Saturday, September 10, 2016 - 12:30
I am often asked how I get favorable results from strength training. Here are some evidence-based strategies which I myself enjoy:
- If you are training longer than one hour, you are making friends, not training. An excellent workout can be had in 30-45 minutes. This involves little to no rest time in between sets.
- Incorporate compound setting, where you perform two upper body or two lower body exercises (or more) consecutively, or use super-setting, when you perform two exercises that work the same muscle/muscle group one after the other. An example of compound setting is push ups then biceps curls then lat pulldown. Lower body compound setting might involve basic squats with hamstring ball rollouts. An example of super-setting is barbell biceps curls then concentration curls. I love to super-set core exercises by performing one exercise that involves spinal flexion immediately followed by one that involves core stabilization with minimal spinal positional change - for example, Roman chair or crunches on the ball, with plank to side plank, or "stir the pot" plank using a stability ball. This is also safer for the lower back, because all high quality core exercises, particularly those that involved spinal flexion, carry some degree of risk to the lower back. Reps for this category of exercises should be limited, so adding a pure core stabilization exercise right after will intensify the training effect of both exercises.
- For core training the focus should be quality and technique - choose excellent, meaningful exercises, do them slowly, and limit the reps so that your core musculature feels "worked" but there no fatigue/pain is created in the lumbar spine. Generally, fatigue in the lower back precedes pain, so LB fatigue during core exercises is your signal to stop.
- Never increase quantity at the expense of quality. This involves what is called "technical limit", meaning that the first and last rep should look exactly the same. Using momentum, leaning forward to execute one last rep, failiing to work through a full range of motion, or relinquishing good posture near the end of a set, only increase the risk of injury and do not enhance the quality of a workout. When clients tells me they can do 30 push ups and I have them demonstrate, they are invariably unable to do more than half that number when I slow them down and clean up their technique.
- Try super slow training. Super slow training is one of the most powerful training techniques we have to increae muscle hypertrophy (when muscles grow bigger - in women, hypertrophy usually translates into muscle defination). I always have my clients train slow - this generally means up and down on a slow count of 2. However, super slow training takes this concept to whole other level. Try going up and down on a count of 6-8. True super slow training will produce no more than 4, maybe 5 reps until you reach momentary muscle failure. It is agonizing! But it works. Please note that you do not need to do super slow training every time you work out. Once every week or two will still produce a meaningful effect.
Be prepared for intense - and fun - workouts!