Tips For A Successful Gym Plan

1) Rep range = 30-60 reps per muscle group

Current research has shown this to be the ideal rep range for muscle hypertrophy. This means the 3 sets of 10 reps of bicep curls is at the lower end of that rep range (30 total reps). If you did 5 sets of 5 reps of weighted chin-ups/pull-ups before that then you have done enough for the day. If you cannot provide adequate muscle stimulus from that rep range then you are doing something wrong.

2) Training Frequency

A lot of people will go to the gym 5/6x each week and training one body part for a full hour. Whilst this may mean you have put in a good workout for that body part this is not optimal for long-term growth. Many people following this plan will find that the weight they can shift on the bar stalls, they just don’t get any bigger and their weight stays the same (though that ultimately comes down to the diet).

This is why upper/lower splits (4 days per week training) and full body workouts (2-3 days training) can be popular and effective. In a one hour session you can still hit the ideal rep range for your targeted muscle groups and also train those muscle groups more frequently over the week. Moreover you are gaining extra days for rest, even if you also do further training for sports outside of the gym.

3) Rest Days and Deload Weeks

More is not always better. Over training is common among people who don’t include rest days and deload weeks in their training plans. Implementing these strategies helps maintain hormonal balance, improve recovery and improve adherence to both training and any dietary strategies you may have.

Incorporating a rest day after every 2 consecutive training days and a deload week every 4-6 weeks would be my recommendation. This will greatly improve your long-term results.

4) Training To Get DOMS

DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is the pain/stiffness you feel after training – usually the next day. I read a great article a month or so ago about how many people will train towards getting DOMS not realising that they are impairing their ability to recover or grow. A lot of people think that getting DOMS means they have put in a ‘good’ training session. In reality this is a sign you are over training the muscle and are working it beyond an sensible limit. Take the deltoid (shoulder) for example. This is a notoriously hard muscle to get DOMS in and many people will think that their workout is not sufficient because of this.

Feeling ‘slight DOMS’ is a usual effect from training however just because you may not feel DOMS does not mean you have put in a bad workout.

5) Progressive Overload

Perhaps the most important point. Progressive overload is progressively increasing the weight you are lifting in an exercise – I will add here that this should be with good form. Many people go to the gym and lift the same weight every session and wonder why they are not getting bigger or stronger when they are simply providing the same muscle stimulus over and over.

Always try to have a progressive plan. This doesn’t mean chuck extra weight on every single session, nor does it mean dropping your weight and working back up towards it. When you reach the higher end of a rep range you have set (e.g. 8-12 reps) then increase the weight slightly and work towards that higher rep range again, and so on.

Quick note- There was more I was thinking of adding such as rep ranges for strength vs hypertrophy, planning towards goals etc but this post was getting lengthy at best and people should know that stuff already. Hope this helps.

Take Home Points:
1) Ideal rep range = 30-60 reps
2) Train each body part at least once every 5 days
3) Rest days after every 2 consecutive training days is ideal
Deload week every 4-6 weeks
4) Do not train towards DOMS
5) Progressive overload = muscle gain

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Tips For A Successful Gym Plan

Why does your diet fail you?

There are two main factors which cause dieters to fail their diets:

  1. Having an absolute/abstinence style approach to dieting
  2. Only having a short-term plan for your diet

The first and, in my opinion, most important issue is that most dieters attempt to be far to rigid in their approach. The problem with this approach is that any slip tends to lead to a complete failure and ultimately results in dieters giving up or restarting the diet all over only to fail again. We’ve all been there when you have 1 cookie and end up inhaling whatever sugary treat you can find within 100 yards of you. By expecting perfection you are doomed to fail.

The second issue is focusing only on the short-term. Many people take the approach that the harder they diet, the faster they will lose weight/fat when in reality the amount of fat that can be lost is limited. More (or in this case less) is not always better. Furthermore if an individual manages to reach their goal weight they often revert back to their original exercise and diet habits and regain all that was lost – the body is really good at piling on calories as fat after dieting and if you return to old eating habits you will just watch as the weight comes flying back.

The studies of the most successful dieters found that they were able to maintain several consistent behavioral patterns of which a major one is: to keep weight off by maintaining diet and exercise habits in the long-term.

