Look Good, Feel Great : Part 16 - more on muscle training

If you’ve been following Look Good, Feel Great you should have grasped the basics of muscle training by now and lifting three times a week. In Part 16 NMTBP introduces some more variety and more advanced concepts

How frequently should I train?

If you’ve been through Part 7 of Look Good, Feel Great, you should have got to the point of doing strength training three times a week. Unless you really love it, there’s no real need to add MORE strength training sessions. If you do love it, the sky’s the limit because of the concept of training splits (training different parts of the body on different days). Many professional weightlifters and bodybuilders train 7 days a week, but for us lesser mortals 5 days a week should be the maximum. Not only does your body need some time to rest, you need to live a life!

Remember that recovery is the name of the game in building muscle. Train hard, then get yourself out of the gym and let your muscles rest. They don’t grow during your workout, they grow after them, as long as you give them enough time to recover

How long should I train for?

The duration of your workouts depends to some extent on how many workouts you’re doing, if you’re split training different muscle groups and on whether you’re doing them on the same day as your aerobics or on a different day, but a good general guideline is 30 - 60 minutes including rest periods between sets. If you’re getting done in less than 30 minutes you’re probably not working hard enough and should increase your volume (number of exercises, number of sets). If you’re going over the hour, the reverse applies

Three Training No-Nos

Using too much weight – look closely and you’ll see this all the time in the gym; blokes (mainly) loading up the barbell or going for the big dumbbells and then only being able to lift with bad form, either cheating by using momentum or by limiting the range of the exercise. If you do this, you may feel good because you’re lifting heavy  weights, but you’re only fooling yourself and you’re risking injury

Not pushing yourself hard enough – nowadays time is everyone’s most precious commodity.  You hear it so often - ‘I don’t have enough time to train’ - that you’ll be amazed at the huge percentage of people in the gym snoozing through their workouts and barely raising a sweat. Don’t be like them – at EVERY workout you should be looking to find ways of making your muscles work harder than they’ve ever done before. Yes, EVERY workout.

Not being negative – yes, this does sound like gobbledegook. What it means is that the negative part of each rep (when you’re lowering the weight) is as important as the positive part (when you’re raising the weight).Take a peek next time you’re in the gym and see how many people put all their effort into raising the weight and then just let the weight crash down before using the resulting momentum to push it back up. Not only is this bad etiquette, but can also be dangerous (think bench press!) and limiting to muscle development. Make sure you lower the weight under full control and PAUSE at the bottom before the next rep!

Mixing it up

Now you have the basics, but when it comes to muscle building if you do the same exercises with the same pattern of sets and reps over and over not only will you get bored, but your muscles will get used to the regularity of the workout and diminishing returns will set in. On the other hand, changing the exercises you do, when you do them and how many sets and reps you do based on the weights you use will keep your body guessing, will keep you sane and, best of all, will keep your muscles growing

Let’s look in more detail at the changes you can make to your routine as you develop to keep your body guessing. Fortunately there are quite a few changes you can make to liven things up, to provide variety AND to keep ratcheting up the intensity

 • Vary the exercises you do

So far we’ve shown you the most used ‘classic’ exercises and lifts. Yet there are an increasing number of weight machines coming onto the market and an almost infinite variation of exercises involving barbells and dumbbells. So there’s no need to stick just to the basics. For example, here’s an alternative machine based workout:

Chest Pec Flye 3 sets  8-12 reps  45 seconds rest between sets

Shoulder Lateral Raise 3 sets  8-12 reps  45 seconds rest between sets

Arms Machine Curl 3 sets  8-12 reps  45 seconds rest between sets

Legs Leg Extension 3 sets  8-12 reps  45 seconds rest between sets

Back Seated Row 3 sets  8-12 reps  45 seconds rest between sets

Abdominals Abs Rotation 3 sets  8-12 reps  45 seconds rest between sets

Total Workout Time – 30 minutes

And here’s one for free weights:

Chest Incline Dumbbell Press 3 sets 8-12 reps  45 seconds rest between sets

Shoulder Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 sets 8-12 reps  45 seconds rest between sets

