Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Second 5 "Hard & Fast" Rules of Strength Training - By Tom Kelso

Originally Posted on on January 6, 2007

See the previous installment in NaturalStrength for the "First 5 Hard & Fast Rules"

6. Use a reasonable volume of training.

As mentioned in point number 4 above, there is no need to perform a high volume of exercises per session. This holds true for exercise sets. A 1 to 3 sets/exercise protocol is within reason and should be the guiding rule to create muscle overload. It’s effective, time-efficient, and also facilitates recovery because the body doesn’t have to deal with unnecessary stress bouts and energy depletion. Similarly, very intense training sessions require a few days to fully recover from, therefore two to three sessions per week should be the limit. If more people trained harder and took an extra day of recovery between these more intense sessions, there would be more muscle visible in the world.

7. Vary the number of repetitions.

Proper strength training should involve significant resistance to recruit and fatigue targeted muscle fibers. It is not advisable to perform hundreds of repetitions in an exercise set as the resistance needed for this would be too light and inadequate for creating muscle tension and overload. Because research is mixed on the exact number of repetitions needed for specific types of development (i.e., maximum strength, quick strength [explosion], increased muscle size, and extended force output [muscular endurance]), a wide range of repetitions can be used. A reasonable range of repetitions would be from four to twenty five, used systematically to enhance muscle capacity
over the course of individual training period segments and the training year.

8. Vary exercises and workout day formats.

Proper strength training can be a grind due to its stressful nature, therefore to add variety to training, rotate exercises between workouts and alter the workout day formats throughout the training year. Examples: leg presses for workout A, barbell or machine squats for workout B, and dead lifts for workout C. Wide grip pulldowns for the upper back on workout 1, chin ups on workout 2, and close grip pulldowns on workout 3. Train ten weeks doing total body on Monday, upper body on Thursday, and lower body on Friday. For the next 8 weeks, switch to a total body workout every fourth day. Bottom line: use a variety of exercises and training day formats, but maintain consistency and progression.

9. Use sensible nutritional intake.

The good ole days of recommending fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat proteins, complex carbohydrates, and adequate hydration seem to have been be lost as there are a gazillion ergogenic aids and supplements are on the market. All are purported to enhance some elusive quality, namely increased muscle mass, strength, energy and/or leanness. They cost money, but so do trips to the local supermarket to obtain regular food products which we all have to do anyway. No one wants to hear this because it’s boring, but if a person eats sensibly – that is, eats balanced meals derived from the four food groups obtainable at the supermarket and gets enough calories to support whatever is desired (i.e., weight gain, loss, maintenance) -- that in itself should be sufficient to reach their goal.

10. Accept your body type and genetic limitations.

Last but not least is the genetic issue. I saved this for the end purposely as it is the greatest reality check of them all: you’re stuck with your body type and genetic endowment no matter how much you wish it could change. Thirty years ago I was ’-9”, weighed approximately 155 to 160 pounds, and could maybe do 185 pounds for 10 repetitions in the bench press before I started serious strength training. Fifteen years ago, I was 5’-9”, weighed approximately 193 to 197 pounds, and could do 225 pounds for 9 repetitions in the bench press due to hard, consistent, and progressive training. Currently, I’m 5’-9”, weigh approximately 185 to 190 pounds, and can do 225 pounds for 6 repetitions due to the fact I’m 47 years old and trying to hang on to continued consistent, progressive training. I hate to admit it, but I’m on the down- side. My shoulder bone/ligament structure isn’t going to change, I’m stuck with a 5’- 9” frame, but my body composition and strength levels can vary depending on how I
train. My point is you’re not going to make any major transformations in your
strength and physique once you make the initial commitment and tap into your genetic potential. The key is to accept what you have and train intelligently within its confines.

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