Edgar ArtigaWORKOUT BY: Luis Buron, Spartan SGX Coach In this workout we’re simulating a Reebok Spartan Race. The mix of running in place and stepups imitate running and climbing uneven terrain and the moves mimic Spartan Race obstacles (as noted in parentheses). The workout finishes with Spartan signature penalty, burpees, and we go for 2 min.
What do you get if you mix giant ropes, friendly competition and a heart-pumping workout? Answer: Whipped!
It’s easy to get bored of treadmills, cross-trainers and slogging it out on your own in the gym. So a class that mixes effective results, competition and a fresh element is a welcome relief to an already busy day. Using battle ropes, that are more tug of war than skip in the park, Whipped!, is an exciting new circuit class at high-end London gym Equinox, bringing together the best elements of high intensity circuits, ramping up your cardio capacity while blasting fat (yey!) and using a great range of equipment.
The HIIT class is designed to get your heart rate soaring to burn fat while sculpting you from head to toe in the most time-efficient way. Our instructor Rory explained that, unlike steady state workouts, intense bursts of exercise help put your fat loss in the fast lane. Sounds good, right? So if you want to change your body for the better, the Whipped! class is the perfect place to start.
You work to your body’s maximum capacity in 30 seconds, doing as many reps, using good form, as you can and then have a quick rest. The circuit is cleverly designed so you work a different muscle group with each exercise, and simultaneously push your fitness to its limit.
Rory led a dynamic warm-up involving a quick jog around the room, followed by exercises like high knees and jumping jacks.
We were then paired up and allocated a fitness station. As usual in circuits, each pair circled the room in a clockwise direction, performing high-octane exercises at each station for 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise. By the end of the class, we’d visited each station four times.
My partner and I began in plank position on our forearms, pushing up onto our hands. The aim was to do these plank transfers as many times as possible within 30 seconds.
Next, we moved to the battle ropes, which posed the biggest challenge of all the exercises. Holding a rope in each hand, we slammed them to the ground, making small rippling waves, and swung them from side to side.
This was followed by a whole host of exhausting moves, from V-sits holding a 3kg dumbbell to barbell rows while wobbling on a BOSU ball. The class ended with another speedy jog around the room, followed by a series of stretches to ease our shaking muscles.
If you’re bored of the same old workouts, this class is brilliant. Yes, it’s punishing, but the fact that the HIIT exercises are short and sharp is a big draw. Our trainer was a great motivator and helped spur us on – even when our arms felt like they were about to fall off! There’s no denying the class is challenging but it’s also fun and there’s no risk of getting bored. We’ll be back!
AT A GLANCE
What’s the concept? A high-intensity 45-minute circuit using battle ropes, the ViPR, BOSU balls and hand weights.
How much is it? The class is only open to members of Equinox. Monthly membership is £180.
Where can I get more info? Visit equinox.com/clubs/Kensington.
Difficulty? Whipped! is aimed at all fitness levels, but steel your nerves for
a tough session!
Strength progression is all about how much weight you can lift, over a certain number of reps or sets, here's how to measure your progression. What is it? Tracking strength progression is vital to any resistance based program, with muscles needing to be consistently challenged in order to fortify the neural connections and muscular adaptions
Name: Lee Boyce
Occupation: Owner of Boyce Training Systems.
Hit the health club on any given Monday, and you might think there’s an audition in progress for a new episode of “Maury Povich” about the bench press and the men who love it. After all, what better way could there be to start the week than getting under a loaded barbell and pushing it for all you’re worth?
Well, I can think of a couple, but that’s for another article. Look, I understand the allure of the bench press. It’s the ultimate glamour movement in the gym for men, and it’s also a great movement for upper-body size and strength.
The problem is that most people gauge their success only by benching as much weight as possible, and they disregard the crucial setup process and downplay the importance of form to perform the lift correctly. This ends up creating a lot more ex-benchers than strong benchers.
Don’t let your favorite lift beat you down. Use these tried and true techniques to skyrocket your bench and blast off to new levels of mass and strength!
Lee Boyce On Proper Bench Press Technique
Watch The Video – 04:43
Upper back exercises are crucial for making the bench press pain-free, stable, and strong. As I mentioned in the video above, the bench press places stress on the shoulder blades and four rotator cuff muscles that originate on the scapula. Having the ability to keep the scapular muscles nice and tight is a key to stability for any pushing movement.
