Part 2 of my beginners guide to becoming strong. Before releasing part 3 on how to build a foundation, you must first understand the key concepts of a proper training cycle in order to make it work effectively and efficiently.
RECOVERY & ADAPTATION
Recovery is the most underrated and overlooked training principle. When you’re lifting weights you’re placing constant pressure on your body. Part of getting stronger is realizing that you are wearing down the joints and ligaments, as well as tearing microscopic muscle fibers, so that they will grow back bigger, faster and stronger.
Recovery occurs in two places, at home or in between sets at the gym. While home a lifter should get a bare minimum of 6 hours rest (on bad days) and ideally 9 hours of sleep on average; however I noticed for competitions or heavy training days 12+hours is sometimes necessary.
The heavier the weight you lift the more rest your body will need. Typical rule of thumb is 1-2 minutes for weights under 70% of your one rep max, (you should be able to get at least 8-12 reps with this weight) and 3+minutes rest for weights over the 70% range of a lifters one rep max (these are weights you can only lift for 1-5reps, typically).
Without recovery, which includes proper nutrition and rest, your body will not be able to adapt to the stress you put it through and overtraining is the easiest way to get weak. Everyone talks about muscle confusion, this is a misguided philosophy confused with the progression principle. You want your body to adapt to the strain you put on it, because if it doesn’t your body will crumble and you will be overrun with fatigue. This is because muscles get more oxygen then joints or ligaments therefore they heal quicker.
A major mistake many beginners make is underestimating how fast it actually takes the natural, drug free lifter to recover. For heavy pressing movements it can take between 2-7 days to heal while other major compound movements such as Deadlift, Squat, Atlas Stones, Zercher Variants, etc… may take from 7-12+ days for full recovery depending on an whole array of circumstances.
A lifter must realize everything adds up and if you were lifting heavy every 2-3 days for the past month eventually a peak and plateau will occur. This is better known as the abuse of the progression principle.
I am not big on nutritional advice. I advocate if you’re hungry then eat. Food is merely fuel for the muscles, and you are what you eat. If you want to be a plant then by all means eat soy and salads. If you want to be a beast in the gym eat something with a face or that once had a pulse, preferably animal flesh. Vegans need not apply. I eat you for breakfast.
Basic nutrition values for the strength lifter are out of total calories consumed: the distribution should be 40% Proteins, 30% Fats, and 30% Carbohydrates. The amount of calories a person should consume varies on genetics, weight, age, activity levels, metabolism and overall health. Just let it be noted approximately 3,500 calories make up a pound.
Professional IFBB bodybuilder and current top raw powerlifter in the United States, Stan Efferding, suggests* “2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight and recommends 5000 calories for the 250lbs strength athlete” as mentioned in the Primer Issue of Power Magazine owned by Mark & Andee Bell.
*Side Notes: This being said is based on the 40/30/30 split and should not be from primarily simple sources such as sugars as seen in most American powerlifters “diets”. Also calories from fats are doubled opposed to proteins and carbohydrates.
THE PROGRESSION PRINCIPLE
You don’t want to keep lifting the same weights time after time because that isn’t challenging the body. You simply will not get the same stimulation from doing the same amount of weight on the bar time and time again.
The body becomes bored after a while so what you have to do is simply make things harder. Progression may be achieved by either increasing the poundage on the bar, increasing the number of reps or sets you do or by decreasing the amount of rest time in between sets.
The progression principle simply put is to just do more than you have done before.
However this being said doesn’t abuse it, if you keep adding weight at an unreasonable pace you will peak too early. Think of old story of “Milo of Croton & the Bull”.
PEAKING, REACHING THE PLATEAU
You can only lift heavy, in the 80% and up range for so long before your central nervous system crashes. Many different training mantras from Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 to Louie Simmons’s Westside Barbell Book of Methods usually lift heavy in 3 week waves or cycles; however other periodization programs may vary.
In Wendler’s 5/3/1 every 4th week typically is a deload week, in which the lifter lifts under and no more than 70% for 5 reps to allow the body to rest and recover from the prior training.
In Louie Simmons’s Westside Barbell Book of Methods after every 3rd week the max effort lift is switched and alternated with a different movement then the week prior, in order to overload a set group of muscles, through specific chosen movements. This is done so the lifter can stay in the higher lifting percentage range for a longer time without reaching a plateau.
Most lifters reach a plateau because they have either reached a muscular imbalance that has reached a significant point where the mind tells the body WAIT, stop progressing because we are at the limit and have reached maximum capacity; or they have over trained (under sleeping/under eating).
When this happens a person must stop focusing on their strengths and now mitigate their weaknesses’. A static lifter should work on their speed with dynamic movements. An explosive lifter should work more on isometric strength and static stability to prevent injury. For every push one must pull and vice versa.
I am not saying you must de-load every 4th week or once every month but if you just engaged in a brutal 12 week training cycle, just peaked for a meet, SMASHED new personal records with #’s well above your prior 100% one rep maxes, don’t neglect your body.
CIRCLE OF LIFTING
Put it all together, pretty self explanatory. The End.