Connect with us

Training

Strength Training Bible – Your Guide To Getting Stronger

Kyran Doyle

Published

on

strength training

So you want to get strong?

Strength training has exploded in popularity over the last few years. Particularly in terms of resistance training with the surge of strength sports such as powerlifting, Olympic lifting and crossfit.

Unlike most sports, these ones focus upon the very art of getting stronger, rather than using strength as a supplementary factor along-side their skill work – getting stronger is the skill, it is the sport.

If you want to lose weight, gain muscle perform better in sport or just look better there are two things you must do, eat right and lift heavy.

Strength training isn’t just for those who want to to become the next worlds strongest man. Everybody can benefit from being stronger. If you think about it there isn’t really a situation in life where being stronger isn’t better.

With strength in sport becoming more and more popular the exercises involved, the compound ones in particular, such as the squat, the bench press and the deadlift are also being practised more and more.

However, with these being fairly technical movements it is important to understand the skill behind them, otherwise you could end up hurt or even unable to progress, which is more frustrating than anything. 

Luckily for you, this guide will break down exactly how you can use strength training to enhance your life and also include a few useful ‘how-to’s on the big compound lifts you should be doing.

If you’re ready to get stronger lets begin!

 

What Is Strength Training?

what is strength training

Strength training is any form of training that will take you from your current level of strength to an even greater one. The most common, and most effective, way is through resistance training.

Now resistance training includes – weight training, resistance bands and calisthenics.

A good strength training routine will include at least 2 of these, quite often all 3. However, there is more to it than just lifting a heavier weight, or doing more reps each time – and this will be covered in a later section of this article.

A good and solid strength training programme will also include exercises and strategies to improve your posture, mobility and flexibility too. 

After all we go to the gym to improve our everyday lives, part of this is our ability to move around freely. We’ve all seen the bulked up gym dude that seems to waddle between the weights at the gym. This guy may have a lot of strength but hasn’t put enough attention into maintaining flexibility throughout his body.

Without these facets you can end up training an incorrect movement pattern which will in turn lead to imbalances in parts of your body which will then lead into pain, injury or discomfort in parts of your training and every day life.

Another common example of this would be the typical gym bro who focuses so much on chest and biceps that they forget to train their back and rear shoulders – this leads to a slouched shoulder position and tight pectoral muscles which then causes the neck and shoulder area to compensate and be in pain.

muscle imbalance

Muscle balance and your biomechanics are major elements to consider when putting together a good strength routine.

If you don’t have any underlying issues then simple rules of thumb as having pulling exercises and pushing exercises at 2:1 ratio and having as many hamstring exercises as quadriceps ones will suffice for most people.

Any project you undertake should have a goal, with strength training it might be a specific weight to lift, to compete, to feel stronger, lose weight, etc.

Going for an exact goal, such as lifting a specific weight, you will need to be realistic. If you’re a beginner and hoping to hit 200kg squat quickly then you might find your ability to stick to a plan being tested as this is likely to take more than a few months to come about.

Instead focus on continually improving in your workouts each week and you will find your strength goals much more achievable.

Becoming really strong takes time. The good news is you should be able get stronger every time you go to the gym. That means if you squatted 100kgs this week, next week you should be looking to add a bit more weight or perform more reps.

This can be very rewarding as every time you are in the gym you should be pushing for those little wins (improving on last weeks numbers.)

With that in mind whenever you start a new training program, make sure you understand how long it takes to get stronger – and that sometimes achievements like full range of motion or no pain or discomfort are far more important than sheer strength.

Building strength is never about a quick fix or a 4-6 week plan (granted, you can gain strength in this time) it is a long commitment.

If you want to keep getting stronger then you need to look at it with a long term perspective. A good strength cycle will include various blocks such as hypertrophy, intensity and then strength.

The idea behind this is that the hypertrophy will stimulate more muscle growth (and a bigger muscle has more potential for strength than a smaller one), a shift upwards in intensity as the volume begins to come down and then an even bigger shift as the focus comes around more to heavier weights and less reps to really prove what you can do. 


If you stick with such a plan you will definitely see a change in your body shape and its capabilities in a space of time as short as 12 weeks (this allows at least 4 weeks per block), depending upon where you are in your training you can extend or shorten this time but ideally you want to give each a block a good time to focus upon it.

Strength Training Benefits

intensity

 

Strength

The first and foremost benefit to strength training would be strength.

Obvious, I know, however it is easy to begin to focus too much on the by-products of it all – whether that be the postural improvements, the cardio improvements or the general ‘functionality’ of it all. 

The word ‘functionality’ is used as it is quite often banded about in the fitness world with no real meaning. A good strength routine will help you in your everyday life, that to me is what people are trying to define when they mention functionality.

There are some helpful side effects from strength training too, such as: –

  • Increase in muscle size;
  • Fat loss;
  • Postural improvements;
  • Improved athleticism;
  • Injury prevention, and;
  • Technique.

Each of these are can be excellent to bring in, depending upon your goals. The measure at which you achieve these can be managed by the programming of the factors behind your strength training plan (more on this later).

 

Muscle Mass.

strength training muscle mass

Another one of those common misconceptions you may hear about training is how you need to do high reps with a low weight in order to increase muscle mass. This isn’t strictly true, but nor is it strictly false. 

Generally, you would need to stimulate the muscles with reps in the ranges of 6-12 but the intensity would need to be heavy enough to be a challenge but also light enough to get the prescribed reps.

However, it has been shown that training in the strength zone (4-6 reps) of intensity is also likely to increase muscle mass as long as volume is sufficient.

If you’re looking to gain muscle the rule is simple. If you don’t get stronger you won’t get bigger!

A good strength training plan will have a focus on hypertrophy, the gaining of muscle mass – towards the start of the plan, just with an overall focus on absolute strength gain by the end of the plan.

 

Fat Loss.

fat loss

Someone with more lean mass, ie more muscle, is likely to have better control of their metabolism when it comes to dieting to lose fat. There is also no point in trying to lose fat without having some muscle mass there

If you lose 10lbs of weight with no distinction between fat and muscle then you’re likely to be left a bit weaker and less healthy. If you are wanting to look better you shouldn’t just be focusing on weight loss. You want to lose weight and add muscle. 

The same holds true if you’re a woman. Don’t be afraid of getting stronger and putting on a bit of muscle while losing fat. You’re not going to end up looking like a meaty bodybuilder unless you’re using steroids. In fact your body will look more toned and healthy with a good amount of muscle mass and low body fat.

Strength training works well in any sort of health regime – whether it be with a goal of getting stronger, bigger or losing fat. It always has its place and after all there is never a time where being stronger isn’t a benefit.

 

Posture Improvements.

postural improvements

This is one that a lot of people don’t always equate with strength training.

To explain it, imagine Bob. 

Bob is a person who has an office job – you’re instantly thinking of slouched shoulders here, and you’re right to – he decides to start going to the gym.

When he gets to the gym he erroneously decides to focus just on his chest and biceps – after all, these are the only muscles people are going to see – meaning he completely neglects his back, neck and shoulder muscles. 

As his chest and biceps get bigger (and tighter) the muscles on the opposite side of his body then stretch and there is a massive imbalance between the front and the posterior of his body.

You can imagine how with a bigger and tighter chest and biceps his shoulders would then be drawn forward, towards the chest, and downwards the biceps.

So how would you fix this?

After all, it is a result of poor strength training and can lead to issues.

To correct an imbalance like this, you would have to balance it out. it is likely that you are going to need a good deal of mobility work in your shoulders, while also strengthening the back and triceps.

A sports massage can help, but if you find yourself in this position you just need to get back to basics and begin strengthening the backside of your body until you get back into alignment. You might even want to take it lighter on the chest and biceps exercises for a little while.

Obviously it is better if you avoid this all together and follow a structured strength training plan to prevent any imbalances and avoid any pain or discomfort that would come with them.

When strength training is done right your posture could be improved from the start rather than being exaggerated to the point of more pain and more of an issue.

 

Improved Athleticism.

strength training athleticism

As strength is never a weakness the gaining of strength can only lead to improved functionality and athletic performance.

Strength will tend to lead to increased control over a certain movement or skill due to the range of force or pressure you can apply to it. This greater control can lead to either an advanced level of skill or at least the appearance of such.

Think of it in terms of football or rugby, if one player has the ball and the other tackles them, which is more likely to come out of it successful?

Probably the stronger one!

Strength will also affect your other attributes such as your speed your stamina and your pain threshold.

The extra muscle you have can help you to take more hits if your sport is full contact, such as boxing or rugby – a stronger contender is likely to absorb more hits without their performance suffering greatly.

