that flexed a thousand biceps and is totally bunk. I don’t know of a program set up exactly that way, but you probably know what I’m talking about. We’ve seen or possibly been the person that does countless reps of one exercise, moves on to a tandem of exercises, and exhibits the same behavior. It’s erroneous, shameful, and unproductive.
More seems better in theory, only it’s not. An overabundant exercise buffet limits training intensity by pushing volume too high. Training advancement becomes increasingly difficult with constant exercise variation and outrageous volume. Advancement comes from understanding your needs in relation to your goals and tailoring your program to meet those needs, not from a circus full of high-volume exercises.
It takes volume to grow—this is a tried-and-true principle&mdash:but the volume must be accompanied by appropriate training intensity. An overabundance of reps, sets, and minor exercises pulls us away from basic exercises that build strong, muscular frames. This can limit long-term progress.
Everybody has more than one fitness goal, but not everybody knows how to go after more than one goal at a time. Here’s the perfect program that utilizes multiple rep schemes so you can build power, size, and strength at once!
by Justin Woltering
If you listen to conventional bodybuilding and strength training wisdom, you probably believe that lifting for size and lifting for strength are totally separate endeavors. For decades, gurus and gym rats alike have been parroting the same old “3-5 reps for strength, 10-12 reps for size” mantra, and few people seem to question it.
Know what? I think it’s bullshit.
Have you ever seen a guy with huge legs, a broad back, and a massive chest who couldn’t put up some serious weight? On the other hand, how often do you see skinny guys lifting more than the experienced bodybuilders? Sure, you’ll see a 180-pound monster every now and again who can bench 405 or squat more than 600, but for the most part, size and strength go hand in hand.
The truth is that training for size and training for strength are basically the same. Instead of thinking about any single rep range as a “strength builder” or “size builder,” use them all to your advantage to train every fiber in your body and elicit maximal growth!
THE MULTIPLE REP RANGE PROGRAM
Periodization is the practice of transitioning from higher reps and lower weights to lower reps and higher weights (and vice versa)—over the course of a planned training cycle. It’s an effective, proven technique that’s long been used by powerlifters, weightlifters, and other strength athletes. But I think there’s a better way, at least for the more physique-oriented trainee.
Since each rep range is going to affect your strength, size, and overall look a bit differently—and because one isn’t more valuable than another—I favor a routine that includes them all in every workout. Instead of transitioning from one rep range to the next, I like to constantly improve my numbers in a variety of rep schemes, only taking steps back when my body needs a break.
Keep in mind, this may not be the optimal plan if you’re specialized or purely focused on powerlifting, but I find it yields the best results for maximum muscle size, strength, density, and tone. If you want that hard, constantly flexed look that experienced bodybuilders all seem to have, then you need to use multiple rep ranges.
YOUR MAIN LIFTS
Of course, we can’t talk about rep ranges and progression schemes without actually discussing the lifts you’ll be performing. Think you’ll get away with doing nothing but leg presses for legs, machines for chest, and wimpy pull-downs for back? Think again!
I know some bodybuilders claim they get better fiber recruitment and mind-muscle connection with machines. That’s great for super-advanced guys, but if you aim to gain slabs of muscle, you need to do the big, basic lifts which tax your body and mind the most and place the greatest demand on your body to grow! These basic lifts are the squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press.
Don’t worry, you’ll do more than just those four movements in this program, but they make up the four cornerstones of your training. You can certainly pick variations as long, as they allow you to use lots of weight and make relatively quick progress! You can’t chicken-out and substitute light dumbbell lunges for squats, for instance, but you can pick between high-bar and low-bar squats, vary your foot placement, depth, and other factors.
The same goes for the other moves: You might do incline or decline press instead of the regular bench press, sumo deadlifts rather than conventional, and do seated instead of standing military presses. Just make sure you stick with one choice per movement pattern for at least a couple of months at a time, otherwise you won’t be able to gauge your progress and gains.
CHOOSING YOUR REPS
The rep ranges you utilize will vary based on experience level. Most lifters do best with three ranges: 3-5 reps, 6-8 reps, and 9-12 reps. If you’re a rank beginner who still doesn’t have great technique and a feel for each lift, you need to increase those rep numbers a bit—to 6-8, 9-12, and 13-15 reps.