I program my back workouts before my chest workouts whenever I’m isolating specific body parts. This ensures that the back muscles get sore, tight, and are limited in range of motion and flexibility to help fix the shoulder blades on chest day. On a full-body workout, I pull before I push.
Make sure the following exercises are included in your back training day to really build scapular stability and strength:
If building big bench is important for you, you need to get scientific about it. Break down your lift and figure out where you’re weakest, and then focus on turning that weakness into a strength.
Barbell Bench Press
In most cases, a lifter going for a max-effort rep hits a wall or reaches a sticking point around the halfway point coming off the chest. If this is you, it means you lack lockout strength. Luckily, there are many great exercises to help you improve this sticking point.
Use a barbell or two dumbbells and lay flat on the floor with the weight in the bench press bottom position. The elbows will be on the floor and the weight around six inches off the chest.
Keep your upper back tight and shoulders retracted. Breathe in, drive the weight up to full-extension at the arm, and keep the legs held together and straight on the ground. Pause at the bottom of each rep. Perform 3 sets of 8 reps.
Set up a bench inside a squat rack to create a bench press station. Position the safety pins 4-6 inches above your chest. Lay the bar on the pins and position your body under it. Assume your preferred bench press grip and drive the bar to the top position.
After lockout, lower the bar quickly to the pins. This exercise allows you to focus on max effort. Due to the lack of eccentric control, you’ll have more juice in the tank to lift.
Give yourself a couple seconds between reps to get tight and reset your body. Perform this exercise for 3 sets of 3-6 reps.
Attaching chains to the bench press makes the load heavier as you progress through the concentric portion of a rep. It’s a great way to make your triceps do more work during lockout.
In rare circumstances, the sticking point happens at the bottom of the lift, which indicates that chest and shoulder strength is a weak link from a biomechanical perspective. Implementing starting strength exercises can help exponentially with this issue.
Bent over barbell row
Starting Strength Exercises
On the bench press, lower the weight slowly and pause for at least one second on the chest. Remember to stay tight during the rep without slackening your grip or exhaling. You won’t be able to lift as much weight as usual with this method, so lower the weight to 80 percent of the normal amount you can lift for reps.
This exercise cuts off the stretch reflex so you can’t use momentum at the bottom of the lift. Momentum tricks your chest into thinking that it’s performing well, when in reality, it’s nothing more than kinetic force that propels the weight out of the hole.
Pause reps are a staple in competitive powerlifting routines everywhere.
One and a half reps are my favorite way to improve chest activity in a bench press. Ensure that you’re set up correctly and lower the bar to your chest like normal.
Press the bar off the chest to the halfway point, where you have a 90-degree angle at the elbow. Lower the bar to the chest again and drive the bar to the top for one rep. Repeat for 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps.
The science behind this madness is simple: For every rep of 1.5s, you’re doing 2 reps with just the chest and 1 rep with the triceps at lockout. At the end of a set, your chest will have done twice as much work than your triceps.
Like most physical activities, if you want to improve at something, you must practice it. Building a stronger bench press happens in part from benching frequently. Make like the Bulgarians and up your weekly volume—without going overboard, of course!
Boyce Post-Workout Burnout! Bench Press 225×15
Watch The Video – 01:11
Post-workout burnout sets are money when it comes to adding benching volume. At the end of every isolation workout, do a couple quick warm-up bench press sets and then perform a burnout set with 60 percent of your max. Rep it out until failure for one big set.
Here’s a video of me doing a post-workout burnout set after a long Olympic lifting workout. My max is around 345 pounds, so 225 pounds is about 65 percent of my max.
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Most of us are plagued by dreaded cellulite, but before you pack away those shorts or dresses, we’ve got the latest science-backed solutions that could help. Here, sports scientist Ross Edgley rounds them up so you can win the war on cellulite if you’re one of the 87 per cent of women in the UK affected by the orange peel effect.
What is cellulite?