Another factor is a point that will be touched on soon, is that going on a strength training regimen will also lead to better movement patterns due to your technique work and biomechanical improvements.

If you learn to squat, or deadlift, properly without form issues such as valgus knees or hip impingement your general movement will be better and you will be more able to build strength in the vital areas surrounding the posterior chain (in this example).

 

Protection from injuries.

strength training injuries

You might be concerned that starting a strength training program could lead to you developing an injury.

The fact of the matter is it is often the opposite.

Yes if you are training with poor form or overtraining the front side of your body you can develop injuries.

However with proper form, strength training is not only safe but will build your body into a position that actually helps you to stay injury free during your daily activities.

This is the big one for a good deal of people, and rightly so. This reason for training transcends the regular aesthetic or professional goals (nothing wrong with them, many people have them, including me) as it relates to your health, longevity and general well-being.

A good strength training routine will lead to increase muscle, stronger and thicker joints as well as stronger and thicker bones.

Over time heavy impact work increases the activity of osteoblasts within your body which in turn leads to bigger and stronger bones – now this might not be something you’ve considered but when you get to middle aged, or elderly, and you fall over you might find yourself thankful for your years of pumping iron as you will likely walk away far less injured then your more sedentary friends.

You may also find yourself simply able to stop things crushing you, or stop yourself from falling down or of something, such as a mountain or a high ledge. This last example only seems silly until your climbing a mountain.

This also links in with the earlier section on postural improvements. The way to fix certain posture issues is to strengthen the weak area, and lengthen the tight area – strength training and coaches should take any postural imbalances into account and apply their strength training knowledge accordingly.

 

Technique and Form.

deadlift technique

In a similar vein to protecting yourself from injuries and postural improvements, your training should focus upon fixing your form and technique before it shifts its focus to your strength gains.

A movement with a poor foundation (ie – bad form) should not have strength built upon it. 

Rather the form should be focused upon long before any weight or load is added in order to improve and strengthen the foundation first.

This will obviously benefit your ability to perform the specific exercise but it will also cross over into your real life and how you move about every day.

Someone who squats with valgus knees (knees which collapse inwards on the ascent on squat) are likely to suffer from an imbalance in their hips or glutes, which could also show in how they stand, walk or run.

Addressing the cause of this problem, and not just the symptoms, can lead to you finding that once the imbalance is addressed you’re more comfortable in every day life and can move better in general, as well as during their squat session, which they may also find that they can now add more weight to.

 

Summary.

Now that we have examined the positives and the potential advantages or partaking in a strength training routine, we will explore the nuances of strength training. That is – the exercises and their programming.

 

Compound vs Isolation Exercises

The compound lifts, in particular ‘The Big 3’ (squat, bench and deadlift), are exercises in which you use an array of muscles or joints in the same movement.

This is as opposed to isolation movements which will only use one muscle (you guessed it) in isolation.

The compound exercises use a larger cross section of muscles and joints, so it is on these where you will show the most strength.

Think of how much you can bench press as opposed to a curl. 

Sticking with the bench press as an example, it may only consist of the pectoralis muscles, the deltoids and the triceps but the pectoralis is a massive muscle (comparatively for the upper body) but this explains why it is one of the best measures of upper body strength there is available.

Keep in mind at this point that, while, a bigger muscle isn’t necessarily a stronger muscle, it does have the potential to be stronger and this links in with why most strength training routines will have a hypertrophy element at the beginning of them.

A lifter with a weak bench press might benefit from some chest, shoulder or triceps hypertrophy in order to eventually improve their lagging bench press.

So, yes exercises like flyes and skull crushers might occasionally find their place within a strength training routine but they won’t be treated as a heavy or intense exercise – they will purely be there to stimulate a hypertrophy response to aid the big compound lifts.

 

The Big Three Compound Lifts

Compounds lifts incorporate any exercise that uses more than one muscle group or joint action within its movement, however, there are bigger or more popular ones than others.

The most popular within the strength training community would be the squat, bench press and deadlift. 

A good deal of other compounds are variations, regression or progressions of these.

As a result of their prevalence here we will examine each of them to garner a better understanding of them.

 

The Squat.

squatting for strength

The squat is an exercise that uses the quadriceps, the hamstrings, the glutes and the back.  To put it really simply you place a bar across your trapezius, or shoulders (more on that in a moment), then you squat down to a position where your hips are below the top of your thighs and then power back up to a standing position.

Squats are a major exercise in most leg workouts, however in reality they are a whole body movement.

There are two distinct bar positions which can be used to squat – High bar and Low bar.

The majority of people will learn high bar, and this will be in the inventory of the recreational gym goer too. 

High bar is where the bar is placed across the trapezius muscle near the neck. This position works best for people who squat with their back in a more upright position.

Low bar can be a bit trickier to find the best position.

The best way to find the correct position is to set the bar up in a high bar position against the rack and to slide the bar down your back until you find a second racking position, you’ll feel where it sits nicely.

In fact, most people will find that they cannot physically slide the bar down any further as this racking position, or ‘shelf’, gets in the way of the bar’s path. The low bar position is usually about 2 inches lower than where it would be for a high bar squat.

With the bar being in this position you may find that your hand width is affected. You will likely also notice that your wrists, elbows and shoulders will feel a little uncomfortable due to the rotation needed to grasp the bar correctly.

Here is a visual representation of the difference in bar position between high bar (left) and low bar (right).

bar position squat


Genetics play a large role in which bar position you choose –

  • High Bar requires – greater ankle flexion, shorter relative femur length, longer torso length, wider stance and more quadriceps dominance.
  • Low Bar requires – longer relative femur length, shorter torso, wider stance, greater gluteal strength.

Also, high bar squats respond best to an elevation in the heel, so this is where weightlifting shoes can come in handy. Low bars respond better to no heel elevation, so flat shoes are good for this.

High Bar vs Low Bar

High bar is easier on the shoulders, wrists and elbows and feels like a more natural position. That’s why most people start out with high bar squats.

Squatting low bar can increase your squat by 10-20% by incorporating more hips into the lift. That’s why powerlifters prefer to squat low bar and the reason I changed from high bar to low bar.

If low bar feels too uncomfortable stick with high bar but I recommend trying both variations to see which works best for you.

 

The Bench Press.

chest exercises

The bench press was mentioned at the start of this section and it was said that it was one of the best measures of upper body strength in a your repertoire.

However, an argument could be made for the push press or even the barbell row, which uses the posterior side of the upper body and performs a pull instead of a pushing movement.  All three of these movements are great, but we are going to focus on the bench press here.

The barbell bench press is a staple in any good chest workout.

A bench press is when you lie down on a bench (on your back, of course) unrack the bar over your chest, although its more like your face/neck, and bring it down to your chest (all the way), pause it, and then press it back up.

With doing this you are using the pectoralis muscles, the triceps and the deltoids (you are also using the latissimus dorsi (the back) to bring the bar down in a controlled manner on the descent phase).

When lowering the bar it is important that you keep in mind the angle that your arms are at in relation to your torso.

The mistake a lot of people make is by holding their elbows at 90 degrees to their body.

This is incorrect.

Doing that might allow you to lift a little bit more in the short term but opens you up to all sorts of shoulder injuries.

The other less common mistake is tucking your arms in too close to your sides.

You should aim to lower the weight with your arms at a 50 to 60 degree angle to your body.

The image on the far right shows the proper angle your arms should be when performing the incline and flat barbell bench press.

bench-press-elbows

The powerlifting style of bench press can often get strange looks from the uninitiated due to its potentially wider grip, strange foot position and bizarre back arch.

The reason for this is that the rule book states that your feet need to be flat on the floor, and your butt, shoulders and head need to be in contact with the bench. There is no mention of where your back should be, and by raising the back (and therefore the chest) up you are minimising the range of motion in which the bar has to travel, and this should result in more weight being shifted. Implementing an arch also leads to you maintaining a better tightness throughout both portions of the movement.

 

The Deadlift.

This exercise uses the most muscles of any we’ve gone over so far. It uses:

  • The hamstrings.
  • The glutes.
  • The Quadriceps.
  • The lower back.
  • The upper back, and –
  • The forearms.

It probably would have been quicker to explain which muscles it doesn’t use.

Due to the amount of muscle groups used it is likely to be the strongest of ‘The Big 3’.

However, some of the bigger guys and gals will tend to find that they are better at squatting than deadlifting due to their proportions. Just check out some of the top 120+ powerlifters like Ray Williams.

The deadlift is where you have a barbell on the floor from a dead stop (hence the name) and you pick it up and lift it to hip height so that your knees, hips, and shoulders are locked out.

Conventional or Sumo?