I don’t like prescribing one-rep max percentages to determine how much you should lift for each rep range because some people can do a lot more reps with a given percentage than others. So here’s a good rule: No matter which rep range you use, always aim to leave one more rep in the tank. This means you should never miss a rep in training unless you’re testing your max.
In general, you should finish each set feeling like you probably could have just barely put up one more. Trust me, you’ll do enough overall work that you won’t need to blow a gasket on each and every set. You want to stay somewhat fresh and ensure progression from one workout to the next.
While those four basic lifts are by far the most important aspects of your program, you still don’t want to leave out your accessory work. Weightlifters might call this “bodybuilding work,” but in my opinion, just about any athlete who needs to get bigger and stronger should do these movements. Accessory movements are things like pull-ups, abdominal work, calf raises, biceps curls, and the like. The point of these movements is to “fill in the gaps” left by the four main movements.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of different accessory movements you can choose. So your accessory work is basically up to you. I will say, however, there are a few rules to follow:
Your upper-back work should include barbell rows, dumbbell rows, pull-ups (not pull-downs), and maybe some shrugs if the deadlifts aren’t doing enough to build your traps.
For your arms, use variations on the curl, triceps extension, and rear-delt raise—don’t do the same movements over and over.
For lower body, you’ll need heavy calves and abs exercises as well as a couple of additional moves for quads and hamstrings. As much I love the squat, you’ll probably run out of steam too soon if you try to do nothing but squats for your legs, so don’t be afraid to use the leg press or hack squat machines once your core (and mind) are too fried to do another set of squats.
Strength training is an important part of an overall fitness program. Here’s what strength training can do for you — and how to get started.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Want to reduce body fat, increase lean muscle mass and burn calories more efficiently? Strength training to the rescue! Despite its reputation as a “guy” or “jock” thing, strength training is a key component of overall health and fitness for everyone.
Use it or lose it
Muscle mass naturally diminishes with age.
"If you don’t do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose, you’ll increase the percentage of fat in your body," says Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center. "But strength training can help you preserve and enhance your muscle mass — at any age."
Strength training also helps you:
Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
Control your weight. As you gain muscle, your body begins to burn calories more efficiently. The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to control your weight.
Boost your stamina. As you get stronger, you won’t fatigue as easily. Building muscle also contributes to better balance, which can help you maintain independence as you age.
Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including back pain, arthritis, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Sharpen your focus. Some research suggests that regular strength training helps improve attention for older adults.
Consider the options
Strength training can be done at home or in the gym. Common choices include:
Body weight. You can do many exercises with little or no equipment. Try pushups, pullups, abdominal crunches and leg squats.
Resistance tubing. Resistance tubing is inexpensive, lightweight tubing that provides resistance when stretched. You can choose from many types of resistance tubes in nearly any sporting goods store.
Free weights. Barbells and dumbbells are classic strength training tools.
Weight machines. Most fitness centers offer various resistance machines. You can also invest in weight machines for use at home.
Does CrossFit really pose a high injury risk? -
Yes, more work needs to be done here.
Two things though… 1) I’m not surprised with the shoulder to low back injuries. Crossfit has you move without concern for HOW you move. 2) Running has a near 10X higher rate of injury. THIS is why you NEED to strength train if you run - you will lessen the potential and have shorter recovery times.
Weight training and bodybuilding used to be associated with a relatively narrow range of sports, but now everyone from track sprinters to marathoners use weights at some stage in their yearly training program cycle.
Superior athletic performance requires power, strength, speed and agility. Other psychological and neurological factors come into play as well, but for sports requiring movement in competition, those four athletic characteristics are much sought after. And of course, you need to practice your competitive activity relentlessly.
To achieve this, from marathon running to weightlifting, training with weights has become standard practice. Ideally, you will consult a professional trainer and strength and conditioning coach to created a personalized program.
Because all athletes have individual needs, a generic program like this one will need to be modified for age, gender, goals, facilities and so on. Consider this a basic program from which to build an individual training program.
The general preparation phase should provide all-round muscle and strength conditioning in the early pre-season. You will probably be doing specific training in your activity as well, so you will need to fit it in with your non-gym work, whatever your sport or activity. As a general rule, and for all the following programs, don’t do the workouts prior to sport-specific training. Do them on a separate day if possible. Nothing you do should limit your ability to practice the functional skills you require.
