The basis of any great training program relies not on what you do, but on how you do it. You can use any proprietary combination of exercises but the foundation for progress will always rely on how you perform the movements. Your training must be unique to your genetics, your lever and fulcrum points, and create patterns that synergistically flow with your biomechanics. This ensures that you produce optimal power while staying true to your own mobility. While there are many facets involved in training properly, there are some proven training cues that you can incorporate regardless of where you’re at in your training journey. The five training gems that you’re going to read about here can be of benefit to anyone. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced lifter, the sooner you put them into play the better off you’ll be. So, in no particular order, here are 5 gems to help improve your workouts.
“…progress will always rely on how you perform movements.”
Training Gem #1: Work the Angles
Moving higher volumes of weight, increasing the loads you use, and finding a way to simply lift or move better will always be the target of any useful training program. Knowing that eventually there will be a ceiling to your performance, you must be prepared to accept, and willingly transition to, getting stronger in different ways. One simple and efficient way to do so is to change the angle of the exercises you’re currently using. One slight manipulation to any of the movements you are using changes it. Rather than abandoning an exercise because you no longer see an increase in performance or strength, just keep doing it from a slightly different angle and work on building up strength once again from there. This has the added benefit of keeping your joints safe, reducing injuries, and your movements strong in varied ranges of motion. Most injuries happen when we find our bodies in positions that we haven’t moved in before, but sampling those safely can increase overall athleticism, strength and performance.
Training Gem #2: Be Negative
Far too often, in our zest to complete a set number of reps, we fail to put any emphasis on perhaps one of the most beneficial segments of movement when it comes to building muscle. The negative portion of a repetition, also known as the eccentric component, is the lowering part of a repetition and happens to be the strongest part of any exercise. Why not take advantage of that and spend more time in the eccentric phase by increasing the time under tension in the negative phase? It just makes sense to really focus on negatives because at full stretch, you are in your most disadvantaged position and if you can get stronger there, then you’ll just get that much stronger everywhere else within the movement. Not to mention that eccentric loading is a major focus for competitive athletes as it directly reduces chances of injury in sports.
Training Gem #3: Explore All Ranges of Motion
Perfect form for you and your mobility is definitely an important component to take into consideration when executing your lifts. Proper range of motion, whereby you move the load through the full eccentric and concentric phases of your reps, is also very important; but not always the most important. When you’re really trying to tax every last fiber of the target muscle you’re training, sometimes stopping your set because you can’t complete another full range rep, may not help you reach your goal. Instead, try extending your set by introducing partial reps and cheat reps, so long as you can maintain safe posture and control. These are excellent tools to utilize when trying to ensure you’ve lit up every single last muscle fiber within your top sets. Training to failure isn’t always necessary, but if you’re somebody who likes to push your limits, try this technique.
Training Gem #4: Know What to Train Heavy and What to Train Moderately Heavy
Not all body parts will respond the same to the training stimulus you use. If you are dead set on always training heavy, with a progressive overloading style of workout, then you may find that some body parts respond very well to this while others take a little longer. That’s because certain muscle tissue responds better depending on how heavy or light the load is. This boils down to the dispersion of fast-twitch versus slow-twitch muscle fibers in each muscle, and their propensity to reach hypertrophy. For example, if you’re focusing on building up thickness in your back, then you may need to row and deadlift a ton of weight for 10-12 reps. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to fill up your arms, then a lighter and more high volumizing approach, with lots of sets and reps may prove to be more advantageous than trashing your biceps and triceps with a heavier approach for fewer reps.
Use trial and error – observe what muscle groups responds positively and which ones don’t. Try to incorporate another approach for the muscle groups that seem to be behind and come up with a plan that uses specific rep ranges and loads for each training day of the week. You can’t simply apply the one method fits all approach for your entire body, it just won’t work.
Training Gem #5: Use Intensity Boosting Techniques All the Time
Intensity will always be your limiting factor if everything else is otherwise healthy and injury free. To get the most out of your workouts, you have to train at your peak intensity, both mentally and physically. Intensity boosting techniques such as drop sets, super sets, giant sets, rest/pause sets and forced repetitions must come into play on a regular basis. With these techniques, you can extend a set, increase your time under tension, improve efficiency of movement and perform a lot of work in a very short period of time. Remember, you are always looking for ways to do more work and intensity boosting techniques will give you just that.
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There is so much out there for you to digest when it comes to how to train, which methods to use, what your training split should be, how you can adjust form to create perfect reps and sets and everything else you can think of. Sometimes, however, it’s the most obvious and simplistic of training cues that make the most difference of all. These 5 gems to help improve your workouts can be found in just about any serious athletes training treasure chest…because they work. These training cues don’t come from any fads that are out there, or from any empty promises, they just work. Start incorporating them into your programs now to perfect your workouts.
Author: Dana Bushell
Dana Bushell, a graduate of St. Francis Xavier University (BAHK, B.Ed) is an Educator, Writer, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Nutrition Advisor, Contest Prep/Lifestyle Coach and former competitive bodybuilder, who has been involved in the Fitness Industry for over 25 years. He has worked and written for major fitness publications and many popular bodybuilding sites and works hard at teaching and promoting a fitness-based lifestyle in his career as a Physical Education Specialist.