The goal of dieting is not to starve yourself and be miserable. Make smaller changes to your diet, give yourself one or two free meals or even a free day during the week to keep yourself sane (this doesn’t mean an excuse to binge though), start an exercise plan that you can maintain long-term and make sure you are eating food you enjoy. If you trip up then just be flexible, put that down as a free day and carry on as usual.

Why does your diet fail you?

Starting a successful fat loss diet

Moving on from yesterday’s post i’m going to set out the fundamentals behind starting a fat loss diet. Before we go into anything though I want to mention that context is everything and everyone will be different in setting a diet up in this regard. This is simply a very standard approach to figuring what works best for you.

The graph below is a good representation of how someone should approach any diet, however for clarity the following criteria should be followed for a fat loss diet (in order of importance:

– Set a calorie deficit
– Set protein intake
– Set fat intake
– Everything else depends

First, and most importantly, is to set a calorie deficit. If you are not in a calorie deficit you will not lose fat – simple. Some of you may have read pieces by people claiming ‘a calorie isn’t a calorie’ and other such nonsense but at the end of the day even humans are subject to the laws of thermodynamics. A good starting point for creating a calorie deficit is to set a calorie intake of 10-12 cals/lb total body weight. These figures have been used for years and basically create a deficit of around 20% from maintenance. Whether you use the upper or lower end of that depends completely on context (e.g. activity levels, how fast you wish to lose fat/weight and much more).

The next most important aspect of a fat loss diet is setting your protein intake. One of the problems people face when dieting in a calorie deficit is that muscle mass is also lost. However some bright spark found that increasing dietary protein was the best way to limit body (muscle) protein loss. There are other reasons to increase protein intake which I will quickly mention and they are; protein is the most filling macronutrient and protein requires more energy to digest than both fat and carbohydrate. So, getting straight to the point of an appropriate guideline for protein intake… 1-1.5 grams/lb total body weight is a good standard to use. Leaner athletes should use the upper ends whilst more overweight/sedentary individuals should go towards the lower end. Very obese/sedentary individuals can go as low as 0.7 g/lb as increasing beyond that doesn’t show any physiological advantage.

Dietary fat is the next important factor for a number of reasons. Firstly it is important to hit your requirement for essential fatty acids w-3 and w-6, however this is a low amount which can easily be made, especially if supplementing with fish oil capsules. Secondly lowering dietary fat too far can be detrimental as it increases hunger, particularly between meals as dietary fat slows gastric (stomach) emptying, and ultimately reduces adherence to the diet. I recommend setting dietary fat at around 20-25% of calories. Meals containing 10-14 grams of fat are a good guideline however this changes depending upon meal frequency. Again context is important but this is a suitable generic guideline.

This brings us to ‘everything else’. Once you’ve set your calorie intake then by subtracting protein (4 cals/g) and fat (9 cals/g) you can work out what’s left for carbohydrates (4 cals/g). The bulk of your carb intake should surround any workouts performed and carb intake will change depending upon activity levels. However not all of these remaining calories have to go on carbs. If your diet that day takes you slightly higher on fats or proteins or you simply prefer or train better on a lower carb diet then that’s fine so long as you don’t go over you calorie target.

But there you have it, a basic starter for fat loss diets.

Starting a successful fat loss diet

Main Principles vs Minor Details when Dieting/Training

Whilst thinking about topics I’d like to write about I decided I may as well progress in a manner which I would like people to apply to their training/dieting, and perhaps even in life generally.

How often have you planned to do something and never got round to doing it because you’ve focused so hard on the small details – on making it perfect? I can relate to this wholeheartedly with my approach to dieting/training but also to many other projects I have taken on.

Bringing this back to dieting and training, many people spend so much time looking for the perfect diet strategy or training programme (which i may add does not exist – all approaches have pros and cons) to achieve their goal that they end up constantly changing their minds or end up doing nothing at all.

I will briefly add that the minor details may be important in some few athletes who are at such an advanced stage that they need the minor details to make further improvements – the main point being they are following the main principles very well already. However for the great majority of people, whether beginner or well trained individual, it is focusing on the main principles that will achieve the best results.

In summary starting a programme is better than doing nothing at all. Get the fundamental principles in order and go from there. Do not sacrifice the basics for minor details and you will be on your way to reaching your goals.

Main Principles vs Minor Details when Dieting/Training