I find it funny when people tell me that the workout wasn’t hard enough or they need more. The simplest thing I can say is that exercise is like a prescription. You prescribe it in the lowest dose possible to get the desired effect.
If you had to take medicine, would you take 5X the recommended dose just because more is better, even though one pill would get the job done just fine? People come to Newell Strength in all different phases of their ‘training career’. Some have been training longer than others, some need to gain muscle, some need to lose fat and so on.
The goal will always dictate the training program. So what tools do I have at my disposal when designing programs? The different variables include sets, reps, rest periods, frequency of exposure, tempo and exercise selection. When I get out my pad to write down the ‘prescription’, there is interplay between all these variables.
If sets go up, reps go down. There is an inverse relationship between the two. A rep is really a measure of time, how long is the muscle system under tension? A rep is work and power. Work is force times distance and power output it work divided by time.
Rest periods will be dictated by training level and if you are after maximal strength, muscle growth or fat loss. Rest periods seem to be the most overlooked aspect of most trainees as they will rest one minute here, two minutes the next time and 20 seconds on the final set. How are we supposed to track progress or manipulate that variable if its all over the board. We have now started giving all the athletes and trainees stop watches to keep during their workouts so they are more conscious of the rest periods we prescribe.
Another overlooked aspect is frequency of training. Are you training by body part split still? Are you only training a body part once a week? If so, you are robbing yourself. A muscle is ready to go within 48 hours and similar movements can be trained daily, just look at blue-collar workers, for example, lumber jacks. They don’t seem to over train the muscles they work day in and day out, do they?
Tempo is the rep speed. Are 8 reps performed in 8 seconds going the same effect as 8 reps performed in 24 seconds? Definitely not! But most people or trainers I should say never pay this any mind. If you are after fat loss, time under tension should be longer as we will get a greater boost in lactic acid, causing a rise in growth hormone. So in that case, more time under tension is also critical in gaining muscle mass. Rest periods and nutrition will dictate which effect you get.
And lastly, exercise selection. You would probably be shocked to learn that your body adapts to the actual exercise selection the last. You could stick with the same basic exercises all year and manipulate that other variables and get phenomenal results. Pareto’s principle states that we get 80% of our results from 20% of the things we do. Exercise selection definitely fits this principle. Hoepfully this clarifies some of the aspects of what goes into your program as you shouldn’t be just wining it. A workout is not the same as a program…prescribe and let the effects happen.