Cellulite is basically a term used to describe the dimpled and uneven appearance of skin caused by fat deposits that are just below the surface of the skin. Although scientists don’t know exactly what causes it, it’s believed to be related to the body’s inability to get rid of toxins, fat and fluid which becomes trapped under the skin and cause fibrous tissue to become hard, which is responsible for producing the dreaded dimpling effect. So what methods can you use to combat it?
Roll with it
Try moving on a foam roller and stretching more often to loosen your muscle fascia. This is the tight, interwoven fibres of the muscles and when loosened up it allows nutrient-rich blood to circulate through those fibres, which not only helps rid the body of toxins but also increases the resting metabolic rate and breaks up fatty tissues.
Eat and drink away cellulite
Eating more brightly coloured fruits such a papaya and mango has been shown to help prevent and reduce tissue damage due to the high content of antioxidants. Also, berries that are darker in colour such as blueberries and blackberries also help boost the antioxidant level in the body and stimulate the production of collagen, which may lessen the appearance of cellulite. One of the quickest ways to smooth out the appearance of your skin is to amp up collagen production with sulfur-packed foods, including cucumbers, black olives and celery. Vegetables that are rich in vitamin A may also aid in boosting collagen production in the human body, so incorporate more cantaloupe, raw carrots and sweet potatoes into your weekly food plan. There are endless ways you can eat yourself smooth!
Although green tea has not yet been specifically tested as a treatment for cellulite it has received a lot of recognition as being a possible treatment for obesity. Whilst losing fat won’t completely solve cellulite, it’s been shown to help, according to research conducted at the Laboratoires Arkopharma in France. Try sipping on 2-3 cups a day (but avoid it too close to bedtime due to the caffeine content). Green tea has a distinct bitterness to it, so for those who don’t enjoy the taste, try The Protein Works Green Tea Ultra capsules (£10.49, theproteinworks.com)
Increase your heart rate
One of the simplest ways to combat cellulite is to stimulate the lymphatic system. This is because the lymphatic system serves as a drainage system to rid the body of toxins and if running efficiently prevents the fibrous tissue under the skin from hardening and therefore causing the dreaded dimpled cellulite effect. So how do you stimulate your lymphatic system? Get exercising and breathing heavier. It really is that simple since studies show exercise can increase lymph activity by 10 to 30 times its activity at rest. Another good reason to get moving! Check out our cellulite workout to get going.
Fight it with fat
Lastly, science shows eating fat could help with cellulite. Yes, really. But not just any fat – a special kind of fatty acid known as CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) that’s found in beef. Most notably, in a study conducted in Beverly Hills, California (and published in the Advances in Therapy Journal by Dr Lawrence Birnbaum) 60 females were given CLA for 60 days and ‘in as many as 75% of the women, the appearance of the skin improved significantly, and thigh circumference was reduced by an average of 0.88 inch.’ For an easy CLA hit, try the capsule form (£7.99, theproteinworks.com)
For more information from sports scientist Ross Edgley visit www.rossedgley.com
Want to read more about getting rid of cellulite and burning fat? Subscribe to Women’s Fitness. We’ll give you 3 issues for £1.
Just about every Muscle & Fitness reader knows that tobuild cannonball delts, you need to start with heavy presses followed by an isolation exercise for each of the three deltoid heads. Astute readers even cycle the order in which they train each deltoid head from one workout to the next, knowing that the move that comes first will be trained harder as energy levels and focus are higher earlier in the workout.This workout takes that training philosophy one step further for hardcore gains. After a pair ofcompound moves, you’’ll do two shoulder exercises back-to-back for the targeted deltoid head (Shoulder Workout No. 1focuses on the front head,Workout No. 2the middle andWorkout No.
Name: Danny Kavadlo
From: New York, NY
Occupation: Trainer, author, progressive calisthenics specialist
Just about everyone I know who’s ever trained seriously, in almost any discipline, has focused in on their abs at one point or another. I know I have. There’s no denying that abs are a core (pun intended) component of perceived physical perfection, so it’s pointless to resist. Almost every magazine cover, advertisement, and billboard shows images of chiseled abs. “Ideal” waistlines have gone in and out over the years, but as a culture, we continue to celebrate abs more than ever.
Beyond that, abdominal training is simply important to all types of athletes. You use your abs every time you lift, twist, or even stand up. A powerful set of abs, along with a strong, balanced physique are big parts of the formula for overall physical health. And to everyone who says “visible abs aren’t necessarily strong abs,” I answer: That may be true, but I can still recognize a strong set when I see one.
