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Training for beginners by Elvia

Elvia1023

AnaSCI VET / Donating Member
Oct 28, 2007
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Training

I would like to go over a few training theories I have learnt/developed over my lifting years. Firstly there are 1001 effective ways to train. Everyone is built differently both physically and psychologically. Therefore, experimentation is what I recommend to find out what training style(s) are most effective for you. There are established training systems for a reason. Generally certain training approaches are more effective than others and as a result most bodybuilders follow similar programs. However over time and learning about your own body I think no one is better educated than yourself when it comes to your training. The key is listening to your body and making note what works for you. Don't just follow a system and try to fit your body into that system. Create your own training system for your own body. If deadlifts hurt your back regardless of weight or hack squats hurt your knees then simply don't do them. Don't do things just because some stranger online or flex magazine tells you it's essential.

Knowledge of your body comes in time so if your new to this try the many training styles. Most importantly give each one enough time to effectively access it. Generally I believe in frequent training using low volume each gym session. However I feel when cutting or getting ready for competition rotating in a higher volume approach using short rest periods is most effective. No matter what style I feel intensity should always be high excluding deload periods. Intensity doesn't haven't to mean a silly amount of weight but simply pushing yourself beyond what you perceive to be your limit. I see many lifters in the gym and their minds give up far before their bodies do. Every time I go to the gym I look at it like a battle to make my body grow. I visualize my body growing when I lift and I battle for every rep I can get. Your mind is everything in the gym and you need to train it to enjoy the pain. When I refer to pain I don't mean anything that is unsafe or damaging but simply getting in the zone where you can push out those extra reps. This is why a good and trusted spotter is extremely important. Added to that hammer strength equipment and other pieces that allow you to push your limits without putting you in an unsafe position.

I reiteration there are 1001 ways to effectively train. You don't have to kill yourself in the gym to gain muscle. On one side you have one of the greatest bodybuilders ever (Lee Haney) who used to say 'stimulate don't annihilate' and that is completely true. On the other side you have Ronnie Coleman performing reps with 800 pound deadlifts 6 weeks before the Olympia. Sure Ronnie didn't train that way all the time and a lot of it was for the cameras but you won't see anyone else lifting that sort of weight at that time. Both mentalities have their pro's and cons. Fact is the guys who regularly lift huge poundage for reps are usually unmatched for density and thickness. Whilst on the other side they guys who don't push the weights tend to experience fewer injuries and have longer careers.

Progressive overload is key if you want to continue to make gains. Our bodies adapt fast so we need new stimuli in order to keep shocking our body into new growth. This can be done using a variety of rep ranges, poundages and techniques to get the most out of your training. Most lifters neglect higher rep ranges thinking they are only good for shaping and that is nonsense. A bodybuilder should incorporate a variety of different rep ranges. By doing this development of new muscle tissue can be maximized. It will only add to your training and you will learn more about your body. It will also help train your mind to go past certain barriers. I know a lot of guys who can squat or leg press a lot of weight for say 8-10 reps but ask them to do lighter weight for 30 reps and they fall apart. I use high reps especially for leg movements as we are constantly on our feet and the main leg muscles are very strong and durable. In general I feel low and high reps with as much weight as possible utilizing different variations of squats and leg press are the key to building bigger quads.

In general I look at lifters strength endurance as a big tool to help towards their physique progression. We can't increase weight every single week otherwise we would all be bench pressing 400kg! High rep ranges are also a good tool for stimulation whilst giving your joints a rest from the heavier weights. Another great tool to use are pre exhaust methods when training. A good example could be when performing various sets of isolation work for your hamstrings and quadriceps before performing a movement such as squats. Your body doesn't know it is lifting 500 pounds and if you pre exhaust you could lift half of that with similar results. This is a great way to help prevent injuries and damage to tendons and joints etc.

There are numerous other techniques that can be used to improve your training and to simply keep things more interesting. I like to play about with different angles, rep speed, rom and time under tension. Every workout is never the same with me. Increasing weight and rep ranges as discussed is a simple way to look at things but then the way you lift during every rep can make a huge difference. At times every rep should be made to be as hard as possible. There are many guys who lift a lot lighter than many think they would but the difference is they lift with full concentration. They squeeze the muscle from the top to the bottom. The negative is usually very slow and controlled allowing for greater time under tension. That brings me onto another style that can help many break plateaus and overload the muscle in a new way. I recommend readers to try negative/eccentric training. This is when you choose a weight that is slightly too heavy for you to perform a full rep with. You then have a partner help you bring up the weight (concentric portion) but they don't assist during the negative portion of the lift. This is when you are strongest and you can control more weight. Moreover eccentric training will cause more muscle fiber damage, requires less energy, creates an anabolic response and as a result more overall muscle hypertrophy. Obviously you can't do this with the likes of deadlifts but it's possible for most exercises. You don't even need a partner for certain arm and leg exercises.