As with the bar positions on the squat, there are two main types of deadlift which can be employed (while there are also many other variations that can be used to isolate different muscles).

The conventional deadlift is very narrow. You will have a narrow foot stance and as a result you will have a narrow hand spacing upon the bar (just wider than your feet).

The set up for the conventional deadlift will look something like –

Set your feet.  Meaning to set the width of your feet as well as find where they go in relation to the bar. Your foot width is normally roughly heels in line with your shoulders and with your toes pointed out a little, for increased glute involvement.

Next you will have it so that the bar is covering the bottom shoelace/bottom of your toes. This will leave about an inch gap between your shin and the bar. This gives you enough space to get down to the bar whilst staying tight without falling over. For the rest of the setup we don not want to roll the bar towards or away from us as we have it exactly where it needs to be.

Bend down to grab the bar. With stiff knees bend down until you can grab the bar with your hands just either side of your feet. Then bring your knees forward until the shin touches the bar. Make sure you don’t roll the bar when you do this. Push your knees out slightly into your arms.

Squeeze your chest up. At this point you want to squeeze the chest up (without dropping your hips) so that you have a neutral spine position. It is important to keep your spine neutral throughout the lift and not allow it to round down.  When squeezing your chest up make sure that you don’t drop your hips. You don’t want them so low so that you have “squat” the bar off of the floor.

You might also find that if you do start too low you might put a lot of effort into the movement when in reality all you are doing at this point is waiting for your hips to get into the correct starting place before they move.

Lift it. And do so in a controlled manner. Don’t just grip it and rip it, this is likely to result in your upper back just giving up.

The vast majority of people simply don’t have the upper back strength to do this without their shoulders caving. Initially pulling like this can result in the bar coming off of the floor very slowly but you’ll get used to it and it will result in you maintaining your shape throughout the whole movement.

While lifting it the bar should stay in contact with your legs throughout the whole movement. Return the bar to a dead stop on the floor to complete the movement.

Here’s a video explaining the deadlift process.

Now that we have looked at conventional, lets take a whirl at sumo:

The Sumo deadlift, however, involves having a very wide stance with your feet turned out. Your arms will be fairly narrow.

The sumo deadlift has a shorter range of motion to travel than the conventional does but it does not suit everyone. Generally, it requires a longer relative femur length and short torso length. However, this does not mean every low bar squatter will sumo deadlift, as arm length also plays a large part in the set up.

deadlift strength training

 

Set your Feet. Stand with your feet wide, so wide so that when you bend down in this position your shins are roughly vertical. This may take some work, especially if your hips/adductors/ glutes or even your ankles are tight.

Push the knees out, and keep the back tight. Grab the bar at, roughly, shoulder width. This means that your arms will be pretty much straight down.

Find your hip position. Get your hips and shoulders aligned so your back is not arched. You don’t want the hips too low as this is likely to curve your lower back. If your hips are too high you’re likely to just ‘conventional deadlift’ it off of the floor. By which I mean that a sumo pull should be less of a hinge movement than a conventional deadlift.

Begin with the feet. Dig your heels in and push the floor away, while you do this imagine that you are pushing your feet out to the sides as well.

Knees before hips. Your knees are likely to lock as the bar passes them, this differs from conventional where your knees and hips will lock out together.

Lockout! Stand up to straight, do not hyperextend but this is where you lock out your hips.

 

Bonus 4th Compound exercise – The military press.

military press strength exercise

We mentioned this earlier, the push press is a variation on this. The military press uses similar muscles to the bench press but as you are stood vertically it virtually removes the pectoralis muscles from the movement which then makes it weaker as a strength exercise.

To do this exercise you will be stood upright in front of a barbell placed on a rack, hopefully at a good height for you to unrack from without hurting yourself or falling over.

You will then unrack the bar and place it in front of your shoulders and above your chest, keeping your upper body tight, you will then press the bar directly upwards (avoiding hitting yourself in the face on the way, ideally.)

You will then return the bar to the starting position (not hitting your face again) and you will have completed a rep.

Your foot stance on this is whichever you find yourself strongest really.

Most people will go with a foot stance of about shoulder width, others might find that they go for a split stance, in that they have one foot in front of the other. This is one of those things to experiment with and see which is strongest.

 

Bonus 5th Compound exercise – Barbell row.

The bench press and military press are pushing movements in that they involve the muscles which push objects away or off of our bodies, such as the pectorals, the triceps and anterior deltoids.

The barbell, or bent over row, involves muscles which bring muscles in towards the body, ie the biceps and latissimus dorsii. 

The pulling muscles are generally a little bit weaker, naturally, than the pushing ones, this is for survival reasons really – it is more useful to push an object off of us, or at least slow it down, for survival than it is to pull one towards us.

The barbell row is used mainly to develop the latissimus dorsii and therefore is a fantastic strength and size builder and should be included in your back workouts.

To do it you will need to learn how to hinge your hips, if you can do a good conventional deadlift you should find that this position isn’t too hard to accomplish. 

Either pick up the barbell from the floor or a low rack, hinge yourself so that you are bent at your hips (not bending your back.)

Stick your butt back and have a slight bend in the knee (you don’t want your knees locked here, your back will be straight so straight legs will put too much pressure on the posterior chain.)

Now the barbell should be hanging from your straight arms, you then want to row it in towards your rib cage whilst maintaining this position – meaning that you are staying tight and not sacrificing your back shape.

 

Isolations in comparison.

isolation exercise

You might be looking at the muscles involved in the exercise above and wondering why you would need to do isolations from here. Surely all of these exercises cover and incorporate each muscle I want to target, what more could I need?

Technically, you’re right. Those exercises will get you very far and they will improve the strength of your body as a whole and as a unit. Depending on your goals those compound lifts alone could be enough.

However isolation exercises can still play a part in your workouts to help build muscle and target lagging muscle groups.

Some people are naturally dominant in some aspects depending upon their build, injury history and skill set.

For example, someone who is glute dominant on squats might find that they naturally favour using their glutes and hamstrings to power up through ascent on a squat and can get very little quad involvement in their squat.

To adapt to this, this person might include front squats, leg press or leg extensions in order to stimulate some quad hypertrophy.

Again, you might have questions, such as – why would this matter? Someone who is glute, or posterior chain dominant in a squat will find that they fold over a bit when coming up on a squat, this could result in them just being taken forward or off of their bar path on the way up and lead to them failing the squat.

Also, earlier in this article a fair bit was mentioned about muscular imbalances, over developed glutes (compared to the quads and hip flexors) could lead to an imbalance in the posture, movement and general comfort and pain of a person.

 

Programming

strength training programming

Programming incorporates a variety of factors – it is more than just a coach writing you a programme and leaving it at that. A good coach will have considered the factors involved in writing your plan and not just throwing you a plan together which may or may not work. 

The elements that absolutely need to be considered in a good strength training plan would be –

  • Volume.
  • Intensity.
  • Frequency.
  • Fatigue.
  • Progressive overload.
  • Over reaching/compensation.
  • Rest and recovery.

Once all of these factors are considered for the individual lifter they can then be manipulated into a coherent, effective plan that will see you reach your goals.

 

Volume

Volume has been shown to be the decisive factor in your training, particularly in relation to strength and size increases.

Volume incorporates:

  • Time or duration
  • Distance covered/weight lifted
  • The repetitions of an exercise performed

The second and third bullet points are the most relevant for this article. The way to determine volume is with the formula of:

Weight lifted x sets x repetitions.

For example, if you were to squat 100kg for four sets of eight repetitions this would equate to a volume of 3200kg.

It is all well and good to be conscious of the daily volume but the weekly, or even monthly, volume also needs to be observed.

If your volume of this week beats the last week’s then you are progressing.

 

Intensity

Intensity is the qualitative variable to volume’s quantitative one.

The more work that you do within a single session, then the more intense that session is.

The intensity depends upon the load, speed of performance and variation of rest between sets and repetitions. One point often overlooked about intensity is the psychological effect it can have.

In the case of strength/size gains intensity would depend mainly upon the load utilised in a workout, for example multiple repetitions at 80% of your 1 rep max would be a lot more intense than singles at 70% of your 1 rep max.

Relationship between Volume and Intensity. 

As the volume goes up in a workout the intensity should come down, and vice versa.

Whichever variable you decide to focus on will have a different effect upon your body’s adaptation.

Finding the optimal balance of both is a tricky task. Strength athletes could use Prilepin’s chart to this end.

 

Prilepins chart

Understanding Prilepin’s chart.

The first column bases the percentage on a single repetition maximum lift. For instance, if someone’s 1RM deadlift is 400 lbs. 90% of that amount would 360 lbs.