Still, as this site and many others are happy to point out for you, you can’t train your way out of a poor diet. While there is an extraordinary amount of conflicting “expert” testimony when it comes to proper nutrition, there are tried-and-true techniques that millions of abs—sixes of millions of them, in fact—can agree on. They might blow your mind or they might be old news, but listen up either way. If you’re not following them, then it probably shows.
1 Fire It Up
First things first: You need to be aware of what you eat. The best way to do this is to prepare as many of your own meals as possible. When you cook for yourself, you can stay on top of exactly what every single ingredient is, and how much you use in preparation. The more knowledge and power you have the better.
When consuming foods made by others, you don’t know much for certain, and particularly when you dine out. Many times, even when prepared by “healthy” restaurants, meals are often served in oversized proportions and laden with gratuitous amounts of empty calories and chemicals. I’ve seen salads and sides that boast more than 1,000 calories per serving. No one will get abs eating like that on a regular basis.
2 Go Green
A lot of folks think I eat nothing but pull-up bars and tattoo ink. They’d be surprised to see how many leafy greens I consume on a daily basis. Everyone knows that green vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins, nutrients, calcium, and dietary fiber, but many don’t realize what a large role eating foods like spinach, kale and broccoli can have in sculpting amazing abs.
“People who have problems with self-control and portion size can’t go wrong when it comes to greens, which can be consumed virtually whenever you want.”
Greens, along with most vegetables, are extremely low in caloric intake. People who have problems with self-control and portion size can’t go wrong when it comes to greens, which can be consumed virtually whenever you want. Load two thirds of your dinner plate with veggies, and you’ll fill up with quality nutrition and decrease the temptation to make sketchier choices.
3 Avoid Processed Sugar
If you consume extra sugar and don’t metabolize it quickly, it will be stored as fat. Many of us, men in particular, tend to store this fat on our bellies. Clearly, a diet high in sugar will hinder you on your quest to a six-pack.
Processed sugar is among your abs’ greatest foes. By this, I am not just referring to white table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, but to just about any product where everything has been removed but the sugar. This includes “raw” and “natural” sugars, not to mention many other misleadingly labeled sweeteners on the market, including such as “nectars,” “syrups,” and “cane juice.”
The natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables do not fall into this category; they have never been processed and are un-stripped of their natural fiber. They therefore metabolize slowly over time. An apple is not only sweet, it’s filling and free of processed sugar, making it a great snack for ultimate abs.
4 Drink More Water
One of the worst things about sugar is that it’s added to virtually everything. While it’s obvious that beverages like cocktails and soda will stand in the way of the quest for abs, many well-intentioned individuals still drink their sugar unknowingly in the form of flavored waters, sweetened iced teas, fruit juices, coffee drinks, and other treats. These products should be consumed minimally, if at all.
“Water improves metabolic rate and digestion, which helps you get leaner.”
Make it a habit to look at ingredients and nutritional information and take nothing for granted. Drinks are not always what they seem! A glass of orange juice has more than 100 calories and 20 grams of sugar. Water has none. The importance of taking in adequate H2O cannot be overstated.
Water also improves metabolic rate and digestion, which helps you get leaner. It hydrates and moisturizes, increasing your skin’s suppleness and enhancing your abs’ appearance. Furthermore, water removes toxins and reduces aches and pains, helping you train harder and recover faster.
5 Eat Less
There are many paths one can take in the quest toward ultimate abs. Lots of diets and eating styles have the potential to help you get lean, and I’m not here to tell you why one is better than another. But here’s a thought: Although there is no single weight-loss method universally proven to work perfectly for everyone in all situations, simply eating less comes close!
Having a ripped six pack requires having low body fat: 10 percent or less for men as a general standard, and 20 percent or less for women. A number like that simply is not attained without good old-fashioned restraint. Assuming you’re like most of us, if you want to show off that hard-earned definition, you will simply have to eat less. There is no way around it.
