How to Keep it Intense Part 1

In the last post I gave you some general guidelines on how to make your workout more effective. Today we’ll go into a little more detail about what type of exercises and workouts are required to reach the body composition and fitness goals you want to achieve.

So here’s the science bit: There are 2 acronyms which lie at the heart of good programme design as it relates to body composition.

The S.A.I.D. Principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) says that the body will adapt specifically to whatever demands you impose on it. In other words the body will change shape, but only if you give it a reason to.

Remember that your current body shape is an adaptation of your current lifestyle, so in order to make better use of the S.A.I.D Principle you’ve got to change your lifestyle, a very important part of which is your training programme.

The 2nd acronym is EPOC and this stands for Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. In effect, the harder or more intense your workout is, the more oxygen you will need to consume after the session. As oxygen consumption has a direct link to calories burned, this means that you’ll raise your metabolism and continue to burn calories long after your training is finished.

To put it very simply, steady-state or standard aerobic work like walking, cycling or jogging will burn more calories during the training session. However high intensity interval training and weight training sessions will burn more calories in total, due to the higher metabolic cost incurred. Therefore, if fat loss is your main goal, it would be advisable to include more of these types of sessions in your training programme.

Now let’s examine how we can make your weight-training programme more productive.

Like all aspects of exercise, diet and lifestyle, there is a big individual component to weight-training: some people are more suited to higher-repetition endurance work, while others fare better with lower rep ranges and heavier weights. That being said, everybody who wants to make gains will need to make their workouts tough and challenging. Here are some weight training tips that will give your body plenty of reasons to change shape:

  1. Choose big compound exercises: A compound exercise uses more than 1 joint. So instead of the previously mentioned tricep kickbacks which only work the triceps, you could use chest or shoulder presses which will work, (surprisingly), the chest and shoulders, as well as the triceps. Likewise, chin-ups are a better option than bicep curls or lat pull-downs, while barbell back squats – with full range of movement (hamstring to calf/ “ass to the grass”) – are practically a full workout on their own. Variations of squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, rows and pressing movements should form the basis of all serious weight-training programmes.
  2. Adjust your sets and reps depending on your programme goals: When fat loss is the main goal you’ll be looking at approximately 4-8 exercises with 3-6 sets of each, and anything from 8-15 reps per set. This recommendation is highly individual and depends on training experience and work capacity.
  3. Aim for Muscle Fatigue/Failure: Beginners can aim for fatigue, where they’re tired after doing the last rep of each set, but they could do another 2 or 3 if they had to. Advanced trainees need to be looking at muscular failure: when you’re lifting 10RM, the 11th rep is not an option.
  4. Monitor your tempo and rest periods: In order to keep your workouts consistent, you should maintain the same speed for lifting the weights, and take the same rest between sets, on each programme. If body composition is the main goal, shorter rest periods (10-60 seconds) work best, while longer rest is used when maximal strength is the target. A good starting tempo to develop control and co-ordination would be a 3 second lowering of the weights followed by a 1 second lifting phase. This can be changed depending on programme goals.
  5. Change your programme regularly: In order to continue making progress, it’s recommended to change your workout regularly. Some athletes need a programme change every couple of workouts, while beginners would need a change approximately every 3-6 weeks, depending on how often they train and how quickly they adapt to it.

By following these 5 simple guidelines, you are guaranteed to get the biggest gains from your weight-training programme. The next post will continue the high-intensity theme and we’ll look at some examples of interval training.


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