The second column suggest the optimal number of repetitions per set. So as the percentages increase the number of reps decrease. This is designed to mitigate fatigue and limit the stress on the nervous system which can lead to overtraining.

The third column shows the optimal number of reps per workout for strength gains. You will see again as the percenage increases the optimal number of repetitions decrease, with the biggest decrease from the 80% to the 90%+.

The fourth column is a range of reps based on the percentages. You will see that the optimal range reps is right in the middle of the total range. Performing any less reps than  the minimum number will not result in enough stimulation to get stronger.

 

Your Training Level and Frequency

In order to organise your frequency you need to know what you are training for and how experienced you are with it. The latter part is included as while it might be optimal to train bench press 4x a week, if you’re a complete beginner who has never done bench press once a week on a regular basis jumping into 4x quickly will be disastrous for your upper body as well as your adherence.

The main thing is to organise your volume into a reasonable and manageable schedule. As you get more advanced you will need more and more volume. Frequency becomes more important here as you can organise the extra volume in such a way for you to recover.

 

Recovery

strength training recovery

If you get to a point in your training where you are recovering fine but not progressing then you have reached the dreaded plateau.

The way around this is generally to add more volume (you would reduce volume if you were plateaued and struggling to recover) and in order to do this you might need to add another day of training.

You should always be training in such a way that you have recovered adequately for the next session. If you aren’t recovering properly then it is likely that you are doing too much volume.

Alternatively, you shouldn’t be feeling 100% refreshed, especially if you are quite far into a training block.

So, basically the more advanced you are the more days you should be training.

Beginners could progress with a full body plan performed twice a week, whereas a more advanced lifter might have an upper/lower split or even different body parts on different days.

A common mistake with beginners is that they try to run before you can walk.

 

Fatigue.

strength training fatigue

Fatigue is one of those factors that you will really feel. It might be something that you’ll try to avoid, but you really shouldn’t.

Fatigue is a good measurement of where you are in your training.

As the volume and/or intensity increases, so will your fatigue. 

However, once you then remove that fatigue, you will find that you feel much, much stronger. 

This may sound like an easy way to show your strength often but it takes time and needs to be built up over time.

You won’t simply get stronger overnight and the amount of volume and intensity you need to put your body through to really get stronger is very stressful upon you and your central nervous system.

Which means that you shouldn’t go through this cycle of peaking too much, otherwise you risk damaging yourself, as well as simply just not getting stronger.

Fatigue is:

“The consequence of physical work, which, as a result, reduces the capacity of the neuromuscular and metabolic systems to continue physical activity.”

In layman’s terms, this means that the more training you do, the less energy you can produce to do it.

Sounds pretty obstructive to your training, right?

We know that generally with enough rest, be that in between sets or sessions, we can recover our energy stores and get back to it.

The idea of fatigue dispersing within a session is generally correct.

However, this is only in relation to acute fatigue – which is fatigue built up over a short period of time and work.

The other, nastier type of fatigue is chronic fatigue, this builds up and lasts over a period of days, weeks, and sometimes even, months.

Acute fatigue will not always dissipate in between sessions, particularly if you train with a good amount of frequency. A failure to manage fatigue will result in a drop in performance, adaptation and will also likely increase your risk of injury.

Why do we need fatigue?

The human body is naturally quite lazy. We could just plod along without growing in strength or size quite easily.

However, if you’re reading this, its unlikely that’s what you want to do. We need to push our bodies away from this easy platform and push on, and the way to do this is with overload and progressive overload.

Overload is when the training stimulus (weight, reps or sets) is within the maximal threshold of the adaptive system, and; the stimulus is on average greater than any in recent history.

So progressive overload, put simply is the increase of the work done during a workout. This increase can be done via the weight lifted, the repetitions per set or the number of sets themselves. 

By training within this threshold, your body is forced to recover to a point wherein it is stronger than it was previously. Training in this area taxes us, depletes our energy and recovery ability, that is, it causes fatigue.

 

Using Fatigue FOR You –

Various programs will utilise fatigue in order to push you further into that adaptive overload threshold mentioned above. 

While pretty much any kind of increase in volume will lead to further fatigue and technically more overload, it needs to be approached smarter than this. 

The amount of fatigue, and therefore stress needs to be managed and manipulated via careful tracking and planning. This can be done via such methods as determining your MRV (Maximum Recoverable Volume) for yourself and the phase you’re in or by tracking and manipulating the volume with specific fatigue work.

Manipulating the fatigue is important as once we have adjusted to a particular training volume we begin to recover to that volume. If some of this volume is removed for a short time, your body will still recover as efficiently from the same volume as before.

Meaning that if your body is used to being fatigued down to 70% and then recovering up to 100%, you could all of a sudden train so that you are only fatiguing to 75% and your body will still recover by the previous 30%, putting you, for a short time, at roughly 105%.

This is why ‘over reaching’ is used in sports such as powerlifting. The athlete will be worked to a point close to over training in order to take advantage of the compensation effect. Meaning that, if planned correctly, a powerlifter could turn up on meet day at something like 105%.

 

Rest/Recovery

Recovery must become a daily part of your training plan, allow yourself this time to recover so that you can truly give it your all the next time around. 

There are also various factors that need to be considered when looking at recovery rates, which include: –

– Age: Athletes over 25 need longer to recover. Whereas athletes under 18 need more time to facilitate overcompensation.

– Gender: Female athletes have a lower recovery rate due to endocrinal differences, such as the lack of testosterone.

– Environment :Training at high altitude or different temperatures.

– Mobility/freedom of movement: tight myofascial tissue makes it difficult for the blood supply to deliver the necessary nutrients.

– Type of muscle fibre: Fast twitch fatigues much quicker than slow twitch

– Type of exercise/energy system used: an aerobic session would take longer to recover than a sprint session

– Psychological factors: This effects hormone production, a negative athlete will likely produce more stress hormones which can have detrimental physiological effects

– Injury: Another hormone related one, an injury will lead to increased levels of catabolic hormones and ammonia

– Diet: if the diet isn’t sufficient then the body is not getting what it requires for metabolism, creating energy or muscular reconstruction. If you are looking to put on muscle and strength check out this article on clean bulking.

– Efficient energy transfer: A better conditioned athlete will be more efficient at turning fuel into energy and dealing with the waste products from this transfer.

 

That is quite a list for you all there! All of these things need considering when it comes to your recovery.

When it comes to recovery you can try various means, such as:

– Kinotherapy: This is where you rapidly discard of the waste products in your muscles, such as Lactic Acid. This would entail either some light aerobic work or stretching. More commonly known as ‘Active Rest’

– Complete rest: This is basically just sleep. It is recommended that you 8-10 hours sleep when you are an active athlete. Not all of this sleep has to come at night, 10-20% can be made up in power naps throughout the day.

– Massage

– Heat Therapy

– Contrast baths/showers: This is one I use, beware though if you finish with cold you’ll feel more awake, but if you finish with warm you’ll feel drowsy quickly. Keep that in mind if you’re about to drive home!

Deload Week: This should be a scheduled week in your training that you back off the weights a bit to allow your body to fully recover and continue growing stronger. How often you should deload depends on a lot of factors but scheduling one into your workouts every 6-8 weeks is a good rule of thumb.

This is just a brief overview of the factors involved in, and the ways of incorporating, rest and recovery into your training plans.

This is just a brief overview of the factors involved in, and the ways of incorporating, rest and recovery into your training plans.

 

Conclusion

The information you have from this article is not exactly a straight forward “do this and you’ll get really strong” – it is more of a bundle of tools. If you read through this and understand what it all means you will then be able to put all of the factors together into a strength training programme which will then see you towards your goals.

None of the elements are more or less important than their counterparts, in fact, they all need to work together, and be manipulated in such a way that they help you to achieve your goals in terms of strength and size.

As an example you cannot ignore volume when working out intensity, or vice versa, they are just factors involved in your training. Knowing how to manipulate these into a coherent fashion, along with good solid movement patterns in your exercises will put you on the right path. It may take some playing around – some people respond better to more frequency, others to higher volume intra-session, it will just take some time to figure what works best for you.

Basically, the information here is a guide. Use it and experiment it a little bit, you might not get it right first try but you will be much closer than if you tried without this comprehensive guide.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Tracy

    April 6, 2019 at 6:37 am

    Understood what you saying,thank you.now I know what I need to do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Training

Ultimate Tricep Workouts – 4 Exercises for Serious Size!

Kyran Doyle

Published

on

tricep workouts

If you are looking for workouts to build bigger and stronger triceps then this is the article for you.

Most guys start training at the gym chasing bigger arms, and that usually means doing all sorts of bicep curl variations.

What most people don’t realise is that the bulk of the arms isn’t actually made up by the biceps.

