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On this episode, Coach Allan discusses some intermediate resistance training strategies to boost the effectiveness of your weight training.
Today, I want to take some time and talk to you about some of the more intermediate and advanced resistance training, things that you can do. And these are some of these things that are appropriate for people over 40. So I'll kind of emphasize this that if you're new at training haven't been doing something for more than a year, this episode is probably not going to be for you. You might learn a few things about muscle resistance training and things like that, but just recognize that the strategies and tactics that we're talking about here today are not for the new training.
If you haven't been training for at least six months and maybe a year or more, you might not want to look into these, but this is something, if you're really interested in weightlifting resistance training, you might find interesting. So I do want to start this episode off with a caution. If you're new, if you're new to this, then yeah, definitely think twice before trying some of these. These are not things that you do, particularly for if you're just bored with your program. If you're bored with your program, change up some of the exercises, change up your sets and reps do those other things that change up the workout and make it different and more interesting.
These are not something that you want to do if you're under trained, and that means, yes, probably about a year or so of consistent training, and then you kind of plateaued and you're not seeing the improvements that you wanted to see. Most people are going to be able to get enough benefit out of just basic weightlifting that they don't really need to do these things. You can build strength and muscle without these tools without these strategies, but just recognize that, yes, if you want to optimize your growth, optimize your strength, optimize your power.
These can be very powerful tools in your tool chest. And then the other side of it is when you implement some of these things because of the additional volume because of the way you're working, you do increase your risk of injury. I do take that into account. Injury is a very important thing. It's rule number one in resistance training, do not injure thyself, and so you do not want to injure yourself. So you really have to be very thoughtful about how you approach intermediate resistance training.
To start this conversation, I really want to get into volume because that's what we're really doing when we're doing these processes, we're trying to increase the volume of work or we're trying to increase the volume of intensity for what we're doing when we're doing these exercises. So just recognize that normally we could do weights, reps and sets, and that's going to be enough for us to improve or increase the volume of the work that we're doing. If I do one more set than I did before, then I've increased the volume.
If I've added more reps, I've potentially increase the volume. And obviously, if I'm doing the same number of reps and sets and I've increased the weight, you know that I've increased the volume and each of those is specific to how you're trying to train. So are you trying to train strength? Are you trying to train for muscle growth? Are you trying to train for muscular endurance or stamina or power? And so as you look at the way you're lifting, recognize that the way your lifting needs to align with what you're doing and the volume increases that you do also have to align with that.
So there are different ways. Like I said, we can do this. We can do more work per week. We can do more work per workout. We can increase the time that it takes for us to do each exercise. It's called time and attention, and we'll get into that in a minute. But what you do, what we're doing here is we're basically in most of these, we're trying to increase the volume of work, the volume of work that the muscle has to do. And so we'll get into a lot more detail in that as we go forward, but just recognize, I'm going to keep coming back this term volume and just realize that volume just means more work.
It means more work for the muscle, either in reps, set, time under tension or the weight we're lifting. Before you get started on a program like this, it's really important for you to define the purpose of why you're doing what you're doing, because each of these strategies helps a certain aspect of muscular development. And so you don't want to do something that's going to improve your strength if you're absolutely actually trying to increase power, and you may not want to increase muscle mass if you're trying to increase power.
So in looking at what you're trying to accomplish, recognize that the goal, the purpose drives the strategy that makes the most sense for you. Probably the most common way to increase volume. And the one that I would usually start with someone who's approaching the intermediate lifting stages, meaning they've done some lifting. They're comfortable with the full body workouts. It's an hour or so of work, and they get the reps in. They get the sets in, and as a result, they're seeing some benefit. But a lot of times what happens is then that kind of plateaus, and we need to add volume and a lot of times it's really hard to add volume to a single workout.
Meaning if I have you doing one exercise, two exercises for legs, one for chess, one for back, one for shoulders, and a little bit of core work. That's practically an entire hour workout already. To add more time to that workout isn't practical for a lot of people.
So one approach is to do splits. So typically a split. What that means is that you're splitting up the work across different body parts so that you can do more work each workout. But you're also going to have to do more workouts each week.
