Lately I’ve been experimenting with some new approaches to training. In fact, over the past 3-4 months I’ve probably learned more about varying tempos, rep ranges, and other loading parameters than what I have in the past 3-4 years. Or longer. And as those who know me in person will attest, I’m slowly but surely getting down to the leanest and strongest I’ve ever been. Earlier this week I came in at 11.9%, and my goal is to reach 9.6% by Friday of next week. It’s a personal goal and quite a matter of pride, but it’s also to achieve a bet that was set for me at the start of this year.
Same old, same old
It’s not that there was really anything wrong with what I had been doing up until a couple months back, but it was just – stale. Standard. And kinda boring. There’s only so many times you can lift anything for 8-12 reps at a 2020 tempo without starting to lose just a little bit of enthusiasm. And the truth is that it’s a very cardboard cut-out way to train. In the fitness industry we’ve all become so used to training people whose goals are ‘weight loss and lean muscle tone’ that it’s been all too easy to slip into a same-old same-old template approach to exercise. Again – not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. A bodybuilding or basic German Body Comp approach to training definitely does the job when it comes to creating great tone and burning fat, but the reality of working out is that there must always be change. Nothing works forever, not least because the participant will simply stop giving it their all the more they adapt to the stimulus.
An insight into some of the changes i’ve made
- Longer rest times: I’m slowly but surely coming around on the idea that a great workout does not have to go hand in hand with a max exertion ‘go-go-go’ sweat session (and I still have Bikram for that anyway)
- Lower rep ranges: lots of 6-8s, especially when it comes to muscle groups like the hamstrings which respond best to a higher intensity approach like this.
- Lots of slow eccentric work: chin-ups for a descent of 8 reps is mentally one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, but boy do those slow reps work. Hence my ability to test earlier this week at a 1 rep max of bodyweight plus 5kg where only a few months back I wouldn’t have even managed one.
- Slow tempos in general: it’s probably an ego thing as well as just poor education, but so many of us seem to lift weights as though we’re in a race against the clock. If feeling the burn and sweating it out is your focus then this might be a good approach, but if you want to truly feel every muscle fiber tearing in anticipation of a stronger return, and if you want to train with a focus and structure that will blast you past your previous limits, then slow things down. Aim for 3-4 seconds on the eccentric of most of your big bang exercises.
- Split body training: I’ve come full circle on this. So called ‘functional’ training – meaning throwing cables and balls around with no true rhyme or reason – is often more than circus tricks. Look at how the body is meant to work, what it’s doing differently right now, what the goals are, and then program accordingly. That might include some stability work but it’s certainly not the foundation of a results-based exercise program.
- Variety: Even the best program is only any good until your body adapts to it. This will be anywhere from 2-6 weeks, usually less the more advanced you are.
Most importantly: if you don’t know it all, admit you need some support. Personally I work out with 2 different trainers on a regular basis, and occasionally with a third for kickboxing. Initially I went to those people purely for support in lifting heavy weights that I needed a spot for, but the reaiity is that I’ve learned an incredible amount about what I didn’t know – even after 11 years in the industry – and about how to turn slow and steady progress into a 3 month body transformation. The culmination of which has been my current participation in one of the worlds most elite strength and conditioning programs.
When it comes to training and lifting weights there’s a whole big bad world out there – and it definitely doesn’t revolve around 3 sets 0f 10 reps for everything.
Your take? Do you have any experience with changing your exercise regime and getting drastically different results? Or is it simply time for you to shake things up a bit and step outside your comfort zone?