Getting Stronger is as Easy as 1, 2, 3 Days Per Week
Many people like to resistance train 3 days per week as a part of their lifestyle training program. I believe that 3 days per week of resistance training done in the giant set or circuit style training program which will keep your heart rate up while you are training for strength, thus accomplishing two things at once. If the Giant Set philosophy is utilized, where a push, pull, leg and sometimes core and/or total body exercise are added to the training session, strength and power can be emphasized at the same time fitness is being improved. The key is how to periodize the strength training program when not using percentages of your max.
When resistance training (using bodyweight, DB’s, KB’s, bars, etc.) and not using a one rep max to figure the percentages OR with a mixed group showing up to train that are at a variety of strength and fitness levels this system is relatively easy to implement. It does not utilize a set time per set, rather it uses the fitness of the athlete to determine the pace and tempo of the circuit. The fitness level, exercises and loads will determine the pace of the circuit for each individual. Next, the ingenious part of the formula for maximizing the strength gains for each individual without spending hours on programming.
Each day will have an emphasis based on the exercises selected and instructions imparted to the group. The heavy day will use big muscle group, heavy lift type exercises such as squat or dead lift (basically the same lift), bar bench press, pull – ups, for example. The rep scheme will be moderate such as 4-6 reps, a pyramid (8-6-4-2-4-6-8), work up/work out sets (10-8-6-4 5×5), etc. The loads will be determined by the individual as they move from the squat/deadlift to the bench to pull-ups (usually done with rubber band assistance for the weaker people and with added load or pauses on the way up and way down by the stronger people). This is the heavy day of training.
The medium day utilizes medium loads, but the time under tension for the muscle will go up. The athlete will control the tempo of the lift by pausing/holding half way up and halfway down on the movement as well as at the top/bottom of the lift. The load is medium, so posture, form and quality of the pattern should not be an issue but as always is critical. For example, the pause/hold workout will be written 3 hold bench press 5 x 5 – 4 second hold. In this workout the athlete would lower the bar halfway, hold for 4 seconds, lower to the chest, holding for 4 seconds, come ½ way up and hold for 4 seconds and then finish the rep. This will make the time under tension for each rep 12 seconds, much longer than most 1 rep max attempts. As the reps go up as in 4 x 8 hold for 3 seconds, the hold/pause time will go down. As the rep scheme prescribed goes down, the hold time will go up as in 8 x 4 hold for 6 seconds. This will also control the load the athlete puts on the bar. These giant set circuits will also be controlled by the athlete and their choice of loads. If the load is too heavy and/or the form is compromised, then the athlete will lag beyond the group and have trouble finishing.
The light day will utilize much different implements for resistance. However, the pattern and angle of the exercise will remain essentially the same. The bench press would become medicine ball bench (where the athlete will lay on their back with their legs bent and as a partner drops the ball to their chest, the athlete will catch the ball, bring it to their chest and punch it up to the ceiling), clap push-ups (done on their knees if they are not strong), tubing punches from a standing position, etc. Air squats or squat jumps will replace back squats or the dead lift and tubing pulls for speed will replace the pull-up. The pattern of movement is the same, but the stimulus will be quite different. This is the day the timer is used and the work bout is controlled by the instructor/coach. The work bouts should be no more than 20 seconds with up to 60 seconds to recover. Why such heresy? They won’t get fit you say? This is not about fitness by the work bout, it is about quality of the work bout and can the athlete recover in the time allotted to have great quality in the next work bout. As time progresses, the work bout remains 10-20 seconds and the rest can be squeezed down to 40, 30 and for short sets, even 20 seconds.
Why do such training for “normal” clients?? I believe we can all agree fast twitch fibers have been proven to respond quicker to hypertrophy training and are designed to contract quickly and with high force for short bursts of time. Slow twitch fibers respond poorly to hypertrophy training and contract with relatively low force for long periods of time. Intermediate fibers can mimic either fast or slow twitch fibers, correct? Now, just based on looks alone, which type of fibers will make you look better – slow twitch or fast twitch? Do you want to look like a muscled up, cut up sprinter or a smooth, skinny long distance athlete? Easy answer – muscled up, cut up for any of our people, whether they are athletes or soccer moms. So, if we always train at the same speed, using relatively the same loads, the fast twitch fibers never get stressed and the intermediate twitch fibers will begin to take on the characteristics of the slow twitch fibers. So, the programming, over time, will create fit people that can work for 30 – 60 seconds at a time that have fewer and fewer fast twitch acting fibers to call upon in training, performance and life.
So, to summarize, have a heavy, slow big lift day; implement a medium load day with extended pauses and holds; and have a fast explosive day with light, fast explosive exercises and reps done for short burst intervals (think Tabata style training, but with breaks if needed for fitness levels) and the emphasis is on quality, quality and quality!!
After just a month of this change in quality and emphasis of training, you will find your muscles thicker and dense (thanks to the holds and explosive reps) and your fitness and strength levels breaking through to new plateaus due to the giant sets increasing the tempo of the workout and training all the muscle fibers!!
Remember . . .
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