So a very common split is the upper and lower split. So what we'll do is we'll come in, say on Monday, and we'll do a lower body workout, so that's mostly leg work. So squats, leg press, lunges, split squats, maybe a little bit of machine work. And that's your leg workout. You'll hear the term leg day called out a lot. So you do a leg workout on Monday, and then on Tuesday, you come back in and you do an upper body workout. So that's where you're doing pushups, bench press, pulls, rows, different things like that.
You you might even throw up in some arm workout, some shoulder workout, and that's your upper body work. And so you've split into an upper lower Monday, Tuesday, maybe you take Wednesday off. You come back Thursday, Friday, and you do another lower upper. As a result, you hit your legs twice in the same week, which is what you would have done before. But now you've actually added more volume because you had more time to do more exercises, more exercises, then more sets and more reps for each of those parts. And as a result, they're getting more volume.
The other common split is called a push pull legs. And the way that works is you would come in and let's say on Monday, you go ahead and do your push and push is where you're moving away from your body. So you think of pushups bench press flies overhead, press that type of thing. So you're mostly working your chest and shoulders and then probably your triceps. A pull is when you're pulling something towards yourself. So you're doing a rows, you're doing lat pull downs and then potentially some other movements where you're working your biceps.
So that would then be the pull. And then your legs obviously is just a lower body workout, and you do a leg workout. Now the advantage of pushpull legs is then you've already given yourself the full two days off from that push workout. You could come right back the next day and do another push and you can rotate this all the way through and not have a day off effectively. Although I'd still encourage you every once in a while. Do take recovery day. There's a lot of volume.
So at some point it's probably worth taking a day off. So if I'm going to do a push pull legs, I'll do a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and then I take Sunday off and that's six days of lifting. Each day I'm working a different part of my body. I'm getting each body part in twice per week, which is what I was doing mostly when I was doing full body, and so it gives me the opportunity to add a lot more volume by doing the split.
But it also means you're dedicating a lot more time to the gym than you would if you were just doing two 1 hour full body workouts. Now you're in the gym up to 6 hours a week, which can be quite a bit of time. So recognize to get more volume, you've put more time in.
Now, one way to get around this little bit of volume and time is to mix in a thing we call super sets or monster sets. Now, this is where you're going to do two exercises pretty much in a circuit, and the two exercises work different body parts so effectively you can get an exercise in faster because your rest period is effectively when you're doing a different exercise.
So an example of that would be if I wanted to do bench press and then I wanted to do dumbbell rows. And so I would do my bench press. As soon as I finish my bench press, I turn around and do my set of rows. And then as I moved back to the bench and make sure I'm getting enough rest between exercises. But you can kind of see how because I did it that way. I cut out a rest period that I would have had in between each exercise.
And as a result, I could get a lot more done. A monster set is where you put three or more exercises together in a circuit. And I don't want you to get this confused with circuit training, where you would walk in and there's a series of machines and you're just doing these eight different exercises in the circuit. This is when you're going heavy. If you're intermediate lifting, you're doing a lot more weight than you would be doing on those machines. You're probably working with free weights.
And so you would put together potentially three exercises that could be again, it could be the bench press. It could be a dumbbell row, as I said. And maybe your third exercise is squats or something for your legs. And so you do that monster set, and then now you can go right back into another round, and you basically have eliminated the need for those rest that'll allow you to get more volume in a shorter period of time. So you don't necessarily have to split your workout in multiple days.
You can add super sets and monster sets to reduce the amount of time, which allows you to do more sets or exercises for each body part in the same amount of time. It also can be very fatiguing. And I found that super sets and monster sets really aren't for me because I don't recover from the cardiovascular perspective of just exercise exercise. I need that little bit of rest time to get myself fired back up to really be able to optimize the weight that I'm doing. And another aspect of this is it is really hard in a commercial gym to set up a series of super sets without really just being all over the gym.
And in an age of COVID, that's even worse if someone's trying to work out in a gym and you're taking up three or four pieces of equipment at a given point in time, it's really hard. Unless you're going to a commercial gym when no one else is there off hours or like me, own the gym, then you can go in and do it when you want to. But it's really hard in a commercial gym to do super sets and monster sets effectively without a lot of planning and doing it at times that are just more appropriate for that.