Frequency - 2 to 3 sessions per week
Type - general conditioning
Exercises - 9 exercises, 3 sets of 12, plus warm-up and cool-down in the Basic Strength and Muscle program. (I favor the Romanian type deadlift rather than full deadlift in this program.)
Rest between sets - 30-90 seconds
In this phase, you will focus more on the development of strength and power. This is the period, later pre-season, leading up to the start of competition.
Frequency - 2 to 3 session per week
Type - strength and power
Exercises - 5 sets of 6: Romanian deadlift, incline bench press, hang clean, single-leg squats, back squat, combo crunches
Rest between sets - 2-3 minutes
The aim of this phase is the maintenance of strength and power. Track training and competition should dominate. Prior to the start of competition, take 7-10 days break from heavy weights work at the end of Specific Preparation while maintaining your track work. Weight training in the competition phase should play essentially a maintenance role.
Frequency - 1 to 2 sessions per week
Type - power; lighter loads and faster execution than in the specific preparation phase
Exercises - 3 sets of 10, rapid concentric movement, 40% to 60% of 1RM. Squats, power hang clean, Romanian deadlift. Crunches.
Rest between sets - 1-2 minutes
Be sure to warm up and cool down prior to weight training.
Don’t train through injuries, acute or chronic.
Don’t sacrifice a practice session for a weights session — unless you’re treating or recovering from an injury with weights work.
If you have a knowledgeable coach, be guided by him or her regarding the details of your program.
Take at least a few weeks off at the end of the season to recover after a hard season of training and competing.
If you’re new to weight training, read up on the fundamentals before you start
Getting Powerful with Weight Training
by Paul Rogers
Strength, bulk, power — factors in overall athletic performance — from competitive fighting to track and field, this is what wins events. Power is about executing movements at high speed. More mass at higher velocity means more power. Yes, you can train specifically for power.
Getting big and strong is one goal, but getting powerful requires another element in your training: power. Power is the ability to move more weight in a shorter time. Power is an explosive force in this context.
Building power with weight training is important for sports where sudden bursts of explosive activity are required — sprinting, jumping, changing direction, moving solid objects like bats quickly and so on. You can probably see how football, basketball, cricket, field sports, track athletics, golf and baseball are all relevant in this context.
Gym Exercises for Power Development
Ultimately, training for power requires that you do exercises in which the speed of the exercise movement is relatively fast, includes a moderate load, and is executed with some explosive intent. This might be done in the gym or on the track or field. For example, runners might use plyometric exercises like bounds and jumps and marches and footballers might use special tackling machinery and equipment.
Olympic lifts and derivatives. In the gym, one of the most useful strategies for power training is to use full-body compound exercises based on the two Olympic lifts — the clean and jerk, and the snatch. Here is a brief description of each lift and associated derivatives and training lifts associated with the Olympic lifts.
- The Clean and Jerk. This Olympic lift starts with a barbell on the floor. The lifter squats and lifts the bar to the chest, stands and steadies, then pushes it overhead and steadies again.
- The Snatch. The lifter hauls the barbell from the floor to the overhead squat position in one movement then stands and steadies.
- The Clean. The trainer does the first part of the Clean and Jerk, that is, from the floor to standing with bar held at chest.
- The Power Clean. Trainer does not squat below parallel but only dips half way and brings bar to chest.
- The Power Hang Clean. Trainer starts with barbell hanging in front and not on the floor and then proceeds with power clean.
- The Push Press. Standing with bar at chest, trainer dips slightly at the knees and pushes bar overhead.
- Thrusters. Push Press position with bar at chest; but dip below parallel before pushing bar overhead.
-High Pull. Do this one from the hang or floor position. Trainer raises the bar explosively to chest level just below the chin with good form, and then down again. Unlike the upright row, this is a dynamic, power exercise.
Summary of Power Training with Olympic Lifts
Practice good form with back straight and good technique with all forms of these lifts. You may need to get personal instruction from a qualified strength and conditioning coach to ensure you do these lifts correctly because they are very technical at best.
For power development you need to execute these lifts fast. To be able to do that you should choose a moderate weight that you can do a few reps with and then you need to take a reasonable break between sets for energy recovery, perhaps 4-5 minutes. This allows you to explode again next set.
This is not a bodybuilding or strength program definitively, although you will develop elements of each.
Eat good fats and stay away from bad fats!