The different training techniques should be played about with to offer varied stimuli to the muscle. Another example of a training technique is the inclusion of partial reps. Jason Huh is known for utilizing partials and whilst I think his are too partial they are obviously working for him. I urge some of you to add in a few partials sets to your training when using heavy weights. Partials are another useful tool to add intensity and muscle fiber recruitment. A good example of this could be lying leg curls and if you fail at say 15 reps you start using a partial rom to get more reps until you can't lift the weight at all. I recommend all of you to play about with your training to keeps things fresh and keep your body guessing. This could be started by performing different rep ranges than your used to. Then further added to by utilizing negatives, partials, faster and slower rep speeds and increased time under tension.

Through experience we all should establish a great understanding of how our bodies works but only if we listen to them. Over the years I have come to the conclusion most bodyparts need to be treated differently. I like to work in the 8-20 rep range for most movements but will sometimes go higher. The higher rep stuff is very common with leg training. Look at the likes of sprint cyclists as many have amazing legs. Most of them do weight train and primarily their lower bodies. However some of the leg development you see is incredible and they cycle for hours a day. I believe the constant hours of working the muscle and the explosive power needed for sprinting are the main factors. I am not saying we should all cycle everyday but it definitely shows me possibilities in my weight training to help create big and lean legs. Male ballet dancers show me even more how leg training doesn't have to be 8-10 reps with as much weight as you can lift. Many of them have great overall leg development but especially their calves. All that time on their tip toes and explosive jumps for hours a day are the main reasons. By putting together everything I see it has assisted me in the development of a training plan to help my rubbish calves grow. I should add everything is genetics and if you have good calf genetics for example any sort of stimulation will make them grow. Regardless of genetics you can always change your training for optimal gains and that's what I have personally done and am finally making worthwhile progress.

So many guys do the same thing day after day in the gym. If your progressing then great but if you have stopped I urge you to change and try new things. Be creative and have fun with your training and think outside the box. A good example of thinking outside the box are the giant sets Milos Sarcev has people do. I was once in a rush so decided to do about 15 back movements as heavy as I could go with no rest in between and I have never felt so pumped and well trained. You need an empty gym for that but there are countless other possibilities. The art of training is slowly being diluted in the modern day so just wanted to give a few thoughts and how you can keep your training both interesting and productive.
 

Rpr4

Registered User
Jul 16, 2014
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south carolina
This is very informative. I totally agree with finding what works for "you". Example, I was lifting for about 2 years and really didn't see any progress. This was the steriotypcle light weight, high reps to just lose fat and lean. I worked out with someone that was doing 5x5 routine so I did it also. I felt amazin afterwards! I stuck with that particular routine and I saw more gains with in the following 3 months than I did the previous 2 years. Everyone reacts different to different routines just like people react different to medicine. What works for 1 may not work work for the next person
 

Elvia1023

AnaSCI VET / Donating Member
Oct 28, 2007
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Just looking through my old threads and found this :D 5 years old but not too bad. Sometimes when reading old posts you get embarassed as thoughts/opinions change over time but I still pretty much stand by most of what I wrote here. Reading it again I did mention higher reps a lot and for good reason. Although I do recommend pushing it in the 5-8 reps range at time. The one thing I didn't really go over is exercise execution and I think that is the most important factor. It is true even guys with bad form will grow if they are lifting heavy and eating but there is a much smarter way of doing things. I really try to master execution these days even if it means lowering the weight by half. Although some days you just want to train Branch Warren style and that is fine too :D
 

Viking

Registered User
Nov 11, 2011
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Good read. I do a lot of the things you wrote about. I haven't done giant sets for a long time but may try them out again as my new gym is empty in the mornings.
 

Elvia1023

AnaSCI VET / Donating Member
Oct 28, 2007
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Good read. How many sets/excercises/rep range are people doing?

Thanks. My training changes through the year. I tend to rotate between lower and higher volume routines. When doing high volume my total number of sets is very high. I train hard but it's more a consistent hard over the entire workout often with minimal rest periods between sets. When training lower volume I tend to do a low number of all out sets (working sets) with everything else being warms up. I will take time warming up at the start but a few exercises in my warms ups are very fast and literally just used to get my mind/body used to the weight whilst saving energy for my working sets (that's all that counts when training like that). Rep ranges also vary through the year and even each workout but are usually between 6-15 reps for most movements. I do throw in some high rep stuff as well.

