This evening I kicked my own ass at the gym with tons of squatting, the king of all exercises. Why is the Squat King? Because it stresses the entire body when you place a barbell on your back and perform a full range of motion repetition. That stress will promote muscular growth and strength through the entire body as well it will burn tons of calories during a good squatting session. Squatting is even better for your core strength than any abdominal isolation exercise such as sit ups, crunches or leg lifts.
Currently I am running Sheiko No. 37 power lifting program which concentrates on squats, bench press and dead lifts as the main focus of each session. It is a most excellent intermediate level lifters program for competitive power lifting meets. It is quite the high volume program where the weights you utilize are based on percentages of your one rep maximum for each featured lift. The percentages may seem low when you are only at fifty to seventy percent of your one rep maximum, but, the volume of each session is guaranteed to wear your ass out. If you can easily complete a full session on any phase of Sheiko training protocols, you need to raise your working max.
Tonight’s session after a good warm up was;
10 sets of squats at 230 pounds,
9 sets of bench press at 170 pounds,
5 sets of dumbbell flyes using 35 pound dumbbells
50 Push ups
7 more sets of squats at 200 pounds
30 reverse hyper extensions followed by a 2.25 mile jog on a treadmill.
For new strength trainees who have very little to no experience in the realm of weight training, I advocate basic barbell training beginning with an empty barbell and adding small amounts of weight each session. I am not a fan of using machines, but for some folks it is a good thing to get somewhat familiar with their capabilities. I am not a fan of most machine type weights because they take out the use of stabilizer muscles and do not always allow you to have a natural range of motion during each repetition.
If you want to know why most people fail at lifting weights after a short period of time, it is because most do not have any idea what they are doing when beginning a strength training regimen. I see this all the time, where people think they know what it is they want to achieve, but lack the knowledge to properly execute a solid plan to meet their goals. Usually that goal is “I want to tone”. Let me tell you something cupcake, toning is a pretty broad and meaningless term. You see the person who says “I want to tone my arms” and they proceed to do a thousand variations of a curl which does jack squat fucking nothing in the realm of being any kind of useful to your body as a whole.
Newbies in general fuck up with this whole toning thing where they begin trying to do lifts that isolate specific muscles in a body building style while having no understanding about the strength and muscular imbalances they are causing to themselves. If all you are doing is a bunch of curls to tone your arms, you are going to end up with arms looking about as good as a soup sandwich,as the biceps is only one third of your muscle mass on your upper arm while the triceps comprises two thirds of the actual mass. If you want a toned arm, you need to be working both areas. But, still as a newbie, this is not a good approach to toning or getting stronger. And, why would anyone want their arms to be the only body part toned while neglecting the rest of their body except for maybe their legs. It makes no sense to me.
I’m going to get real here, if you want to tone your body with strength training and you have no clue on the best way to do it, do not try your hand at trying to do body building routines which you have no true working knowledge. As a new strength trainee who wants a better looking body you need to learn how to squat, dead lift, bench press, over head press and bent over barbell rows only. And you need to learn these lifts and only do each lift in three sets of five repetitions after two warm up sets. Begin with an empty barbell and add weight in five pound increments each time you lift which should only be three and no more than four sessions per week. You have to understand that more important than adding weight at first when the barbell may feel too light, your first focus needs to be on learning proper form with each specific movement.
This approach to lifting for a new trainee is the smartest approach you can take and for the newbie is far superior to any body building program. If you are currently doing random body building lifts, you are wasting your time and efforts. Even if you are seeing a few positive results at first, you will likely not have any longevity with that newfound success. Know also, that all good body building programs need to have those core lifts I gave above as an integral part of each and every session.
Back to the five lifts I said you need to learn and do, here is why; These lifts are compound lifts that target multiple muscle groups at the same time. If you squat every session, bench and row on one and dead lift and over head press on the next, you are working your entire body. This kind of lifting will give your body a well toned and balanced appearance where as if you do not understand isolation lifts used n body building, you will end up with muscular and strength imbalances which can actually be harmful down the road. You do not want a pulling muscle to be significantly stronger than a pulling muscle on the same body part. This can cause injury. These lifts should be separated into a A and B session. A session would be squats, bench press and bent over rows. B session would be squats, dead lift and over head press. Simply repeat each session one after the other three days a week. IE. week one is A,BA, week two is B,A,B. Three sets of five reps after two warm up sets. In full transparency this is a method advocated by Coach Mark Rippetoe, owner of Wichita Falls Athletic Club and not one of my own creations. I advocate this program as it is the best I have ever encountered. It is the Starting Strength method. You can read more about this on StartingStrength.com.
Another superior aspect of this style of lifting is it will raise your heart rate and is also a good source of cardiovascular conditioning. It will burn more of your body fat than random body building exercises which will give you not only a toned look, but will also make you look as strong as you can expect to become.
For readers of Connect social media, some of you may see some guys who do massive amounts of body building stuff who look really fit and strong. These folks have found something that works for them quite well, but you need to know what you are doing before trying to emulate them. It’s not just about strength and muscular imbalances, you also need to know to make the most effective use of your time in the gym. You can make good gains for a while in your newbie phase of lifting, but after time you will stall and burn out. For these routines to do you justice, you have to be willing and able to put in the hours of lifting to target all of your muscles. Compound lifts target the same muscles at once and is a more efficient use of your valuable time. The next thing you have to understand is that for the absolute majority of lifters, proper rest and nutrition are equally important to a lifting program as the actual weight lifting. Let one of these areas suffer and you will stall out quickly. You will also have to be more strict with your dieting as if you do not want to lift for more than about an hour, you are not going to burn as much fat doing isolation lifts as opposed to doing compound lifts. The last thing is a lot of ladies will always say they want to tone and not bulk. If you follow some of the folks doing body building routines and try to emulate what they do, know that you are going to bulk a lot more with sets of ten to twelve reps more than you are going to with sets of five repetitions. High reps sets drive sarcoplasmic hypertrophy which is what gives you bulk, where as sets of five repetitions drive myofibrillar hypertrophy which is what gives you strength without getting bulky. Of course, ladies do not really need to worry much about bulk as your bodies do not produce testosterone at levels which would cause you to get huge.
Lastly, if you are interested in strength training as a newbie in order to tone your body, none of this is rocket science. However, it requires an intelligent and well thought out plan for you to have success and not stall out and fail early on. If you think that you can just copy what someone else is doing, you could find yourself trying to copy an experienced lifter who has built a far great level of stamina than you currently have. You also could find yourself following a blooming idiot who has found a level of success despite him or herself.