In fact it’s the triceps that makes up much more of the size of your arms.

So if you are looking for bigger arms, it’s the triceps that you want to develop.

This image highlights my point pretty clearly.

tricep exercises

 

In this article we are going to break down exactly how you can build big, horseshoe triceps.

Before we jump into the workouts it is helpful to have an understanding of the tricep muscles so we can get the best results when training them.

 

A Breakdown of the Tricep Muscles

triceps workouts for mass

 

The Triceps Brachii or triceps is a three headed muscle group that forms a horseshoe shape and makes up the entire back side of your upper arm.

triceps muscle breakdown

Looking at this picture you can see that when each of the three heads are developed they create a horseshoe shape on the back of your arm.

Sadly, the biceps are usually given the focus in most people’s workouts.

The triceps play an important role in stabilising the shoulder. Therefore underdeveloped triceps can lead to muscle imbalances and overcompensation of other muscles.

The lateral head is the largest of the three heads which means it develops the fastest and has the greatest overall impact to the look of your triceps.

However a good tricep workout will develop all 3 heads to give you the full horseshoe shape that makes your arms look big from all angles.

 

Tricep Training Principles

When you ask someone “what’s the best way to train your triceps” you can get a lot of answers.

Some advise you to focus on high reps to get a pump and really feel the burn.

Others say you need to hit your triceps multiple times a week to get real growth.

Then there are the people that say simply doing a lot of heavy compound pressing movements will grow your triceps and you don’t need to train them directly.

With all of this confusion out there it can be difficult to really understand what you should be doing in your tricep workouts.

What I’ve found works best is a combination of the above. The best way to grow your arms is through heavy compound lifting and directly training them with both high and low rep training. Like all muscle groups heavy weightlifting is key to maximising muscle growth.

When it comes to building lean muscle there are two key factors:

1. Performing the right exercises.

Performing the right exercises in your tricep workouts is very important. Simply because some exercises are better at progressively overloading your triceps than others.

For most people it will be necessary to directly train your triceps to get the size and definition you are after. Heavy pressing will help to build the triceps and is a good foundation however it works best when accompanied by some direct training of the triceps too.

Heavy compound exercises are the key to adding strength and size to your triceps. As a general rule of thumb barbell exercises are going to be more effective than machine exercises.

2. Achieving progressive overload on your muscles.

Achieving progressive overload in your training is the only way that you are going to see results on your triceps.

In order to keep getting bigger and stronger we need to continue to subject our muscles to more and more tension over time.

So put simply:

If you don’t keep getting stronger you won’t get bigger.

You can accomplish this by adding volume (reps) but eventually you will need to add weight to the bar. That’s why the biggest guys in the gym are usually the strongest.

 

Volume

best tricep workout routine

When it comes to training the triceps (or any muscle group for that matter) getting the right volume is key. This becomes even more important when you are focusing on heavy weightlifting.

As a general rule of thumb the heavier the reps you’re doing the fewer you can perform each week.

Makes sense right!

Heavier weights mean you need to give your muscles more time to recover or you can risk overtraining.

Usually when training with heavy weights the optimal volume is 60 to 70 reps every 5 to 7 days.

This rule isn’t just for the triceps but every other muscle group as well.

When it comes to triceps you need to take into account the amount of work they do in your other pushing workouts. Your triceps are heavily involved in benching and overhead, shoulder pressing.

If you are doing a heavy chest workout and additional heavy overhead pressing each week, then performing an additional 60 reps of heavy tricep training is going to be too much.

If you fit the criteria above around 30 to 40 heavy reps of tricep training per week along with the right diet should be enough to stimulate growth without pushing yourself into the danger area of overtraining.

 

Best Tricep Exercises

tricep exercises

As we talked about earlier in this article, the triceps make up the bulk of the arms mass. So if it’s bigger arms you’re wanting you need to be hitting your triceps hard.

When it comes to exercises that build serious mass in your triceps you need to forget what the bodybuilding magazines have told you.

You don’t need to do twenty different isolation exercises mixed with supersets, drop sets and other tactics to “keep your muscles guessing.”

There are a few tricep exercises that bring in the bulk of the results when training your triceps.

Here are the best exercises to build bigger triceps:

 

Close Grip Bench

Don’t mistake the bench press for just a chest exercise. The close grip variation activates your triceps heavily as well.

The close grip bench allows you to safely push heavy amounts of weights and will help your chest a bit too. Remember if you want to build muscle you need to lift heavy.

Quick tip: When performing the close grip bench grab the bar with a slightly narrower than shoulder width grip.

 

Dip

There are two main dip variations that you can do to target the triceps. Both are good exercises and can be interchanged depending on the equipment you have available to you.

The first variation of dip requires a dip station like the one in the video below.

This exercise can be altered to target either the chest or the triceps.

To keep the focus on your triceps make sure you keep your elbows tucked in to your sides and keep your body relatively upright.

The further you lean forward the more emphasis is put on your chest and shoulders in the movement. We don’t want to do this for our tricep workout.

This is how you do it:

The second variation of triceps dips is on a bench like this:

 

Skullcrushers

Scull crushers are a great exercise for activating the triceps and emphasises the medial head.

You can perform the movement with the bar coming down to your forehead or down behind your head for a different angle on the arms.

This has been a staple in many tricep workouts because it gets results.

 

Overhead triceps press (french press)

Another great exercise to really hit the long head of the triceps hard. The overhead triceps press allows you to safely press heavy weight and progressively overload your triceps.

 

Tricep Pushdown

You’ve probably seen this done a lot by people at the gym. It’s by far one of the most popular triceps exercises out there and it is pretty good for isolating the triceps.

I like to save this exercise for the end of my workouts after I have done some other heavier lifts first.

The Best Tricep Workout Routine

The keys to a good tricep workout are:

  • It hits each of the heads of the tricep.
  • It’s made up of heavy lifts, focusing on progressive overload.

The lateral head of the tricep is going to be where you get the most mass out of the triceps. Exercises like dips, close grip bench and tricep pushdown are all good exercises to target the lateral head.

With that said you don’t want to overlook the other two heads either.

Skullcrushers and overhead pressing are good exercises to target the long and medial heads.

If your workout hit all three heads of the triceps the second thing you need to do is focus on lifting heavy and achieving progressive overload in your workouts.

Achieving progressive overload in your workouts is the best way to see results on your triceps.

In order to keep getting bigger and stronger we need to continue to subject our muscles to more and more tension over time.

So put simply:

If you don’t keep getting stronger your triceps won’t keep getting bigger.

You can accomplish this by adding volume (reps) but eventually you will need to add weight to the bar. That’s why the biggest guys in the gym are usually the strongest.

Do this tricep workout ever 5 to 7 days along with a correct diet and you will see results on your triceps.

Close Grip Bench Press

3 sets of 4-6 reps

Weighted Dips

3 sets of 4-6 reps

Overhead Triceps Press

3 sets 4-6 reps

The aim is to start with a weight that you can do 4-6 reps with. Once you hit 6 reps, the next set you up the weight and aim to get 4+ reps with the heavier weight.

This way you are always progressing in your workouts.

 

Final Word On Tricep Workouts

Training triceps is the same as training any other body part. If you want to get results and see that horseshoe shape on the back of your arms you need to:

  • Do the Right Exercises
  • Achieve Progressive overload through heavy weightlifting
  • Do enough volume without overtraining
  • Eat right

Consistency is key. Stick with this workout for 2 months and you will see results on the back of your arms.

Like This Workout? You’ll Love These:

The Best Leg Workout

The Ultimate Chest Workout

The Ultimate Back Workout

Ultimate Arms Workout

The Best Forearm Workout

The Push Pull Legs Bible

What do you think of this tricep workout? Are there any other tricep exercises that you like? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Continue Reading

Training

How To Achieve Muscle Hypertrophy [Get Bigger Muscles]

Kyran Doyle

Published

on

muscle hypertrophy training

Muscle Hypertrophy to put simply is the ability to build and gain muscle mass. It’s probably the reason you started going to the gym. Well that and losing some body fat.

There are lots of different voices out there sometimes spreading opposing viewpoints on the best way to achieve muscle hypertrophy.

  • Some people say lifting heavy is the key to building the most muscle.
  • Others say your muscles don’t know weight they only know time under tension.
  • While another trainer will say you need to trick your muscles with different workouts each session to keep your muscles guessing.

I don’t blame you if you’re scratching your head a little.

Muscle hypertrophy is a complicated subject but in this article we are going to break down the fundamentals that make muscles grow.

So if you are looking to build bigger muscles then keep reading.