But that is a way to add more volume that you can do. So ways to add Volume Right now, we have split and we have super sets. And I mentioned earlier time under tension.
So when we're doing our normal workout and we're starting out, you probably notice a lot of muscle growth and you probably know, I mean, maybe not physically muscle growth, but you notice that you got stronger pretty quick. You might have started with five pound dumbbells and you're almost within a month, you're up to ten pound dumbbells.
That's 100% increase that's huge. What's typically happening during that period of time is not that you're piling on a bunch of muscle and getting a lot stronger. What you're doing is your brain and your muscles are beginning to communicate more effectively. So your brain is trying to fire off enough muscle fibers to do the movement that you're asking it to do. And as you go to do that movement, you get more efficient and that efficiency of the communication where your brain can know what a weight is and can fire off just the right amount of muscle fibers is a really cool thing that allows you to get stronger. Now, by doing time under tension, which just basically means slowing down our tempo.
So you think normally if you were going to do, let's say push up, you would go down a count of one, you go up. So it's really almost like up up up up right. Now, to do time under tension, I'd say slow that down to maybe 2 seconds, 3 seconds. So it's 3 seconds down 3 seconds up. Another way that you can put time under tension is when you're in that down position, maybe you stay there for a pause and that pause training will keep you fired. The muscles firing longer.
That will help your brain and your muscles talk much, much more. Because as you're trying to do the movement slower, the muscle is going to have to fire off more and more muscle fibers to keep the weight under control and moving. So time under tension is a very effective way of building muscle and strength. But time under tension is not beneficial if you're training for power. So if you're trying to do something like sprints and you want to be able to sprint faster, I would not do time under tension training for your legs because you're training your muscles to fire slowly and consistently, and that's not the kind of thing you need if you're trying to build power.
So if you want to build a little bit more muscle mass and you want to get a little stronger and you're looking for a way to kind of bump up the volume of what you're doing. Time under tension is a really good tool to do that. You can take a smaller amount of weight and make it harder for your body because you slowed down your body's, firing off more muscle fibers, and that's causing more stimulus, which will cause more growth in both the muscular and the strength aspects.
Another interesting approach is called variable resistance training, and you can do variable resistance training even as a beginner. But when you really want to kind of leverage some things, this is where a variable resistance training becomes really, really good. Basically, variable resistance training just means that you're providing a variable level of resistance based on where your strength points are in a movement. So to give you an example, because there's a certain amount of muscular leverage in working each bit of weight. If you think about a bicep curl.
So you're holding a dumbbell by your side and you want to bring that dumbbell up to basically your front deltoid to curl and use the bicep to do that. At the very bottom, you're at your worst leverage point. And so the weight that you can start at that bottom is much lighter than the way you could do. If you had your hands say just six inches away from your shoulder, you're at that point have a much better leverage point and can do a lot more weight.
So that's one of the disadvantages of fixed weights like dumbbells and kettlebells. And things like that is that they aren't variable, whereas you can use bands or chains or the cambers on certain machines to change up the resistance throughout the movement. So here's an example, let's say I had that same dumbbell in my hand, and instead of just the dumbbell, I had a chain draped over that dumbbell so that as I lifted the dumbbell closer to my chest, on my shoulder, as the dumbbell came up, more chain is off the floor, meaning there's more resistance against the movement.
So that at the top, I have a much higher resistance than I did at the bottom. Cables do the same thing. I mean, sorry, bands do the same thing. That's probably what you've experienced as you stretch a band. It provides a variable resistance. And then some machines, you may notice that if you're looking at the mechanism, the camber that's lifting the weight, that it typically spins and it's pulling typically a strap or something, it's pulling that and as it turns, if that's just around camber or around pulling, it's a very straight resistance if they put a camber on there where it's like lopsided that can provide variable resistance.