6 Live Life
Practicing restraint is one thing. Subjecting yourself to deprivation is another. The line between them is one you have to find for yourself, but a system that leaves you constantly wanting more will inevitably leave you dissatisfied. Long-term deprivation can lead to a backlash of bad habits, and usually counter-productive. I think it’s best to have a healthful, holistic approach to training and life. Look at the big picture. Food is meant to be enjoyed, and with the right mindset, you can do so and have your abs, too.
“Each one of us is a product of our own day-to-day habits. If you eat well 80-90 percent of the time, there is no reason you can’t indulge occasionally.”
Each one of us is a product of our own day-to-day habits. If you eat well 80-90 percent of the time, there is no reason you can’t indulge occasionally. This principle is true for desserts, “cheat” meals if you’re inclined to call them that, and even Thanksgiving dinners. They’re all fine because they’re occasional. Just make sure to be honest and hold yourself accountable; it’s not a “cheat” if you do it every day.
If you have good eating habits, there’s almost nothing you’ll have to avoid 100 percent of the time. This will leave you and your six-pack abs free to live happily ever after together. Keep the dream alive!
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There are tonnes of ways to get pumped using exercise, a HIIT class with booming music that shakes the floor, sprinting your morning run because your so pumped because your earphones are so loud they’re practically bursting your ear drums, or signing up for another spin class knowing full well that the instructor will be screaming at you the whole time. But, it’s important to make sure you’re getting a healthy balance of exercise and rest or relaxation to achieve good health – that’s why we love methods that combine the two.
If you thought ‘inner energy’ was all about sitting on a yoga mat in the lotus position while chanting ‘om’, then think again. Those familiar with the Chinese martial art tai chi may have come across qigong before. Sometimes known by its full name of taiji qigong, it consists of 18 exercises that are used to promote the body’s natural healing energy to reduce stress levels and increase your quality of life.
How does it work?
Focusing on postures and breathing, qigong is aimed at improving physical and mental health. ‘The exercises can help to promote the body’s natural healing energy, reduce stress and create a feeling of wellbeing,’ explains Ronnie Robinson the director of Taiji Europa, (taiji-europa.eu).
If you know a little about acupuncture, you may be familiar with the Chinese theory of internal energy pathways, or meridians, through which ‘qi’ or ‘chi’ – energy – flows through. ‘Each meridian connects to different internal organs and ensures a healthy energy flow to the connected organ,’ Ronnie explains. ‘When the chi flow is regular the body will remain healthy. However, if there are blockages in this energy flow, problems can result.’
The theory goes that ailments occur because there is disruption to the energy flow in the meridian associated with that particular area. The disruption can be due to stress, poor eating habits, or even being too hot or too cold, creating a build-up which energy can’t freely flow through. Qigong helps to clear these blockages so energy can flow through the meridians with as little disruption as possible.
How to do it
The movements are simple, slow and gentle, yet effective in restoring energy. The body is kept in alignment throughout, and breathing is soft and natural. You may not get your heart racing in qigong, but you’ll certainly benefit physically. ‘Think about the natural movements of animals,’ says Ronnie, ‘like how birds take off and fly. They don’t carry the stresses and strains in their bodies that we humans do. Try to emulate the smooth, easy, natural movements that you see in the rest of nature.’
Want to give qigong a go? Perform each move 8-10 times one after another to create a flowing routine. It’s ideal performed in the morning for a gentle start to the day, or a good option if you need to unwind after work.
Beihui: A pressure point at the central part of the top of the head
Dantian: A pressure point just in front of your tummy
Laogong: A pressure point on the centre of the palm of the hd
Zusanli: A pressure point a few inches below the outside of the knee
Top tips for qigong
Listen to your breath Adopt a soft, natural breathing during the movements.
Be aware of your body Although aches and pains are sometimes normal, don’t overdo it. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you.
‘Sink’ your weight and ‘lighten’ your upper body Establish a connection with the ground by imagining your weight dropping deep into the earth while your upper body floats upwards. In reality, your upper body may be heavy with tension while you find it hard to keep your feet firmly on the ground.
Maintain alignment Keep a natural arch in your back and neutral spine, the way we’ve evolved.
Focus and intent Connect with all the movements you’re making and the directions you’re going.
Be natural Think of the movements you see taking place in nature and try to follow suit.
“Once you’ve been training long enough, your body grows wiser and you realize that you can’t simply force it to do anything anymore.”