 

What is Hypertrophy

muscle hypertrophy

Hypertrophy is the fancy term for muscle growth. Without it you can not grow muscle size or strength. So whether you’re looking to get bigger or stronger you need to be focusing on hypertrophy.

There are two types of hypertrophy:

– Myofibrillar hypertrophy, which focuses more on increased myofibril number and size.

The “myo” stands for muscle and the “fibril” is a threadlike cellular structure.

Myofibrils are made up of proteins and are what allow us to contract our muscles.

Myofibrillar hypertrophy is an increase in the number and size of myofibrils in your muscle fibres.

This increase in myofibrils increases the force at which you can contract your muscles.

 

– Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, which focuses more on expansion of the sarcoplasm inside the muscle.

Sarco stands for “flesh and plasmic refers to plasma.

Sarcoplasm is the plasmic parts of muscles cells that include proteins, glycogen, water, collagen and other substances.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in the volume of the fluid in the muscle.

This picture shows the difference between the two types of hypertrophy.

hypertrophy

These both sound daunting and will be revisited later, but they basically refer to strength gain and size gain.

There is a lot of conjecture about whether or not sarcoplasmic hypertrophy actually happens and wether you can directly target it with specific exercises. Various studies have been done but none have really been conclusive enough to confirm one way or another. If you would like to see a breakdown of the studies you should check out this article by Stronger by Science.

The big argument for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy comes about when comparing bodybuilders to powerlifters. How is it that a 280lb bodybuilder get out squatted by a 180lb strength trainer.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is usually used to explain this. The bodybuilder simply has more non functional sarcoplasmic hypertrophy making his muscles bigger but not stronger as it is the myofibrils that are responsible for contraction of the muscle.

That sounds like a fair explanation right?

The argument against that is that strength training requires a large skill component like any sport. Strength athletes are squatting heavier loads more often than a bodybuilder and therefore are more skilled at that performing that lift. In fact a lot of bodybuilders that switch to powerlifting can rapidly increase there numbers in all of there lifts.

So that leaves thing up in the air a little bit.

As there are two types of hypertrophy both definitions will be looked at here.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is what most people will think of when it comes to the idea of hypertrophy, this is where the size of the muscle increases and not necessarily with an increase in performance or strength.

Myofibrillar hypertrophy is where the muscle’s myofibrils increase in size and number which is responsible for the contraction of the muscle (strength.)

You might think that someone training for size would only need sarcoplasmic, whereas someone training for strength would only need myofibrillar.

However, a bigger muscle has far more potential to gain strength whereas a stronger muscle can deal with more volume (which we’ll look at later) which then means that size gains can come more easily.

So, you can see how they work in together.

Any kind of strength training plan will include some kind of hypertrophy, whether that be in a specified block, usually lasting 3-8 weeks, a specific day, often seen during undulating periodisation, or the plan could almost purely based around hypertrophy (such as in bodybuilding or muscle gaining plans).

The accepted consensus is that sets comprised of repetitions of 1-6 are for strength, whereas sets of 6-12 would be more for hypertrophy – as well as the repetition range being adjusted, you would also find the intensity or the weight itself being adjusted in order to fit in to this scheme or range.

However, it has been shown that strength work can lead to as much muscle growth as bodybuilding hypertrophy work – which then leaves some of the traditional thinking around resistance training up in the air.

Sets of 8 is a very simplistic way of looking at hypertrophy as you could easily do 8 sets of 3 (rather than 3 sets of 8) and still end up with the same volume, however the intensity would be vastly different. This would make a phase like this more of an intensity block than a hypertrophy one.

Clearly this needs more explaining, so let’s take a look at the factors involved in programming, and programming hypertrophy specifically.

These factors will include:-

  • Volume.
  • Intensity.
  • Frequency.
  • Fatigue, and
  • Your overall goal.

 

Volume (Progressive Overload).

muscle hypertrophy training

Volume and progressive overload has been proven to be one of the largest factors when it comes to gaining strength or size.

The really simple way to determine volume is to figure out the weight lifted throughout a training session and it is simply:

The weight x sets x reps = total weight or volume.

So, if you were to do 3 sets of 8 with 100kg your total volume would be 2400kg. if you were to go with a simple progressive overload, your next session might simply be 3 sets of 8 with 102.5kg, taking your volume to 2460kg. You can see how the volume can easily be built up in this manner.

 

Intensity.

Intensity is the qualitative aspect to training, whereas volume is the quantitative one.  The intensity depends on the following:

  • Load
  • Speed of performance
  • Variation of rest between sets/reps.

In terms of strength and size training the main point here will be the first one – the load or weight that you are using.

You now know that your sessions should be within the 40-70 repetition range. The intensity range is going to be dependent upon your goals, a strength athlete should have 66% – 75% of their training in the 1-6 rep max range.

Whereas a hypertrophy athlete should be 66% – 75% in the 6-12 rep max range.

 

Frequency.

The frequency is where the training can differ the most between individuals. Not everyone has the same goals or the same time available, and what works for you as an individual now might not work for you 6 months down the line. Meaning that your training may need overhauling at various points.

When your training emphasises heavy weights (80 to 85%+ of 1RM), optimal volume seems to be about 60 to 70 reps performed every 5 to 7 days.

The general rule of thumb is:

The heavier the reps, the less you can do each week.

Makes sense right.

Heavier weights require more recovery. This means that you will be doing less reps and sets than you would be with a lighter weight program.

 

Fatigue.

Fatigue is basically the amount of tiredness you build up both within a session and within a training programme. The more work you do, the less energy you will have to do it, and obviously this means that if fatigue builds up you will have little energy to actually train.

The idea of intra-session fatigue dispersing is generally correct. However, this is only in relation to acute fatigue – i.e.  fatigue built up over a short period of time and work.

The other, nastier, type of fatigue is chronic fatigue, this builds up and lasts over a period of days, weeks, and sometimes even, months.

To avoid the negative side effects of chronic fatigue you can utilise a deload week ever 4-6 weeks or as you feel necessary.

Acute fatigue will not always dissipate in between sessions, particularly if you train with a good amount of frequency.

A failure to manage fatigue will result in a drop in performance and adaptation and will also likely increase your risk of injury.

The volume recommendations above are within a large range, and each person will be able to deal with volume differently, when it comes to finding your correct volume you will need to figure out the maximum recoverable volume (MRV) for you as an individual.  Once you have figured out your own MRV you will be in a good stead for the rest of your training.

If you do find that you are becoming more and more fatigued then you can do a number of things, such as :-

    • Altering the type of lifts – more machine work than free weights would be less fatiguing.
    • Improve technique – making the movement smoother will limit the amount of energy expended

Studies had shown that of each of these factors of hypertrophy progressive overload is the most important for muscle growth.

So if you want to build muscle as quickly as possible you’ll want to make sure you are continually getting stronger.

I should also mention that in order to build muscle you have to be eating enough of the right foods. Performing a clean bulk is becoming a popular to eat enough calories to support hypertrophy while not putting on loads of fat

 

Your Goal.

arm workouts

As you can see above, there are different considerations for whether your goal is more strength gain or size gain. So you would need to adjust these factors in the way it says in order to suit you as an individual in terms of your goal, training level and the length of time with which you want to achieve it.

If your goal goes beyond just “get bigger,” or “get stronger,” then you will still need to incorporate these considerations.

 

Beginner.

If you are a beginner, it is probably worth going for some size initially for a couple of reasons –

      • Again, a bigger muscle has more potential for strength.
      • The higher repetition range literally means more practice for you to put yourself through.

This idea of practicing the movement is often forgotten as most people don’t think of the lifts as skills within themselves. Remember that improving technique leads to a less fatiguing workout, also.

 

Weight loss.

If you’re someone who has been training for a while and are looking to lose weight while also maintaining your strength then you would be best to focus more upon strength training – but you had better keep in mind that the more severe your weight loss goal the less likely you are to gain strength rather than simply maintain it.

In some cases such as if you were overweight then following a more size type of plan could be more beneficial to you. This would encourage more muscle mass to grow and also increase your chances of fat loss due to an improved metabolism.

 

Progression.

push pull legs routine

This section will cover progression – what it is, how to implement it and how to monitor it.

The most commonly known term in this area is ‘progressive overload.’ Which is where you will slowly increase your volume, or intensity (depending upon what phase of training you are in), in order to gradually improve your size or strength over a long period of time.

The simplest way to do this is to imagine you’re doing a strength routine where on week 1 you are doing 5×5 with 100kg – as you’ll know from above – the volume equates to 2500kg of volume. If you add 2.5kg to this each week for 4 weeks by the end you will be at 5×5 with 110kg which equals 2750kg of volume. In theory this would mean that you have added 10% to your volume and therefore also to your strength. 

