OPTIMISE YOUR WORKOUTS
With so many exercises and ways to train there is a lot of confusion as to what things to include in a workout. To help you in your quest and get the most of a workout I’ll give you a set of guidelines to help you optimise your time. I’m not saying these are the only way to train, but in terms of getting good all round results and improvements in strength, power, muscle development conditioning and general mobility I feel this is the way to go.
The guidelines will be based around what you should include within your training sessions within a week rather than one session but by all means if is possible to fit parts of each into a single session. Depending on your training age what is included in a single session will vary, beginners get away with training full body in a workout, whereas more advanced trainers should focus on lower volume and maybe splitting workouts into movements or body parts (depending on goal).
1. Include at least 5-10 minutes of mobility, stretching and foam rolling - flexibility , tissue quality and joint mobility are essential to good exercise form and being able to move effectively. The older you get, and the greater the training age the more mobility work you should be doing in your session.
2. Explosive dynamic movements at the start of the workout - this does not have to be high in volume, actually lower volume is more effective when it comes to power movements. Around 10 quality reps is a decent guideline, and you don’t necessarily have to use a barbell - think plyo box jumps or bounds too.
3. Include at least one compound, multi-joint movement (squats, deadlifts, press or row) focusing on lower reps for strength – pick one of these big lifts and perform sets of less than 5 reps. Start off lighter and over a few weeks increase the weight and try to peak before reducing the weight again and build up towards another peak and so forth. Make sure you have good form on these lifts first though. As Mike Boyle would say – “don’t add strength to dysfunction.”
4. Use a higher volume exercise for hypertrophy or assistance work – generally you should include hypertrophy work which can be used to strengthen an area by using higher volume. Normally between 50-100 reps per body part is effective and provides sufficient time under tension to promote hypertrophy. As you begin to age more of the session should focus on hypertrophy as lean muscle mass tends to dwindle as we age.
5. Include a corrective exercise to improve weak areas - maybe your upper back is weak when you squat, then adding some type of upper or mid back exercise to correct this problem such as face pulls or rows. Maybe your knees cave in when you squat then performing an exercise that hits the external rotators such as band walks may be necessary. All you have to do is figure out the weak area (which can be more challenging).
6. Include a rehab/prehab exercise - maybe you have had a previous injury that still needs extra strengthening or rehab – then add this in during your rest periods of your main sets (it’s more productive than creeping on facebook during your rest periods). Even if you’re lucky and injury free you could do some preventative work on areas that are easy to injure – rotator cuff if you press a lot or if you’re a boxer, baseball pitcher; or if you’re a female athlete ACL prehab can be useful as women are more susceptible to ACL tears.
7. Use a new exercise as part of warm up to help improve technique - maybe you are learning how to power clean or learning to box squat – why not get some practice in with an empty barbell as one of the final exercises of your warm up?
8. Include a core stablisation movement – core work should focus on stabilization (planks, bridges, isometric anti-movement patterns) and mobilization (think crunches, russian twists etc.) Crunches are probably the worst exercise your lower back and your never going to get a six-pack by doing them! (six packs are made in the kitchen).
9. Pick up something heavy and carry it - strongman type carries are great movements for general body strength and true core development – Stuart McGill (spine researcher) found that strong men develop great core strength and activate lesser muscles (like quadratus lumborum and multifidus) which are necessary for a bullet-proof core. Dan John also recommends we pick up something heavy and carry it – doesn’t matter what, dumbbell, kettlebell, plate, sand bag I don’t care! Farmers walks, suitcase carries, bottom up carries, over the shoulders, overhead…whatever way you want! It’s all good!
10. Intense interval conditioning work – it doesn’t have be particularly long but it has to be intense – meaning when you work you go as hard and as fast as you can. Try to vary your conditioning, sprinting, skipping, bike, battling ropes or prowler pushes. Good intervals may be 20s work/40s rest, 30s work/30s rest, 40s work/20 rest etc. – perform multiple reps of these time periods. Conditioning work is important as general physical prep, maitaining a cardio base and helping you stay lean.
Well there you have it, a good set of guidelines to follow you should be well on your way to becoming a machine! Try to implement at least a few of these pointers – you won’t regret it!