A Few Suggestions for the early lifter
There's a lot of confusion to novice lifters that are just beginning to learn the ropes of resistance barbell training. I'm going to explain some concepts that you should pretty much make concrete with any workout program unless you're on a juice cycle. Here are some guidelines I've learned over the past several years.
For every push, there should be a pull to work an even balance between opposing forces on the same plane and the agonists and antagonists which produce these forces. A general rule of thumb, is each routine should have one horizontal push, one horizontal pull, one vertical push, one vertical pull, a squat and a deadlift. These are your basic compound exercises involved with any training program that surrenders focus onto all of the major natural movements and the prime functions of the agonists and synergists worked.
Example: bench press (horizontal push), bent over row (horizontal pull), press (vertical push), pullup (vertical pull). Those are your four major upper body pushes and pulls. Every movement that pushes resistance away from your body, should also require a pull in the same plane of motion. It is not until a movement begins to stall and the synergist or stabilizer needs more specialized training that accessory compounds and isolation exercises are necessary for continuous progression.
A lot of people think that training with more exercises is better, but that is simply wrong. Mark Rippetoe did a pretty brilliant job in starting strength of teaching novice lifters that you do not need hundreds of exercises for significant growth. You just need small volume, more frequency and high intensity with proper technique and nutrition.
The more exercises in a routine, the harder it is to progress and learn these exercises and the faster the endocrine system will flood. Think about it, if you go full boar on the bench press, then turn right around and do incline presses, your chest and shoulder muscles will be too exhausted to make fast personal bests and progression. Plus, muscle does not need a week to recover to be trained. You'll need to train each muscle 2-3 times per week depending upon your experience and the program you're doing. Your nutrition cycle (bulking, cutting) will also determine your CNS' ability to recovery quicker.
Train with proper volume:
We just covered why it's better to spread your volume out over a week; rather than completely destroy a muscle group and wait a week and then destroy it again. This basically turns into a never ending cycle and the progression is much slower than focusing on overloading one muscle group, each workout.
There are two forms of hypertrophy (muscle growth) sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar. Myofibrillar hypertrophy is growth of the muscle fiber as it gains more myofibrils, which contract and generate tension in the muscle. This is accomplished easier with lower reps or "strength" training. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in the volume of the non-contractile muscle cell fluid, sarcoplasm. This fluid accounts for 25-30% of the muscle's size. This essentially is accomplished by higher rep or "endurance" training. This makes both rep ranges essential for overall muscular development.
People like to argue 8-12 reps is better for size and 4-6 reps is better for strength; this is a myth. Think about it, how good would it do you to do 10 reps with the bar? You wouldn't gain much would you? That is because you need to have enough weight on the bar before the volume scheme even becomes significant. People say 4-6 reps is for strength, and once again, this can also be looked at as a myth. You can get stronger with any rep range, but 4-6 reps generally trains the CNS and natural motor pattern better than higher reps. Hypertrophy is more depended upon size, consistency and training all of the muscle fibers - both endurance fibers and strength fibers for both forms of hypertrophy discussed. It's better to train "heavy" on Monday with 3x5, then "light" on the same movements Thursday with 3x10-12. You stimulate all muscle fibers this way.
Train your WHOLE body:
Your body was designed to perform as a unit. Your body doesn't think "muscles" it thinks "movements". You're not doing "chest", you're doing bench press; you're not doing "legs", you're doing squats; you're not doing "shoulders", you're doing presses. See my point? Muscles were designed to perform together optimally as a unit. The more muscles involved, the easier the distributed resistance is moved. You want your stabilizers to perform with your synergists (assistant movers) and your agonists (prime movers). This is how weight is lifted safely and balanced.
Furthermore, studies have shown the more overall tension applied to the body, the greater the release of hormones. In example, during a squat, there are significantly more testosterone and growth hormone released than barbell curls, so the endocrine system is more involved with more total body training. That means if you try to isolate your chest, less muscle building hormones are released than if you work your chest, legs, back and shoulders. This means it's better to do movements of each body part better than focusing on one body part during workouts. Not only for hormonal release, but if you're train antagonistically, each muscle group is fresh upon the start and this makes it easier to make linear progression. How important are these hormones? Well, it is believed the prime reason men are stronger than women is the larger amount of testosterone.
Learn what REST means:
For those of you who like to train 5-6 days a week, this is fine for bodybuilders on steroids, and I do not doubt that sometime in the past you've worked out 6 days per week successfully. I'm not saying you will not get results this way, but what I am saying is 24 hours after stimulating muscle tissue, testosterone levels have dropped significantly and cortisol (a catabolic hormone) is raised and it makes it harder for muscle to growth. Bodybuilders that are on steroids do not care about this rule, because steroids do not allow the hormones to go catabolic.
Steroids cut off natural testosterone and causes a release of synthetic testosterone constantly high that never runs out and is more efficient with building muscle. For people on steroids, the more they train, then the better off they are. For those of us using our God given endocrine systems, we have to let HDL cholesterol buildup in our bodies to be converted into testosterone, which means letting our endocrine system rest. People like to think you overtrain "muscles" and this is not true. You overtrain body systems - the nervous system, the endocrine system.
Thank you, sir!
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