The NATOs machines were really famous for this in the 70s and 80s, as they provided this kind of variable resistance through different movements. So it's very common now to see those on machines. The cool thing about resistance training when it's variable resistance is that it is providing you the maximum amount of resistance or at least a better range of resistance as you do a lift. As you get that muscular leverage going, looking for ways to add variable resistance to an exercise can help a lot. So one way that you can do this is you can use bands.
So if you strap a band to something or you're doing the band curls that's band movements that's one thing. I talked about the chains. So you'll be doing a bench press and you can have chains over the bar. So the bar goes up, more chain is off the floor and therefore more resistance. And then there are bands that you can use to assist you on, like pull ups. So you take one of those bands, you wrap them over the bar, you put your foot in that band.
And then as you go down and you're in your weakest position at the bottom, then the band is fully extended. Therefore, it's giving you resistance up to help you. And as you get closer to the top, there's less pull on that band, and it's giving you less assistance. So there's lots of different ways to use variable resistance in assisting you to have the maximum amount of weight effectively resistance in an exercise. So you're increasing the resistance based on your strength profile and the leverage of your muscles.
So variable resistance is a pretty cool tool, and it can even be used by some beginners. And if you're using bands for your workout, then you've experienced some of that.
Another one is called negatives. And I'll explain this in a little bit more detail, because sometimes it really confuses people. But in every movement, you're going to be constricting muscle. Tighten a muscle to affect that movement. And so basically, if you're doing a curl, a bicep curl we talked about you are shortening your bicep. In shortening, it that is the concentric portion of the movement.
As you shorten your bicep, that brings the dumbbell up as you go back down, that's the eccentric portion of the movement. In the eccentric portion of the movement, you are resisting that resistance. Okay, that sounds weird, but your muscle is preventing the weight, the resistance from going where it wants to go. It's fighting gravity. And that's the point where your body is building core strength, getting really stronger and that you're firing off the things you need to be stronger to hold that weight against that resistance.
So a negative is effectively where you're doing a time under tension thing, but you're only doing it during the eccentric portion of the movement. Let's say I want to improve my pull ups, and I know I can do a few, but I want to be able to do more. I want to get stronger in the pull up. What I can do is I can get myself a little step ladder, and I can step up to a point where the bar is at my chest, and then I can let my body go down slowly fighting that resistance.
So I'm working through the negative portion of that exercise. The eccentric portion of that exercise. And I can tell you that don't do this unless you really want to have DOMS, because this is one of those situations where DOMS is going to happen if you're doing this. Another way that this could be done is you could be doing a dumbbell curl or barbell curl, and someone can help you get the bar up and then you fight it going down. And so that's another very common negative resistance training that people will do.
But again, this is is very extreme. It's a lot of volume and does some damage. So you just be aware that if you're using this as a means for building strength or some mass, but mostly strength, it's a really good tool to break through some Plateau. So if you're struggling with pull ups and you've been lifting for a while and you've been doing pull ups and doing other polls and things like that to build some strength, a negative approach, getting someone to help you through the positive or using step ladder in some cases can be a good way of getting a little bit of extra volume in there.
But again, be careful because this is bordering on more of the advanced stuff, and it is something you have to manage.
Another one I wanted to bring up, and I almost didn't want to talk about this one because it's one, it's a little controversial. And two, it's not entirely safe. You be very careful with this one. And it's called Occlusion. Now occlusion is basically where we're blocking blood flow to a muscle, and then we're doing work. And there's been some studies that basically show if you're looking to build muscle mass, Occlusion can be a good tool for allowing you to add that volume of that work and changing the nature of that work.
So the muscle does some different things. So basically what you do is let's say I wanted to do a bicep curl. I would put a strap on my arm above that bicep and tighten it just enough to slow down or reduce the blood flow to my arm. And then I would do those bicep curls. I've tried Occlusion before. It's moderately effective. It's not great effective. So it's not like some of the other things that we've talked about today, but for the advanced lifter that's looking to add a little bit more mass to a limb, because obviously there are certain parts here you just can't exclude.
So it's mostly used for arms and legs. And if you're looking to add a little bit more mass to those, this could be something you do, but I doubt there's very many people over the age of 40 that really ever need to consider Occlusion training. But I wanted you to know it was out there because you might see someone doing it and wonder what it's about. Now, by no means was this an exhaustive list of all of the things that you could find in a bodybuilding magazine or a power lifting magazine?