The above progression example would be beneficial for a beginner lifter, however, a more experienced lifter may find that they can not make these gains in such a linear fashion.

This is where varying the type of training you do may come in.

 

Periodisation.

The example in the last section was a classic iteration of linear periodisation (increasing the weight the same amount week after week). If you find this stops being effective for yourself you may decide to try undulating periodisation.

This means that the volume and intensity is manipulated session to session, with an eye on the overall volume and intensity throughout the phase, in order to keep pushing the volume up and get the strength levels higher.

An example of this might be if you were benching three times a week. One day you could be doing 4 x 8 with 100kg, the second day might be 5×6 with 105kg, and the third maybe 6 x 4 with 110kg.

You can imagine that trying to do 8 reps with 110kg would be far more difficult than getting it for 4 reps, so to get around this you can do more sets of a smaller rep range.

 

Monitoring your progression.

The value of volume has been mentioned various times throughout this article so you can probably guess where this is going – a good way to measure your progress is to see how much volume you are doing at one point compared to an earlier one.

If you’re focusing more upon hypertrophy as a goal to get stronger then a simple way to test is to see if your 1 rep maximum has increased – or even just if you’re working weights have increased or feel easier. A 1 rep max test can be quite taxing on the body so make sure you appropriately programme yourself to do one.

If you’re training for hypertrophy for size you could measure to see if your muscles are getting bigger with a tape measure, visual reference or even your own bodyweight.

You could even programme in some AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) sets, this is where you have one set where you go to just before failure – that is do as many reps as you can without failing or your form giving in.

If one week, or phase, you can do more than the last then you are definitely improving.

 

Conclusion.

Hypertrophy is massive part of training and just human life in general. Without hypertrophy we wouldn’t get stronger, we wouldn’t get bigger and we’d always be weak. Learning how to manipulate and use it in order to reach your goals is always worth doing.

What do you think about muscle hypertrophy? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

References –

The Scientific Principles of Strength Training – Mike Israetel, Chad Wesley Smith, James Hoffman

The Muscle and Strength Pyramid Training – Eric Helms

 

Continue Reading

Training

The Best Forearm Workouts To Improve Grip Strength

Kyran Doyle

Published

on

forearm workouts

If you are looking for the best forearm exercises and tools to create a forearm workout that really works, then you’ve come to the right place.

Forearms are the often overlooked but incredibly necessary muscles of the arms.

From an aesthetic point of view, no physique is complete without a set of strong muscular forearms.

However your forearms are much more important than just looking good.

The forearms are the major muscles responsible for your grip strength, and if you’re looking to get stronger and build muscle you are going to need a strong grip to pull and push heavy loads.

Your grip strength is a vital component of any pulling exercise like the variations of deadlifts and rows. They also help to progress your pushing movements like bench and shoulder pressing as well.

Most good workouts revolve around a lot of heavy pulling and pushing exercises like the ever popular push pull legs routine. So if you want to progress in your other lifts and build muscle across your whole body you need to be paying attention to your forearms and grip strength.

In this article we’re going to break down exactly how to build your forearms so they not only look good but improve your grip strength so you can perform better in your other lifts.

 

Forearm Anatomy

Before we get into the exercises it is good to have an understanding of the anatomy of the forearms and how the muscles work together.

Your forearms are made up of a lot of smaller muscles that are divided into two main groups.

Extensor muscles are used for extension of the wrist and fingers and run down from the top side of your forearm to the back of your hand like this:

forearm anatomy extensor muscles

 

The flexion muscles are responsible for flexion at the wrist (bending wrist and fingers.)

The flexors are also responsible for the rotation of the wrist (the ability to turn your palm face up and face down.)

This is how the flexion muscles look:

anatomy of the forearm

 

How To Get Bigger Forearms

If you’re looking to build bigger forearms it’s actually pretty simple.

  1. Do a lot of heavy barbell pushing, pulling and curling.
  2. Do some additional forearm exercises if necessary.

If you are following a workout program that involves a lot of heavy compound movements you may find that you don’t actually need to do any additional exercises for your forearms.

For some people heavy back, chest and arm training can be enough to get the forearms they desire.

However if you find yourself struggling with grip strength or your forearms aren’t looking the way you want them to you may need to add in some additional forearm exercises.

While your grip strength will naturally progress with the rest of your training there are some good tools and exercises you can use to help progress your forearms faster.

 

Forearm Workout Tools

After looking at the anatomy of the forearms it is pretty clear to see that the best way to train them is generally through gripping exercises.

There are some simple tools available that can let you train your forearms whenever you like.

 

Hand Grippers

forearm workout tools

Hand grippers are a great tool to train your forearms. The good thing about hand grippers is that you can get them in increasing resistance which is the key to increasing strength and muscle mass.

 

Wrist Curler

 

grip strength tool

 

The wrist curler is a simple device that allows you to add weight plates to increase the resistance. To use the tool simply hold your arms out in front of yourself and use your wrists to roll up the rope around the bar. Once the weight reaches that top you can reverse the movement and unwind the weight. You’ll feel the burn in your forearms and increasing the resistance is easy as you can simply add more weight plates to the bottom.

 

Fat Gripz

fat grips workout tool

Thick bar training is another way to add more emphasis to your forearms in your workouts. You can snap these onto the bar for any exercise you like. I find it works best on pushing and curling exercises as heavy pulling exercises already incorporate a lot of grip strength.

 

Best Forearm Exercises

We’ve gone over some tools that you can use in your training to build your forearms. Now lets look at some different exercises in the gym that you can add to your forearm workouts.

 

Barbell Hold

This is a really simple exercise to do. As your forearms are the major muscles behind grip strength, training with static holds and other gripping exercises are the best way to bring your forearms up to speed.

This is how you perform a barbell hold.

Aim for 10-20 second holds. Once you hit 20 seconds you can add more weight and work your way back up to 20 seconds again.

 

Plate Pinch

The plate pinch is another grip strength exercise that works the forearms. Again aim for 10-20 second holds with these.

To increase the weight on plate pinches, instead of going for bigger plates you can add a third plate. This is explained in the video below:

 

Dumbbell Farmers Walk

The dumbbell farmers walk may look simple but you’ll soon realise that it lights your forearms on fire.

Here’s how to perform the exercise:

Aim to walk around 30 steps per set and progress in weight as you get stronger.

 

Forearm Workout

Forearm muscles are very stubborn but you don’t want to overtrain them to the detriment of your other workouts. I like to throw in some additional forearm exercises at the ends of some of my workouts.

If you are looking to improve your grip strength without hurting your performance on other lifts follow these guidelines:

  • End one of your normal workouts with one of the above forearm exercises
  • Use fat gripz on your pushing and curling exercises

Depending on how many days per week you are training your forearm workouts might look slightly different but here is an example of a 5 day split following the above guidelines.

Day 1 – Chest with oversized grips

Day 2 – Back with Plate Pinches

Day 3 – Legs with barbell holds

Day 4 – Arms with oversized grips

Day 5 – Shoulders with oversized grips

Optional – rest days using hand exerciser tools.

 

Final Word On Forearm Workouts

If you are looking to get bigger and stronger your forearms are an integral part of the picture. Having a stronger grip will benefit you in a lot of your other movements.

Some people might not need to put much extra work into their forearms if they are following a good weightlifting routine.

But if you find your forearms needing a bit of extra attention, keep it simple and follow the exercises above to bring your forearms back up to speed.

Like This Workout? You’ll Love These:

The Best Leg Workout

The Ultimate Chest Workout

The Ultimate Back Workout

Ultimate Arms Workout

The Push Pull Legs Bible

The Best Tricep Workout

What do you think of this forearm workout? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

Continue Reading

Training

Ultimate Arm Workout – Arm Exercises That Add Serious Size

Kyran Doyle

Published

on

arm exercises

If you’re looking for an arm workout to build some serious pipes then this is the article for you.

Most guys start going to the gym to get bigger arms and a bigger chest. I’m betting bicep curls where one of the first exercises you ever did!

Am I right?

While arms make up just a small part of a well developed physique, there’s no way around it every guy wants a set of big, well defined arms.

After all your arms are one of the first things that get noticed in your day to day life. Your physique isn’t complete without a set of big arms.

In this article we are going to break down the best ways to build your biceps, triceps and forearms. We’ll go over the best arm exercises and put together a workout that will get you some serious arm gains, fast!

Before we can jump into the workouts it is helpful to have an understanding of how the arm muscles work together so we can get the best results when training them.

 

A Breakdown of the Arm Muscles

arm muscles

 

It’s easy to make the common mistake of when you are thinking about bigger arms to think biceps.

I remember thinking big biceps mean big arms.

Well, that’s not actually the case.