Legs Romanian Deadlift 3 sets 8-12 reps  45 seconds rest between sets

Arms Dumbbell Curl 3 sets 8-12 reps  45 seconds rest between sets

Back Single Arm Row 3 sets 8-12 reps  45 seconds rest between sets

Abdominals Reverse Crunch 3 sets 8-12 reps  45 seconds rest between sets

Total Workout Time – 30 minutes

• Vary your set patterns to maintain interest

The set pattern you’ve been using so far, i.e. 3 sets x 8 -12 reps is known as the Simple Set. There are a number of different set patterns out there and as you get more experienced, you might want to work them into your muscle training routine

You can perform two (Super Sets), three (Tri-Sets) or even four or more (Giant Sets) of different exercises in a kind of mini circuit, without rest in between sets, until all the exercises have been done. The ‘between sets’ rest is then taken before the next mini circuit of exercises is started:

Here’s an example of a Super Set:

Incline dumbbell press (Chest) 8-12 reps, superset with Single arm row (Back) 8-12 reps, rest 1 minute, repeat twice more

Romanian deadlift (Legs) 8-12 reps, superset with Dumbbell curl (Arms) 8-12 reps, rest 1 minute, repeat twice more

Dumbbell lateral raise (Shoulder) 8-12 reps, superset with Reverse crunch (Abs) 8-12 reps, rest 45 seconds, repeat twice more

Total Workout Time – 30 minutes

In this routine you do one set of 10 reps (if that’s where you are in the cycle) of incline dumbbell presses and move straight on to one set of 10 reps of single arm rows without any rest. Then you rest for 1 minute, and repeat the superset, rest again, do the third superset and then rest for 1 minute before moving on to the legs/arms superset

Here’s a sample Tri-Set workout for machines:

Pec Flye (Chest) 8-12 reps, Lateral Raise (Shoulder) 8-12 reps, Leg Extension (Legs) 8-12 reps, rest 90-120 seconds, repeat twice more

Preacher Curl (Arms)  8-12 reps, Seated Row (Back) 8-12 reps, Abs Rotation (Abdominals) 8-12 reps, rest 90-120 seconds, repeat twice more

Total Workout Time – 30 minutes

In this routine you do one set of 10 reps (if that’s where you are in the cycle) of pec flyes, move straight on to one set of 10 reps of lateral raises without any rest and then move on again to one set of 10 reps of leg extensions. Then you rest for 90 -120 seconds, repeat the tri-set, rest again, do the third tri-set and then rest for 2 minutes before moving on to the legs/arms/abs tri-set

You get the picture for Giant Sets…

• Vary your rep ranges

The basic repetition range is 8 -12 reps. This is fine as you make early progress in strength training, and can continue to be used for as long as you want. But you should also consider using different rep ranges, not only for variety, but to achieve different goals

The rep ranges you use depend on whether you’re trying to develop strength, size or endurance. While it is possible to train for all three within one programme (e.g. strength in week 1, size in week 2, endurance in week 3 and so on), the more experienced you get the more you’ll tend to train for one or the other for a period of 6 - 8 weeks at a time

The recommended rep ranges are:

• Strength 4 - 6 reps

• Size 6 - 12 reps

• Endurance 12 - 20 reps

In order to vary your reps properly you need to find, for each exercise you want to perform, the maximum amount of weight that you can lift oncegenerally referred to as your one repetition maximum (1RM)


This is where the 1RM maximum comes in. For each rep range you need to lift a weight which is a percentage of your 1RM. So if, for example,your one rep maximum for the bench press is 100 pounds, then the weights for each rep range are as follows:

• Strength 90% of 1RM = 90 lbs x 4 - 6 reps

• Size 80% of 1RM = 80 lbs x 6 - 12 reps

• Endurance 65% of 1RM = 85 lbs x 12 - 20 reps

Naturally, as you get to the end of each cycle, you need to test your one rep maximum again. Hopefully, it will have increased! So for the next cycle you use a revised 1RM. If not, just repeat until your 1RM does increase

Whichever variations to your programme you choose at any one time don’t chop and change on a daily or weekly basis. Follow a routine for 4 - 8 weeks, before changing variables, whether it’s the type of exercise,set pattern or rep ranges

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April 13, 2012

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