Plymouth Personal Trainer

Personal Trainer Plymouth

Personal Training Plymouth

Plymouth Personal Training

Strength Training Exercise Selection 07/06/2011

In today’s blog I am going to discuss exercise selection for strength and muscle mass training. It should be noted that there are obviously other factors other than exercise selection which affect the success of any strength training programme. These can include load (the weight used often referred to as a % of the trainees 1 repetition max or achievable rep range), rest period, time under tension, and the number of sets and repetitions performed (for more details about these and other pieces of training and fitness lingo see the blog article entitled ‘Cracking the Code, an introduction to strength training lingo’).

I decided to write on the subject of exercise selection after an interesting conversation with a personal training colleague this week, during which we came to the conclusion that many of the ridiculously ineffective exercises choices seen in gyms around the country can be blamed at least in part on personal trainers who feel a deep need to never perform the same workout with a client twice and to retain clients by providing endless exercise variety. Since when was getting results for clients not enough? This endless search by many personal trainers for a new exercise for their clients often leads them down the road of ‘fad’ exercises rather than going down the road of tried and tested results.

We as trainers must remind ourselves that our job is to get results for the clients and not to entertain clients with a string of circus tricks performed in a gym setting. That said it has been said that the most effective training plan is the one that the client sticks to. Therefore if a little exercise variety helps adherence to an exercise programme, providing it doesn’t detract from the bulk of the session then it can be useful. Another reason for crazy exercise fads are people/companies who are trying to sell a product. To do this they often have to convince vast multitudes of people to leave tried and tested exercise methodologies in order to purchase their products.

So, let’s say that you as a gym goer are looking to increase your strength and muscle mass and you want to do so without wasting your time. What exercises should you to build a programme around? Well here goes…

Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead Presses, Olympic lifts (Snatch and Clean & Jerk), Unilateral Leg exercises eg Bulgarian Split Squat and Walking Lunges, Dips, Pullups, Bench Press (and Dumbell Varieties), Bent over row (and dumbbell row varieties).

Is this an exhaustive list? Well I haven’t gone into detail about all the varieties of squats (back, front and overhead) and deadlifts (snatch grip, podium, sumo, Olympic, Romanian) available to trainees or the varieties of pullups (Pronated, supinated, neutral etc) and presses available, but what I am talking about here is the basics. Squat, Deadlift, Press start the journey and workout the most appropriate form of each exercise on the way. Better still get some professional advice and instruction. If you want to develop the the medialis muscle of the quads do front squats or high bar back squats. Do you want to develop posterior chain strength and develop maximum force then choose a low bar back squat. But the lesson is squat and squat hard. These are the basic guidelines. Do you want do develop excellent posterior chain strength and mobility? Then try a snatch grip deadlift. Are you trying to develop maximum force then take the standard deadlift. The important point is that for increased strength and muscle mass you should deadlift and deadlift often.

Would I add exercises such as behind the neck presses to develop structural balance in the shoulder? Sure. But my primary overhead press will be the barbell military press due to the greater force production potential, which is what we are after for greater strength and hypertrophy.

What about specific exercises for areas such as the grip, biceps or abdominal muscles? Yes these have some value, but they will not form the core of a strength or hypertrophy programme. So many body building style split programmes place equal emphasis on relatively minor areas such as the biceps or the abdominals. With a huge dose of weighted pull-ups, chin-ups and dumbbell rows in a strength programme the biceps will get a large load. With heavy deadlifts, squats and overhead presses the ‘core’ of the body will be functioning in the way it was designed. To integrate the body into one unit efficiently transferring force from the floor to the bar. After hitting a max effort deadlift the necessity to lie on the floor and perform a set of 20 abdominal crunches is negated.

Would I use strongman conditioning tools such as tyre flips, sled/sand bag dragging? Yes these are useful tools for strength and power production. They also teach the body to express power in a different plane of movement. Yes, I prescribe them but they are not the foundation of a strength and hypertrophy programme.

Do I use weights machine with clients? Rarely. I do use them but in limited
circumstances. They do provide an excellent opportunity to induce extreme fatigue in order to illicit a greater training response. This may be possible due to the decreased complexity of the movement due to decreaed co-ordination needs with machines.

In summary the beauty of well programmed strength and hypertrophy training is found in its simplicity. If you want to gain strength and muscle mass then master the above lifts. Make it your aim to learn perfect technique in the above lifts and then stick to them for at least 80% of your strength training. As Pavel Tsatsouline strength coach and writer once said, ‘chain yourself to the squat rack and report back in a year’.

It should also be noted that my chosen exercises can be used as excellent alternatives to traditional cardio exercises such as the cross-trainer or exercise bike. By adjusting the load into a rep range which allows 12-15 repetitions and performing exercises back to back with minimal rest between sets provide an incredible cardiovascular workout with excellent metabolic and hormonal responses allowing trainees to develop a lean physique without compromising muscle mass as can happen with standard ‘plod-along’ cardio workouts.

Oh and those of you reading who think all this talk of strength training is just for men, think again! The number of female hollywood A-List celebrities who perform resistance training to aid in the maintenance of a slim, firm and toned physique is evidence that it works. If you are a women who has had enough of mediocre results from your traditional cardio workouts then get in touch and supercharge your metabolism with some strength training tailored to your goals!



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