The amount of training theories you will read about in the fitness industry is crazy, how do you know what to listen to and what to disregard? The truth is there is no ‘perfect’ training philosophy because we are all so different. What might work for you may certainly not work for me. Look at 6 times Mr Olympia Dorian Yates and 7 times Mr Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger; they both achieved massively impressive physique with completely opposite styles of training. Dorian would do just 1 all out set to failure per exercise, equating to anywhere between 3-5 working sets in a total session. Arnold on the other hand may train for 2 hours straight on one or two muscle groups! There are multiple examples like this, so what does this prove exactly? In a nutshell, you need to learn what kind of training suits your body best. Here are 4 factors which will dictate which training suits you best when it comes to gaining lean muscle.
Everyone is made up of different muscle fibres; some will have more slow twitch muscle fibres as where others will have more fast twitch muscle fibres. This dictates to what extent certain training protocols will benefit you, once you have surpassed the ‘beginner’ stage of weight training and you have hit a plateau. For example, somebody like Usain Bolt is probably made up 80% from fast twitch muscle fibres, so for him to add size he would benefit best from explosive low repetition training. If you then take your average Joe who will have more of a mixture of muscle fibres it makes sense to alternate training styles more regularly. To really find a workout strategy that works for you, it is important to make it relevant to your genetics. Time is the only way you can really learn about what works for you. From now on, really focus on what has worked for you and what hasn’t. Stop just going through the motions week in week out!
FitMag Top Tip – make sure you hit each muscle group with a high repetition workout once every 3 weeks. This will help stimulate your slow twitch muscle fibres which are often neglected.
Why is it that when your mate does bench press he gets a great muscle contraction and all you get are achy shoulder joints? Presuming your form is good, this will probably be partly down to biomechanics (and the fact that bench press is not the best chest exercise, but that is another story!). Biomechanics will dictate which exercises stimulate your target muscles the best, so don’t be afraid to try different things. One piece of advice – keep it relatively basic. I am yet to come across an athlete who needs to balance on a Swiss ball, dangling one foot off the ground whilst pressing dumbbells. If the bar doesn’t work, dumbbells and cables will! Just find the form that enables you to create that all important ‘mind to muscle’ connection.
FitMag Top Tip – dumbbells are historically more beneficial for muscle growth due to the fact they allow a better range of motion. Cables go one step further, and then allow a full range of movement in a more stabilised manor. This means that you can hit your muscles from different angles without the weight falling on to you!
This may sound like an odd point, but without a training partner I do not feel ultra high intensity low volume training can benefit you as well. Why? The whole point of low volume training is that during the handful of working sets you do complete, you smash the muscles into the next millennium. To do this, with heavy weight it requires forced reps, then negative reps and then even partial reps. This is both impossible and dangerous without a training partner.
FitMag Top Tip – make sure your training partner is on par with you in regards to intensity. The difference a training partner who understands real intensity can make to your gains is mind blowing! The wrong partner could really hold you back!
If you have experienced any injuries in the past, particularly any associated with your muscles, connective tissues and joints then low volume training may be a bad idea. As well as placing the muscles under incredible levels of stress, low volume training is also incredibly taxing on your joints and connective tissues. Higher volume training is more likely to be a better choice for anybody who has experienced a serious injury.
FitMag Top Tip – if in the past you have experienced a nasty injury really focus on muscle contraction opposed to weight. Using a lighter weight, you can still stimulate the muscle with great effect simply by focussing on proper muscle connection. Aim to keep the muscle under tension for as long as possible within a 30 minute window as a starting point!