But I wanted to put this out there from the perspective of just understanding. There are additional strategies to mix this up. People who've been lifting for years don't necessarily still just go in and do the full body workout. And if you go into a gym, you might see some people doing some relatively strange things. And I wanted to just give you an idea of why they might be doing those things. If you have any questions, I do encourage you to come message me. Let me know what's going on.
If you have a question, you see someone doing something in a gym and you're just interested in why they might be doing that thing. Just let me know now, don't videotape them, but maybe you can just describe to me what you saw them doing.
So let me kind of summarize all this. If you've gotten into resistance training and you've lifted for a while and you find yourself beginning to Plateau with the workout that you have and you want to mix it up, that's cool. Mix it up. Add additional exercises, just pull out an exchange exercises.
Make sure you're covering all your bases. Don't be the guy that doesn't lift with the legs. You need that too. You need to at least make sure you're doing something for your legs. So if you're a runner and you want to build some more upper body strength, cool, do that. But make sure what you're doing is a balanced training based on what you're trying to accomplish. Now, when you're ready to do something more and you want to move into some of these more advanced lifting approaches, you're going to have to manage the volume.
You do not want to jump into these things full board. When I mentioned negatives, I'll only do negatives for one set. So I'll do my sets pull ups or whatever I'm doing. And then if I want to do negatives, it's only going to be pretty much on the last set. So I'm finishing out and I'll do that. Manage the volume. We're over 40. We don't want to get injured. So as you're increasing volume, do it responsibly and then have a purpose. So don't just go into this and say, I want to just try these different things for the sake of trying them.
Understand each of these different approaches has a different benefit. So don't just do something for the sake of doing it. Have a purpose, a mission, a reason why you want to do a certain thing. Time under tension is great, but not for power. It's great for muscle and strength. Negatives are really good for strength. Occlusion is good for additional muscles. So just understand what the work you're doing is going to do potentially different things and do the things that help you do that. Pick the right approach.
Like I said, don't just jump in and do something. Pick the approach or approaches. And I would recommend one at a time. So you see how it works for you. Make that change. Try it. If it doesn't work, check it. It's working for you. Then maybe you keep it. But don't pile on all of these. There's no reason for you to be doing variable resistance training, time under tension, negatives and Occlusion all at the same time. There's absolutely no reason for you to do that.
So find the thing that works for you and start working it in. And if it works, then keep it. If not, toss it out and then know when to say when. I was talking to a client, and he was asking the question, when am I strong enough? When is this enough? And the reality of it is it is enough when you can live the way you want to live now. I mentioned earlier in one of the earlier episodes that I'm planning to do a tough Mudder, and so now I have very specific purposes for my training, which is what I kind of needed.
So as I go into my training, I need to build strength, particularly in my ability to pull, because a lot of the tough Mudder activities are climbing related. So the ability to pull my body weight, it also means, yeah, I got to kind of lose a little bit of body weight and I get to build some stamina and then this one other little caveat, which is probably going to be the biggest challenge for me overall. Is there's one obstacle called the Everest. And it's a ramp that you have to run up and then jump and grab.
They do have a rope there, but I'm not sure about that, but they didn't have that when I did the first one. But running and jumping requires some speed. It requires some athleticism. And so I've got to do some work to build up a little bit of speed. So my training is going to be very specific to that. Now I know that doesn't relate to this whole process of talking about intermediate weightlifting, but just recognizing that to run faster, I need power in my legs. I don't need a lot of strength in my legs.
I need power. So I need strength in my upper body. I need grip strength. I need power to be able to run a little faster for at least a sprint. And those are the things that I'll be working on as I build what I got to build, to be able to be competitive and do what I want to do in this tough mudder. And I say you need to do the same. But also then know when to say when if you get into splits and you're working out every day of the week, eventually you're probably going to break yourself so kind of build in those rest days, build in those recovery periods and then pay attention to your body because your body is going to tell you when things are not going well, and you just have to be open minded and check the ego and listen to when your body tells you to stop.
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