Bodybuilders and strength athletes stop making progress for one reason: They stop coercing their body to adapt. Note how I intentionally use the word coerce, not a connotatively weaker action verb like force. The reason is that once you’ve been in the training game long enough, your body grows wiser and you realize that you can’t simply force it to do anything anymore.
When you continue to push and grunt with no concrete strategy other than “hard work,” you get injured or beat-up. Few things devour reasonable progress faster than what we’ll call “middle ground” training. That is, always training with the same set or rep scheme and with the same intensity. If you default to training in the 8, 10, or 12 rep range, I hate to break it to you, but your growth is simply wallowing in no-gain’s land.
Fortunately, there are tools in the training toolbox that will sharpen up your training. Let’s start with a brief overview and then move on to how these can be applied to your own programming to maximize growth and development.
The Neural-Metabolic Continuum
The first order of business is to focus on a key element of training: The neural-metabolic continuum. It’s a fancy term that allows you to understand whether you actually work your muscles or central nervous system (CNS), based on key variables. For the sake of brevity, here’s a visual breakdown of what it looks like.
Before your eyes glaze over, let me explain. If you’re chasing more metabolic (i.e. hypertrophic) gains, your, say, squatting program might look something like this:
4 sets of 10 repetitions
Tempo: 3 seconds down, no pause in the bottom, 1 second up
60-90 seconds rest between sets
On the other end of the spectrum, where you might be chasing more neural (i.e. strength) gains, your program might more resemble this:
5 sets of 3 repetitions
Tempo: As fast as possible
3-5 minutes rest between sets
Are we clear on the layout of the neural-metabolic continuum? Good, now let’s look at why you need to spend time in both ends (and not the straight middle) to maximize your growth and development.
The Case for High Reps
By now, it’s probably ingrained in you that you need to perform high reps per set (I’m looking at you, bodybuilders). Let me clarify that I define high reps to dawdle in the 8-12 rep range but could be as low as 6 reps per set.
There shouldn’t be anything really earth-shattering here. If you train with high reps, your goal is to build a bigger muscle.
Some folks call this “structural hypertrophy” since the higher rep sets allow you to focus primarily on the muscles themselves. They also lend themselves to fewer total sets per exercise. By virtue of slowing down the movement, coupled with the sheer amount of reps you do per set, you’re going to increase time under tension, which is a necessary stimulus for hypertrophy. No doubt, gains in strength will come along for the ride, but increases in muscular growth will outpace the increases in strength.
But what happens if you spend all your time here? Quite simply, your body will adapt to your training in this rep range if you continue it for extended periods of time. Furthermore, training in that zone will ultimately limit the amount of intensity you can use as well.
Do high-rep sets (15, 20, or more reps per set) have a place in programming? Sure, but they’re probably the exception rather than the rule.
The solution here is clear: Focus on getting stronger! This brings me to my next point…
The solution here is clear: Focus on getting stronger!
The Case for Low Reps
High reps deliver big gains, right? Well, low reps have a place, too!
The low-rep zone can be defined as anything between 1 rep with near-maximal effort and 5 reps in a set. They’re often viewed as being geared more for powerlifting or Olympic lifting, but if you really want to make high-threshold motor units work, you will need to push some serious weight!
This focuses on making your nervous system more efficient. If you switch from sets of 10 to sets of 3, you coerce your body to unfamiliar, shocking stressors, especially since low rep ranges encourage the use of much heavier weights. Every movement requires more “tightness” and a more intense focus. Further, more motor units and muscle fibers are recruited, and your body gets better at turning off antagonists (or opposing muscle groups) as well.
The result is that you’ll get jacked, but in a slightly different way. Since the goal is more on strength, your body composition will greatly differ from someone who performs exclusively high-rep sets. Powerlifters are strong as hell and can move jaw-dropping weight, but probably lack a bit of the size and definition of a well-trained bodybuilder.
The Perfect Combination
So if high reps promote hypertrophy and low reps facilitate strength increases, then in theory, the marriage of both rep schemes will bring forth muscular and strength development worthy of the Greek gods.
You need to spend dedicated periods of time in both the high-rep and low-rep ranges to maximize your development. High reps build muscle and connective tissue strength, and give your body respite from the grind of low-rep sets, too. Similarly, low-rep sets build neuromuscular and CNS efficiency. When you become more efficient and then go back to your big lifts, you can use even more weight than before, because you’re just that much more efficient and effective.
