How To Train Smart – Pt 1

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“Hey brah, I found this sick Dwayne Johnson workout on the internet, and I’m about to try it out today. I’m so pumped!”

If you’ve heard this in the gym, odds are you’ve stumbled upon someone who does not know or understand what to do with their training plan and is, well, experimenting.

Which is not bad, really!

But this approach often leads to failure. The plan is not designed for them and doesn’t suit their goals or ability.

However, much like anything, training is a precise science, and you need to understand each variable and factor affecting the end result and create your plan based on that.

And so, if you are over those celebrity workouts and are ready to get in the best shape of your life, keep reading!

Training Fundamentals

To find out what the best training regimen for you is, you have to first and foremost understand the backend of your workouts.

A workout can be measured using three main variables:

  1. Intensity
  2. Volume
  3. Density

Intensity shows how close you are to your maximum strength capabilities – The heavier the weight, the higher the intensity.

Volume measures the total amount of weight lifted in kilograms – to calculate volume, you take the working weight and multiply it by the number of sets and reps (100 kg x 10 reps x 2 sets = 2000 kg total volume)

Density measures your volume relative to the total time needed for its completion, including rest times, and is measured in kilograms per minute (i.e. 2000 kg volume completed for 2 minutes would be a density of 1000 kg/minute)

Ok, I’m Confused. Why Do I Need This?

Understanding the different training variables presented above is essential for being able to create the correct training stimulus.

Let’s have a look at the variables and how you can set them up for specific results.

Intensity

The level of intensity, or in other words, how close you get to your maximum strength capabilities, will determine the recruitment of muscle fibres, as well as the stimulus for particular adaptations. (i.e. strength gains, bulk muscle growth)

Intensity (%)

Description

0-35%

This is the warm-up zone, and you don’t want to be here for too long if you’re trying to grow muscle!

40-60%

On here, more and more muscle fibres get recruited – This is an excellent zone to go through before your heavier working sets

65-80%

This is the intensity zone where you can do moderate to heavy sets for 6-15 repetitions or until failure. 

Focus on this zone if you want bodybuilder-like muscle growth!

85-100%

In this intensity zone, you can do 1-5 repetitions with a really heavy weight.

This is known as the powerlifting zone and mainly results in maximum strength gains.

If you are training in the bodybuilder intensity zone, try to include a powerlifting intensity level every now and then.

Volume

One of the interesting things is that in terms of muscle growth, it doesn’t matter if you will train in the 65-80% intensity range or the 85-100%, as long as the volume is equated.

However, the 65-80% range allows a greater volume to be produced more efficiently due to its less brutal nature.

Below is a volume cheat sheet, which can help you determine the number of sets depending on your training experience.

Training experience

Volume (per muscle group, per week)

Beginner/novice

~5 Challenging Working Sets

Intermediate

~10 Challenging Working Sets

Advanced

15-20+ Challenging Working Sets

Note that a “challenging working set” implies a working set that is almost to failure (1-4 reps in reserve). 

What About Density?

Though many people pay attention to the weight (intensity) and the number of sets and reps (volume), no one cares about density.

And let me tell you this: Density is essential when trying to achieve the highest volume of best quality results from your workout, because rest times dictate density.

For instance, if you do a set of five reps using 100 kg and only rest 1 minute, the odds are that you will only get 3-4 reps on the next set.

On the other hand, if you take 2-3 minutes of rest between each set, you will be able to sustain five sets of five, and thus, your quality volume will be greater.

Spread that density, both in your workouts and in your entire training plan!

Here’s a rest times cheat sheet:

Intensity

Rest Times

0-50%

1 minute

60-80%

2-3 minutes

85-100%

4-15 minutes

Take-Home Message

On the back end of your workouts, there are different ratios of the three main training variables discussed in this article.

Now that you have an idea about these training variables and how their different ratios create different results, let’s hop onto part two of this article series tomorrow. We’ll talk about understanding your goals and developing the training plan!

See you there.

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