Most articles I see for training tips on the internet usually cover the same points, something to do with rep ranges, or best exercises for (insert training goal here…). While these articles do have some merit I would like people to put out articles for people that know the basics but could do with a few additional tips. I’ve decided to share 5 training tips which are a little different than what you would usually come across. So read on, implement these into your training and being to see the results…
1. Know what you’re training for.
I see a lot of people training in the gym. Some are advanced in their training years and know exactly what they’re training for and know exactly how to train for it. Others have a training goal in mind, but unfortunately train contrary to their goals. People wanting strength are training like body builders, those wanting to be lean are training like endurance athletes and those seeking performance have little to no variation or periodisation in their programming. This unfortunately leads to a lot of people spinning their wheels in the gym and not seeing the results they want.
If you have a specific goal, such as body composition, strength or endurance, there are specific ways to train (and eat, but that’s for another article) to achieve your goal more efficiently. Using strength as an example, exercises are usually performed with much heavier weights, lower reps, longer rest periods and sometimes different technique than when training for endurance or hypertrophy. Yes different training goals will have a lot of cross over, but from experience, trying to chase two goals at a time when you’re a novice, usually leads to failure in both.
Gareth (above) has trained with me for a while. He knew what the end goal was (more muscle and super lean) but would change which was a priority every few months. In the end I convinced him to focus on one above all else, and we’d make it a priority. Now he’s been at 5.2% body fat, it’s time to get that muscle!
Top Tip: Pick what you actually want most, you’re number one goal and go for it with everything you’ve got. You may have multiple things you want to achieve but there will likely be one thing you want more than everything else. Go and get it!!
2. Stop moving weight for the sake of it.
The second of my training tips specifically relates to those training for aesthetics, namely muscle hypertrophy. Somewhere in their training lives, people have been convinced that to grow and add muscle they need to move as much weight as possible, which is not entirely the case. I’ve been asked a question more times than I can actually remember and I feel like I’ve come up with the perfect answer for it. The question, “How much weight should I use on an exercise?”
As much weight as you can use, while still being able to achieve a maximal contraction in the target muscle, while maintaining tension through the full range of motion.
It’s easy for me to say, but not always the easiest thing to perform. If you’re new to training or haven’t been trained well, you’ll likely have a poor mind-muscle connection. This means if I ask you to contract a muscle on command, you can either isolate it well and cause a maximal contraction, or your try really hard to contract it but never really feel it working or being worked during an exercise. One of the most important skills you can develop in your training is the mind-muscle connection, once you get this, you’re physique will make dramatic improvements.
Top Tip: If you really want to take your results to the next level, learn how to fire your muscle on command. Learn the 7 main body building poses and learn why they’re integral to knowing how to flex the target muscles of the pose.
Will has more training experience than most I’ve met in the gym. He had already been training for 14 years before he hired me as his coach. His training involved a lot of heavy lifting, but very little progress. By changing his technique, rep performance and training style, he was able to grow his legs and chest (main goals) and drop 2.5% body fat (secondary goal).
3. Rep performance is more important than number of reps.
The third of my training tips is linked with my answer to the question in tip 2. During your training, you may have a prescribed number of reps you want to achieve during a set, but at some point the muscle will begin to fail. Even though you try your best, you won’t be able to maintain tension in the target muscle or achieve a peak contraction. This is when you should end your set. It’s very common for people to want to push on for a few extra reps, but if there’s no tension in the target muscle and you can’t squeeze your peak contraction, the rep is useless.
If you are trying to get more out of a muscle, you are better off using some slightly more advanced training techniques such as drop sets, or rest pause sets to get the extra reps instead of trying to grind out and hit a magic number. Training to failure or close to it on every set, especially when it’s not in a planed training phase, is only going to hurt your overall progress and fatigue the nervous system.
Another point, if you are trying to reach a particular number of reps in a set, lets say 10 and you count your reps, your body will automatically being to fail a few reps before you get there because you have already imposed an end to the exercises. The brain will tell the body to produce just enough energy to complete the set. If you’re an advanced trainee you broke this barrier a long time ago, but if you’re still new to training, it’s likely you’ll still be failing a little too early and too focused on counting reps.
Top Tip: Do not to count your reps. Instead focus on the performance of the reps and the entire set itself.
4. Stimulate the body to adapt and change, stop trying to annihilate it.
There’s a famous quote by an old Body Builder named Lee Haney, ‘Stimulate, don’t annihilate’. This isn’t an excuse for half arsed workouts, but there are far too many people in the gym trying to kill themselves for results.
I train my clients in a gym that has 3 peak slots: before work, lunch time and after work so I get to see a lot of the same faces. Most people I talk to are not eating enough for fat loss in the first place and they’re definitely not eating enough to support two and sometimes three HIT style training sessions a day, yet this is what I see this every day.
Yes, I did say NOT eating enough to support fat loss!
For Lara (above picture), I got her to decrease her training, increase her calories and increase her carbohydrate intake (the opposite of everything you’ve been told). This led her to the best results she’s ever had and a spot in a Sport England TV advert (#ThisGirlCan) rowing her little heart out, which you can watch here.
Top Tip: If you want to achieve fat loss or a change in body composition, you need to work with the body, not against it. Your bodies main purpose is survival, not to look hot on the beach. If you try to mess with the process of survival, you’re body will never achieve its goal.
5. Rest is a part of the program. Don’t skip it.
This one is pretty self explanatory, although it’s one that a lot of gym newbies and even some that have trained for a while don’t seem to understand. Firstly, you do not have to train everyday to achieve a great result. Second, you do not have to train for multiple hours a day to achieve a great result. The body will make the most progress on the days when it’s allowed to rest, repair and grow.
If you’re someone that doesn’t take rest days, you’re leaving gains on the table and not progressing as quickly as you could. It’s true that when you become more advanced in your training, your body will become more conditioned and will able to handle a larger workload, but for 95% of people I see in the gym, this isn’t you.
Most people have the mindset of ‘double the work = results in half the time”, although this doesn’t work for the body. We are a living organism, we need nurturing and nourishment in order to flourish. If we’re working constantly and underfeeding, we’re never allowed to develop into what we want to be. Remember, rest days are part of the program.
Top Tip: Rest between sets, rest days and planned de-loads, are just as important to the plan as the training days. They help you rest, recover and repair your cells to come back stronger. Don’t skip them.