As an example of what I often do with physique-focused clients, I break down their set-rep schemes into one of two categories:
- High rep – 8-12 repetitions per set
- Low rep – 4-8 repetitions per set
These aren’t hard-and-fast rules. There may be times when even higher reps (15-20) could be used. On the flipside, there are other times when you may want to push the weight and work in the 1-5 rep range.
The biggest benefit from switching between these two ranges is that you’ll constantly coerce (there’s that word again) your body to adapt, to grow, and to improve.
Can’t I Just Train Everything at Once?
I know some people really like undulating periodization, in which you hit different set-rep schemes on different days of the week.
“You have to dial up the focus and be the orchestrator to your symphony of muscles.”
If this is you, perhaps your training looks something like this:
- Monday – 3 sets of 10 reps
- Wednesday – 5 sets of 5 reps
- Friday – 10 sets of 3 reps
With this weekly program, you hit everything in one training week, thinking it’s smart, efficient training. This is true if you’re newer to lifting or have never tried a protocol like this before. However, as you get more and more advanced, this type of scenario won’t work nearly as well since you’re sending multiple mixed messages to your body.
Monday’s workout would tell your body it’s time to get big, but then Wednesday’s workout will kick your body into a bit of strength mode. Finally, Friday’s workout will run counter to Monday’s and place the emphasis on raw strength. What is a confused body to do?! As you become more proficient, you have to dial up the focus and be the orchestrator to your symphony of muscles (and thus, training).
It’s kind of why an elite level sprinter can’t simply wake up one day, decide to run a marathon, and hope to be awesome at both distances.
While I’m saying that you need to spend time on both ends of the neural-metabolic continuum, you need to have some patience and zero-in your efforts on one at a time. The general rule is to spend at least 4-6 weeks focusing on one end before you even think about heading to the other.
The Final Step
Hopefully, you’re now alternating between periods of high-rep and low-rep training—awesome! The next step is to alternate the level of intensity over the course of the training cycle. Think of the following quote: “A peak is surrounded by two valleys.” You can’t expect to go at 110 percent intensity every time you train. You’ll only burn yourself out. Layer-in days of high intensity combined with days of low intensity.
The astute reader (you!) might inquire about whether simply wavering between high and low rep ranges might already serve this purpose. It does in a rather unrefined way. Here’s an example of how I’ll set my intensity within a training month:
- Week 1 – 4 sets of 5 reps @70%
- Week 2 – 5 sets of 5 reps @80%
- Week 3 – 4 sets of 3 reps @75%
- Week 4 – 3 sets of 5 reps @85%
As you can see, I’m not trying to move the same weights or loads on a week-to-week basis.
In week 1, I build a base and get a good weight to build my base from. In week 2, I push the limits of my volume. In week 3, I deload. Basically, that means I lower the intensity and volume to make it an “easier” work week, allowing my body to recover and supercompensate. Finally, in week 4, I go for broke with regard to my intensity. Try using this for your squat sometime—it works great!
“You can’t expect to go at 110 percent intensity every time you train. You’ll only burn yourself out.”
You could also do something far simpler, which yields amazing results when you just get started:
- Week 1 – 3 sets of 10 reps @70%
- Week 2 – 3 sets of 8-10 reps @75%
- Week 3 – 3 sets of 8 reps @80%
- Week 4 – 2 sets of 8 reps @70-75%
In this example, I use a stair-step approach to prepare you for week 3. After that, you deload and get ready to run the cycle again on week 5.
With these examples, the point I’m driving home is that you can’t go hard every single week. Instead, “wave” your intensity and build up to a series of big workouts, then back off to allow your body time to recover.
It’s All About Smarter Training
If you want to get the most out of your training, you not only need to work hard, but you need to work smart. By training on both ends of the neural-metabolic continuum and incorporating undulating waves of intensity into your training cycle, you’ll not only see better results but you’ll incur fewer bumps and bruises along the way.
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I’m a trainer of celebrities and VIPs, an IFBB Men’s Physique Pro, and a fitness advocate. I’d like to help you reach your goals by answering your tough questions!
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