Right now I am doing Push, Pull and Legs. I will follow this plan for awhile and can't see myself coming off it in the forseeable future. Although when I am travelling (rare) I tend to do full body workouts but that's an exception and everything else will be P/P/L. I train when I want but I usually go through 2 rotations in about 8 days. Trying to get stronger in all movements but it's more gradual with me and I am not trying to beat the log book. Pretty much 1-2 working sets per exercise but it can vary. Calves are an exception and I usually include over 2 working sets per movement for them. I do as many warm ups as needed but prefer to conserve energy so very few (pretty much none) hard sets are performed outside of my working sets. Most working sets are straight sets but I do add in some intensity techniques (drop sets, supersets, rest pause, assisted reps and partials etc) from time to time. Rep ranges vary but it's between 6-15 for most working sets. I have just updated my log on here so I will copy and paste tonights workout to give an indication. Incidentally I done no lower back loading (stiff leg deadlifts for example) because I done a deadlift variation yesterday on pull day. I also usually add in a hip adduction and leg extension movement but tonight they were left out.

LEGS

Warm Up.
Seated Calf Raises... 3 working sets with 2 being supersetted with the below movement).
Standing Calf Raises...3 working sets with 2 being supersetted with the above movement).
Seated Leg Curls... 1 working set with both legs and 1 unilateral working set for each leg (including assisted reps).
Lying Leg Curls... 1 working set with both legs and 1 unilateral working set for each leg (including assisted reps).
Vertical Leg Press... 2 working sets (1 loading and 1 drop off).
Hack Squat... 2 working sets (1 loading and 1 drop off). The drop off set being rest paused until I reached 25 reps.
Hanging Knee Raises supersetted with Sled Pushes... 5 working sets for both.
Stretches.
 

Elvia1023

AnaSCI VET / Donating Member
Oct 28, 2007
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Someone asked my opinion on bro splits and training frequency. I figured I would post my reply here just incase anyone is wondering what split they should follow.

"Some of the greatest bb's of all time followed a "bro split" and many still do to this day. There is nothing wrong with it and I have trained many years in the traditional way of 1 main body part per day once weekly. Many like to overcomplicate training but of course you want to optimize all areas, so I recommend to everyone to experiment with different training systems. That doesn't mean jump from one system to another every 3 weeks but over the years rotate volume and frequency whilst keeping the basics in place at all times. Some feel once weekly training is enough for them but others really like to crank up the frequency. I will state I generally feel a high frequency lower volume approach is optimal for most people but it's not written in stone.

Without a doubt the most important factors regarding training are intensity/effort and form. Training frequency and volume are a well behind second place. If you're lifting with bad form and not hitting the targeted muscle effectively then training 2 or even 3 times weekly is not going to get you better results. Now if you have everything in place (effort, form, diet etc) then you can start playing about with frequency and volume to increase results.

There are no wrong answers to any of this. Sure it's common sense if you can train x muscle effectively and recover 104 times per year that is going to be better than 52 times per year. Although sometimes things aren't as clean cut as that. Over the years I have also learnt each muscle responds differently to oneanother. Some muscles can take more volume/abuse than others. Everyone is built differently and many also have to be careful with certain body parts and work around those issues (mine is my lower back). Obviously the basics all work and different rep ranges also work for every muscle. Nevertheless, I still get better results with different methods for certain muscles.

I don't know your level and how long you have been training etc etc. What I can state if you have everything in place I would experiment with more frequency. If you want to grow something such as P/P/L or Upper/Lower could be good for you and as they are 2-3 day splits you can up the frequency using those routines. Sometimes more specialized routines work best meaning the volume and frequency is different for every muscle group according to your strengths and weaknesses. There are 1001 variables and I would need to know details before best advising. An example is sometimes people need to actually lower volume to improve results. Others may have a weak bodypart and for that I would always concentrate on form first (amongst other things). Now for someone who simply wants to grow and has everything in place I recommend a simple split and training most body parts as frequency as possible."
 

ASHOP

AnaSCI VET
Aug 28, 2005
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I see trainers at the gyms I train at out right kill newbies by putting them on a routine that far too many exercises, sets and reps. It kills their motivation to train and in a month or two they are burnt out and quit showing up. You have to make it fun and obtainable to someone new. One exercise per bodypart, 2-3 sets, 8-10 reps. I believe in keeping it basic and simple in the beginning phases.
 

Elvia1023

AnaSCI VET / Donating Member
Oct 28, 2007
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I see trainers at the gyms I train at out right kill newbies by putting them on a routine that far too many exercises, sets and reps. It kills their motivation to train and in a month or two they are burnt out and quit showing up. You have to make it fun and obtainable to someone new. One exercise per bodypart, 2-3 sets, 8-10 reps. I believe in keeping it basic and simple in the beginning phases.

