Today we are going to discuss some common training questions.
#1. Reps/Sets/Exercise selection/Rest
Let’s use maximum repetition (RM) to help.
- 1-5 RM: mainly strength.
- 8-12 RM: mainly muscle.
- 15+RM: mainly endurance.
From the muscle hypertrophy standpoint of average gym-goers, we mostly choose 8-12RM weight/exercises. For beginners, typically 80-100% of times for 8-12RM. For advanced lifters, the spectrum is more widely spread.
Sets are usually 3-4 while some compound exercises 4-5 sets.
Exercise selection: more compound exercises and some isolation exercises. Compound exercises will cooperate more joints and muscle, thus heavier weight. Examples: bench press, push up, pull up, row, squat, deadlift etc. Longer rest, typically 2-3 min depending on yourself and the weight used. Isolation exercises will cooperate less/single joint and muscle. Examples: bicep curls, tricep pushdown, lateral raises etc.
Shorter rest, typically 1-2 min. If your performance of next set drops significantly, then you should add more rest time.
#2 How to arrange your training routine/split
It depends on several factors:
- Goal: build muscle/lose weight/increase strength etc.?
- Ability: training age, ability to recover etc.
- Schedule: how much time available for training?
For beginner stage, it is advised 3-4 days/week training. Especially the first 3-6 months in which the strength and muscle are weak and should not train too much for each muscle group. Full body and upper/lower body workouts (splits) are recommended. The former one is to train almost every muscle group in a session. The latter one is to train only upper muscles or lower muscles in a session.
Compound exercises are primary while isolation exercises are secondary. In the beginning stage, machines are recommended while free weight is only recommended once you get more familiar with training.
Apply the principle of progressively overload to first increase reps and weights, then the volume (exercises no. and sets).
When your body get familiar with training, you may increase training frequency as well. Also, you may change your full body routine to body-part splits, targeting 1-2 major muscle groups per time. For instance, chest, back, leg, shoulder, arm days. Adjust no. of exercises and sets according to your ability. Typically 4-6 exercises with 3-4 sets.
Cardio/Aerobic exercises could be added on demand. For those who want to build muscle, It is advised that do not do too much. For example, 1-2 times/week with <30 min/ 10 min HIIT each time. It is not good for building muscle when you do too much cardio.
You may skip all the cardio, but I still advise you to do a minimum amount for the sake of health and cardiovascular system.
If you can separate cardio and weight training sessions, please do it. If you can’t, please do weight training first as it requires fresh energy for the performance (heavy lifting). If you don’t care about muscle, you can do cardio first.
The above are just some common practice. Everyone should adjust their own training routine themselves.
#3a Warm up
Warm up before workout, and the purpose is to get your muscle, joints and nerves ready, and help to improve performance and prevent injuries. It consists of 3 parts: Warm your body, dynamic stretch, warm-up sets.
#1 Warm body
To raise your core temperature from cool and sedentary body. Examples: jogging, jumping jacks, burpees.
#1 Dynamic Stretch
To increase muscle elasticity and joint mobility, as well as checking your body status. Do dynamic stretch instead of static stretch. Try to stretch every possible range of motions of related muscle and joints. If you find pain/discomfort, you can adjust your routine immediately.
#1 Warm-up Sets
To get your related muscle, joints and nerves ready for the workout. Do few sets related exercises with high reps and low intensity.
Warm up normally take you around 10 min while it may be longer in winter. After finishing warm-up, you can start your workout.
#3b Cool Down
When you finish your workout, it’s time to cool down, which helps the body recover and reduce the discomfort caused by muscle tightness/soreness. It consists of 2 parts: Lower your temperature and static stretch.
#1 Lower your temperature
You can walk and move your joints. Let your body temperature and heartbeat return to normal.
#2 Static Stretch
Stretch all of working muscles. Do few sets of 15-30s.
How to know how to stretch?
- You can refer to the poster in the gym about stretching.
- The opposite direction of exerting force is the stretching position.
#4 Feel pain/discomfort when doing high intensity exercises
When you lift very heavy or do high intensity calisthenics moves, the related muscle/joint like the wrist, elbow, upper arm, shoulder feel pain, is that normal? It depends on how painful/discomfort it is.
- Slight: It is normal. Your muscle/joints/tendons never experience these high intensity tensions. As long as your pain has not worsen, you can continue to train. Make sure you have enough rests for recovery between sets and between days.
- Moderate: The exercise intensity is a bit high for you. You should reduce/stop your training, as it accelerates your chances for injury in a long run. Please let the muscles and joints have enough rests first before you start to train again with lower intensity and volume. It may takes 1-2 months for the muscle/joint/tendon to get stronger.
- Severe: It indicates you are injured or about to get injury. Please stop your training. Take longer rests and go to doctors for treatment if needed. When your body heals and the pain are gone, You should drop your ego and start to train from lower intensity and volume.
Some enthusiastic guys can train with pain, but it may make it worse. It is my personal experience. Some injuries are quite hard to completely healed, and precaution is the best way. Take your time.