The first full week of the new year is officially here, meaning most are getting back to the gym to pick up where they left off before the holidays. Some may are just be beginning their journeys after a longer time away. Either way, you’ll need a strategy if you’re looking to reach those goals you set. Here’s one to help enhance your physique and make 2015 count at it’s best.
MIX THINGS UP
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that the body gets used to your training after a while, and that you have to change things up in order to keep your progress going. Some people even go so far as to change their workouts every week in order to “confuse” their bodies. And while the principle of muscle confusion has it’s place, you don’t need to switch things up every week. A good strategy for 2015 is to plan your training schedule a month or two in advance. Not only should you plan to switch your workouts, but more importantly, include different phase, where you focus on hypertrophy (size), strength, power and endurance. These four components will help you develop a well-rounded physique that will take you to the next level.
MONTHS 1-2: STRENGTH
Focus on reps of 4-8 and max out during your last set of each exercise. Focus on compound movements that will recruit more muscle fibers like deadlifts, squats, bench press and barbell military press to build a strong foundation. Rest a little longer between sets, up to 2-3 minutes, so you can fully recover and have the strength to push that heavy weight. Avoid spending too much time on machine and isolation exercises. This is the time to build a strong foundation.
MONTHS 3-4: SIZE
As you train for strength you will grow, of course. But this phase will focus on hypertrophy, meaning you will increasing your rep ranges to 8-12, and focus on truly creating the best mind-muscle connection. Shorten your rest periods between sets to around 60 to 90 seconds, and choose a few more isolation exercises like lateral raises, biceps concentration curls and triceps extensions. Still, remember to always start with big compound movements at the beginning of your workouts.
MONTHS 5-6: POWER
Strength is the ability to move a certain amount of weight, whereas power is the ability to move that weight quickly. The first four months of the year have focused on getting you bigger and stronger – now it’s time to train for explosive power that will incorporate faster movements and recruit more fast-twitch muscle fibers. Explode up on your reps (1 second) and lower the weight slowly (around 3 seconds) to create a good amount of tension on the muscle. Power development requires heavy weight, high sets, and low reps. Always warm up before these workouts. Basically, you are combining months 1-4 but trying to push heavier weight at a faster speed than you normally would. If you know how, try to include explosive lifts like the clean and jerk or snatch. Including some HIIT style workouts and cardiovascular workouts during this phase will highly benefit you as well.
MONTHS 7-8: ENDURANCE
Don’t confuse muscular endurance with running and biking. Some might find it unappealing to train for endurance, but the truth is that a muscle that can last longer under tension will also be a muscle that can endure more damage. Increase rep ranges to 15-20, and even as high as 25. This will give you some crazy pumps, but will also generate a different neuro-muscular connection with in the body. After completing these higher-rep sets, try your best and incorporate some isometric/static exercises like holding the EZ bar on curls at 90 degrees for as long as you can, or holding those dumbbells on lateral raises at the top of the movement for as long as you can. Bottom line – fatigue your muscles in a way that you aren’t used too.
After you’ve completed these eight months of training, you can re-start the cycle of month 1 to 2 or simply take it to the next level and combine all these principles in to one phase. Whatever you choose to do, don’t make the mistake that many do and start your year and your workouts without meaning. Strategize to succeed by planning ahead and following through on those plans.