Exactly. I see that as well. It is good to get them used to different exercises and expanding their knowledge so they have options when they train alone. However they often just have them doing too many things and it just confuses them. Plus the amount of stupid exercises like training on bosu balls is crazy at certain gyms. A lot of the new state of the art fitness gyms have trainers like that.

Many don't perform loads of exercises but they do so many sets. It's usually just set after set of easy sets which won't do much. I saw one guy Smith pressing 2.5kg per side the other day for about 30 mins. Plus the Smith he was using has no resistance so I can't understand how he was even feeling that weight. Others are the complete opposite and will do about 10 working sets of bench then another 5 things then go home and probably drink 30g whey and go to bed and wonder why they don't grow,
 

ASHOP

AnaSCI VET
Aug 28, 2005
4,435
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ashop.in
Exactly. I see that as well. It is good to get them used to different exercises and expanding their knowledge so they have options when they train alone. However they often just have them doing too many things and it just confuses them. Plus the amount of stupid exercises like training on bosu balls is crazy at certain gyms. A lot of the new state of the art fitness gyms have trainers like that.

Many don't perform loads of exercises but they do so many sets. It's usually just set after set of easy sets which won't do much. I saw one guy Smith pressing 2.5kg per side the other day for about 30 mins. Plus the Smith he was using has no resistance so I can't understand how he was even feeling that weight. Others are the complete opposite and will do about 10 working sets of bench then another 5 things then go home and probably drink 30g whey and go to bed and wonder why they don't grow,



They should feel good when they leave the gym and eager to come back. Not wiped out and physically/mentally drained. I get burnt out sometimes and just cutting some sets and exercises out and getting in and out of the gym fast makes training fun again.
 

davidg

New member
Apr 26, 2021
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This is very cool information, thank you so much! I love the way you laid it out. I've been working out my workout program for several years, as well as nutrition. These are not easy, and I don't count on quick results. Thanks again!
 

Elvia1023

AnaSCI VET / Donating Member
Oct 28, 2007
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Someone just asked about my leg training and I will post it here as well because I think others may benefit from this info especially if your are tall like me and struggled with leg training for years.

"Sorry about the late reply. Instead of just listing a few exercises I will go into more detail because it may help some people who are struggling because I did for many years. I got super strong in most main leg movements and I still had crap legs. The same for me bench pressing 4pps and still having a crap chest. If someone has good genetics then sure any basic movement and moving the weight from point a to b and getting stronger over time will produce incredible results. Moreover, many people also naturally have a better muscle muscle connection and it makes a big difference. However for many they really have to perfect the finer details if they want to make a weaker body part a stronger one. Although the majority of people are simply not training hard enough over time nor being consistent with their nutrition.

Execution is everything then comes intensity. Getting stronger 100% comes into play as well and everyone should be striving to get stronger in each movement over time. If you can squat 100kg for 15 reps and over the years you get to 300kg for 15 reps you will obviously have much bigger/better legs. Although I think many in the gym get too lost in getting stronger all the time and it often goes against them in the long run. I still push heavy weight but I try to make that weight as hard as possible and I try to make the targeted muscle the main driver of that weight and not like most and just trying to move weight without any real connection.

Most importantly you need to stretch and you need to be flexible so you can work in a larger ROM on certain movements. Nothing has improved my legs more than deep leg presses with heavy weight for high reps. Basically anything over 10 reps and you are gtg. Although work in some 20-40 rep sets even if it means you need to pause (under tension) a few times to get to your targeted reps. Going as low as possible in a safe manner and the more flexible you are the easier that becomes. Guys who have tight hips/glutes are going to struggle to get a full ROM on leg presses so they have to work on that if it's an issue.

The rest is just basic and hitting a few select movements and increasing intensity/weight over time. For hams I mainly concentrate on seated leg curls, stiff leg deadlifts (barbell or db's) and leg press. For quads it's all about leg press, split squats, hack squats and leg extensions. I would also try to get stronger in hip adductors and always include them. For calves you need 1 straight leg and 1 bent leg movement to effectively work the gastroc and soleus so standing and seated calf raises are perfect. Then it's just all about good form and torture with poundages used being a distant 3rd. I would also include some tibialis raises from time to time as well and for those you want to get as strong as possible in the higher rep ranges.

It's all just about execution and intensity. I personally would recommend periods of getting stronger and your standard sets (perhaps one loading and 1 drop off) for most movements. Then throw in periods of moderate weird and lot's of intensity techniques such as drop, super and giant sets. Other times you may want to do a hybrid of both which I am currently doing."