07 Jun How to Train for Your Goals
How to Train for Your Goals
If you’re new to the fitness scene, chances are you have shied away from the weight room simply because you don’t want to “look stupid” or have “no idea what you’re doing” or some variation of that. Or maybe you are a seasoned lifter and are having trouble progressing as of late. Maybe your goals have changed and you need to switch up your routine. Whatever your reasoning, below is a breakdown of different goals and how to alter your training to achieve them. I must preface this by saying, that this is a generic outline and training can and will change based on the individual, current physique, and goals.
For simplicity, I will break down this tutorial into three main categories; strength, hypertrophy, and endurance. I will also touch on plyometric training as well.
Training for Strength:
Strength training is commonly used for power lifters and individuals whose careers depend physical strength – i.e. firemen, linemen, construction work, etc. I am not saying this is true for all, but usually when working on strength, your aesthetics take a back seat. Not saying that you are going to pack on fat, but if your goal is to get stronger, you can’t be in caloric deficit. You need to be fueling your body for the extreme amount of weight it is being asked to support. Think about some of the world’s power lifters. Sure, they are big dudes, but put them next to a bodybuilder, and they dwarf in comparison. This has a lot to do with the way these two training styles differ.
If your goal is to get stronger, you will want to stay within the 4-8 rep range and repeat for 3-6 sets. You will perform sets of single reps, double reps, and triple reps to test your strength and increase your one rep maximum. You may have heard this terminology used before. Your one rep maximum is described as the most amount of weight you can use for a lift with proper form for one rep. That’s it. You may have often heard some lifters using their one rep maximum as a basis for the weight used in their workouts. For example, a set may look like this:
Set 1 – 15 reps at 60% of 1 rep max
Set 2 – 10 reps at 75% of 1 rep max
Set 3 – 5 reps at 85% of 1 rep max
In this example, you would lower reps and increase weight as a percentage of your 1 rep max.
With this style of training, the goal is simply to increase the amount of weight lifted. Power lifters will employ any and all muscles needed to lift the weight and not necessarily focus on the mind to muscle connection and focus on the activation of specific muscles. Furthermore, when you compare strength training to that of hypertrophy, the time under tension is much lower with strength training. With less reps, even at higher reps, the time under tension is much lower. Since Type 1 muscle fibers respond more to endurance training, they respond better to longer time under tension. These slow twitch fibers grow without having much increase in strength. Visually, the muscle will become bigger, while strength may not necessarily increase. If your goal is aesthetics, read on.
Training for Hypertrophy:
Hypertrophy is the term used for the increase of muscle mass. Not so fast ladies, before you completely dismiss this style of training and skip to the below, let’s discuss what this means for you. Building lean muscle mass does NOT mean you are going to become bulky and ripped like your male counterparts. It’s impossible without some synthetic help. That’s because women only produce about 1/16th the amount of testosterone as men. Training for hypertrophy with actually create that “toned” look that many women want. In fact, if your goal is to “tone”, what you are really doing is building lean mass in place of fat mass. Sorry to burst your bubble, but cardio alone will NOT give you this look. Instead, you will be left with “skinny fat”.
Hypertrophy training utilizes the 8-15 rep range for about 3-4 sets. As far as the weight to use – the short answer is, it does not matter as long as it is challenging you. So it all comes down to the rep range – whether it be 8 reps, 10 reps, or 20 reps. What this means is that the last 2-3 reps of every set should be HARD. So if you are doing 8 reps – that means, reps 6, 7, and 8 should be difficult! Likewise, if you do a set of 20 reps, then reps 18,19 and 20 should be difficult!
So obviously the weight used would vary if you were doing 8 reps versus 20 reps. The goal with hypertrophy training is to fatigue the muscle. You want to utilize about 40-70 seconds per set of time under tensions (TUT). What this means is that one set should take you about 40-70 seconds to complete. Your muscles are working for that amount of time. If you fly through a set of 8 in 20 seconds, then you know you need to increase the weight and slow down your tempo. Likewise, if a set is taking you over a minute and a half to complete, drop your ego, and drop the weight. Chances are you are sacrificing form when this happen as well.
Now occasionally, I get questions and concerns that clients are not “making progress” because they have been stuck using the same weight for their lifts for weeks or months. What gives? Most gyms don’t offer dumbbells in 1-2 lb. increments. So if you are utilizing 10 pounds, then next step may be 12 or 15 lbs. This is 20 – 50% more weight all at once! Jumping this high could result in poor form and even injury. My suggestion is to add more sets. Or try implementing drop sets and progressive overload. Drop sets are sets where you perform as many reps as possible at your “normal” weight. As you fatigue, drop the weight and continue to rep out as many sets as you can. You can even drop weight one more time and rep until failure.
Conversely, progressive overload consists of adding weight each set, while simultaneously increasing weight.
The goal here is to fatigue the muscles and break them down. With proper nutrition, these muscle cells are rebuilt stronger, leaner, and bigger. The leaner mass a person has, the more fat he/she burns at rest. Diet is huge in this process of course. Realistically a woman can expect to gain .5-1 lbs. of muscle mass in a month, IF diet is sound. Without diet, women can absolutely still gain muscle, but depending on the caloric deficit or surplus, the results could be less visible. If someone, a women or a man, really wants to put on muscle, he/she needs to be eating a caloric surplus to do so. Fat gains are inevitable, but proper nutrition and coaching and minimize these gains during a “lean bulk” while the individual works to add mass.
Training for Endurance:
“More reps and less weight” is better for “toning”. There’s that word again – “tone”. This statement is flawed. We just talked about how to choose a weight depending on the rep range. Endurance training requires a rep range of about 15-20+ reps, but the principle of how much weight to use stands. In this case, if your reps were 20, you would want to choose a weight that has you fatiguing by reps 18, 19, and 20. Performing higher reps at will burn fat around the muscle, but if you want to firm up or “tone”, you want to use the heavier weights in the 8-15 range.
For someone who has built the muscle mass and now want to peel away any subcutaneous fat, endurance training is great. It’s often the style of training used during a “shred” phase after the lean muscle has been built with hypertrophy training. Endurance training may also accompany a caloric deficit as well. The problem is when calories are too low. Coupled with weight training, the body doesn’t have enough fuel to power these workouts and actually ends up compromising muscle mass for energy. The result? Yep. Skinny fat. So again, diet is HUGE!
For the average woman or man looking to lose fat, I often recommend a combination of hypertrophy and endurance training along with HIIT (high intensity interval training) cardio and/or plyometrics. Plyometrics are exercises in which maximum force is exerted for quick bursts of time with the goal being to increase speed, cardio endurance, and conditioning. Mixing plyos and HIIT into you weight training sets is an excellent way to keep your heart rate up, protect lean mass, and burn the fat to reveal all your hard work.
Bottom line: whatever your goal and whichever style of training you employ, remember that your body eventually adapts. Same thing goes for diet as well. Anything you do or throw at your body for an extended period of time, it will eventually adapt to. It wants to be in homeostasis. This is why switching is up is crucial. If your training style becomes “easy”, you feel “bored”, or you walk out of a workout not feeling completely gassed, it’s time to switch it up. Mix a few styles of training, add more reps or sets, decrease tempo or rest times – find what challenges YOU to get the most out of your training and see the biggest results.