The triceps actually make up a lot more of the overall size of the arm than the biceps do.

You can see in a picture like this, where the mass of the arms is held.

tricep workout

So if you’re really wanting to build arms that fill up your shirt sleeves then you need to put a lot of emphasis on the triceps.

 

Triceps Anatomy

The Triceps Brachii or triceps is a three headed muscle group that forms a horseshoe shape and makes up the entire back side of your upper arm.

triceps muscle breakdown

Sadly, the biceps are usually given the focus in most people’s workouts.

The triceps play an important role in stabilising the shoulder. Underdeveloped triceps can lead to muscle imbalances and overcompensation of other muscles.

Overdeveloped biceps and chest can lead to rounded shoulders and the closed off, semi hunched over look you sometimes see in gym goers that don’t train everything evenly.

 

Biceps Anatomy

The biceps brachii or biceps is a two headed muscle hence the “bi” in the name and looks like this:

anatomy of biceps

 

The biceps brachii has two heads, the long head and the short head. The long head is found on the outside of the arm and makes up most of the biceps.

The short head is located on the inside of the muscle.

Another muscle you should understand is the biceps brachialis. It’s a muscle that is found deeper than the biceps brachii and although it is less prominent, it does play a role in flexing the elbow. The brachialis also helps to push up the brachii which helps with the overall appearance of your arms.

biceps brachialis

 

Forearms

forearms anatomy

The forearms are like the calves of the arms. They are easy to overlook in training but if they’re underdeveloped it’s very obvious. Having a good set of forearms really rounds out the arm and enhances the appearance of your bi’s and tri’s.

Not to mention the carryover benefits strong forearms give to your other exercises. A large amount of compound movements require a strong grip. If your forearms aren’t up to scratch you aren’t going to be able to lift as much weight in other exercises which will cost you gains across all of your muscle groups.

The forearms are made up of a number of smaller muscles that run down into your hand.

Arm Training Principles

arm workouts

There are a lot of strategies out there when it comes to training your arms.

Some advise you to focus on high reps to get a pump and really feel the burn.

Others say you need to hit your arms multiple times a week to get real growth.

Then there are the people that say you don’t need to train your arms at all and simply doing a lot of compound movements will indirectly grow your arms.

With all of this confusion out there it can be difficult to really understand what you should be doing in your arm workouts.

What I’ve found works best is a combination of the above. The best way to grow your arms is through heavy compound lifting and directly training them with both high and low rep training. Like all muscle groups heavy weightlifting is key to maximising muscle growth.

When it comes to growing muscle there are two key factors:

  1. Performing the right exercises.
  2. Achieving progressive overload on your muscles.

Performing the right arm exercises is very important. Simply because some exercises are better at progressively overloading your muscles than others.

As a general rule of thumb barbell exercises are going to be more effective than machine exercises.

Achieving progressive overload in your workouts is the only way that you are going to see results on your arms.

In order to keep getting bigger and stronger we need to continue to subject our muscles to more and more tension over time.

So put simply:

If you don’t keep getting stronger you won’t get bigger.

You can accomplish this by adding volume (reps) but eventually you will need to add weight to the bar. That’s why the biggest guys in the gym are usually the strongest.

 

Volume

bicep exercises

When it comes to arm training getting the right volume is key. This becomes even more important when you are focusing on heavy weightlifting.

As a general rule of thumb the heavier the reps you’re doing the fewer you can perform each week.

Makes sense right!

Heavier weights mean you need to give your muscles more time to recover or you can risk overtraining.

Usually when training with heavy weights the optimal volume is 60 to 70 reps every 5 to 7 days. This is not just for arms but every muscle group in the body as well.

This is where it can get a little tricky for arms. Depending on how you are training the rest of your body will alter the amount of reps per week you will want to complete on your arms.

If you are doing a lot of heavy compound training for your chest and back then you will want to aim for a little less reps of your arms. This is because compound training involves your arms to train your other body parts too.

For example if you are doing heavy rows for your back there is also a lot of bicep involvement too. Heavy benching recruits a lot of tricep involvement etc.

If you are following the other workout plans we have laid out on this blog then you would want to aim for 30 to 40 reps per week on your arms.

 

Best Arm Exercises

arm exercises

I’ll break these exercises down into movements for biceps, triceps and forearms.

 

Bicep Exercises

There are dozens of different exercises that you can perform to target your biceps. However some are more effective than others.

Stick to these proven bicep builders in your workouts:

 

Barbell Curl

There’s a reason why the barbell curl is a staple in every bodybuilders routine. It’s damn good at building your biceps.

 

Dumbell Curl

A slight variation on the barbell curl that delivers great results. Single arm exercises don’t allow you to lift as much weight as their barbell counterparts but they do help to make sure you aren’t overly dominant in one arm.

Chin up

The chin up is a great functional bicep movement that allows you to target your biceps as well as your back. You can progress in this movement by adding weight to a dip belt as you get stronger.

 

Tricep Exercises

tricep exercises

As we talked about earlier in this article, the triceps make up the bulk of the arms mass. So if it’s bigger arms you’re wanting you need to be hitting your triceps hard.

Here are the best tricep exercises to build bigger arms:

Close Grip Bench

Don’t mistake this for just a chest exercise. The close grip bench activates your triceps heavily as well. The close grip bench allows you to safely push heavy amounts of weights and will help your chest a bit too.

When performing the close grip bench grab the bar with a slightly narrower than shoulder width grip.

 

Skullcrushers

Scull crushers are a great exercise for activating the triceps. You can perform the movement with the bar coming down to your forehead or down behind your head for a different angle on the arms.

Overhead triceps press (french press)

Another great exercise to really hit the triceps hard. The overhead triceps press allows you to safely press heavy weight and progressively overload the arm.

 

Tricep Pushdown

You’ve probably seen this done a lot by people at the gym. It’s probably one of the most popular triceps exercises out there and it is pretty good for isolating the triceps.

I like to do this at the end of my workouts after I have done some other heavier lifts first. You can try it out with a bar and a rope to see what you like best.

 

Dip

There are two variations of dip that you can do to target the triceps. Both are good exercises and can be interchanged depending on the equipment you have available to you.

The first variation of triceps dips is on a bench:

 

The second variation of dip requires a dip station like the one in the video below. To keep the focus on your triceps make sure you keep your elbows tucked in to your sides and keep your body relatively upright. The further you lean forward the more emphasis is put on your chest and shoulders in the movement. This is how you do it:

 

Forearms

Often your forearms don’t need a lot of direct work.

You see the forearms are used a lot in heavy strength training of your chest, back and arms. Simply having to grip and hold the barbell with a lot of weight on it is probably the best training you can do for your forearms and grip strength.

If you are following a workout program that is made up of mostly heavy compound exercises your forearms should be getting worked enough through your other training.

However if your other training isn’t mostly compound exercises or you feel you need to improve your grip strength the reverse curl is the exercise I would use to bring your forearms up to scratch:

 

Best Arm Workout

A good arms workout focuses on hitting all three heads of the triceps, the biceps brachii and brachialis as well as the forearms.

You should focus on heavy weightlifting with some higher rep work at the end of the workout.

Barbell Curl

3 sets of 4-6 reps

Dumbell Curl

3 sets 4-6 reps

Close Grip Bench

3 sets 4-6 reps

Weighted Dips

3 sets 4-6 reps

Overhead Triceps Press

3 sets 6-8 reps

 

Allow 2-3 minutes rest between each exercise so your muscles can fully recover. Perform this workout every 5-7 days to see the best results.

Remember progression is key in gaining muscle. Once you hit the top rep range for an exercise you need to increase weight. Then work with the new weight until you can hit the top reps range on a set and increase again.

 

Like This Workout? You’ll Love These:

The Best Leg Workout

The Ultimate Chest Workout

The Ultimate Back Workout

The Push Pull Legs Bible

The Best Tricep Workout

What do you think of this arm workout? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Continue Reading

Training

Ultimate Arm Workout – Arm Exercises That Add Serious Size

Kyran Doyle

Published

on

arm exercises

If you’re looking for an arm workout to build some serious pipes then this is the article for you.

Most guys start going to the gym to get bigger arms and a bigger chest. I’m betting bicep curls where one of the first exercises you ever did!

Am I right?

While arms make up just a small part of a well developed physique, there’s no way around it every guy wants a set of big, well defined arms.

After all your arms are one of the first things that get noticed in your day to day life. Your physique isn’t complete without a set of big arms.

In this article we are going to break down the best ways to build your biceps, triceps and forearms. We’ll go over the best arm exercises and put together a workout that will get you some serious arm gains, fast!

Before we can jump into the workouts it is helpful to have an understanding of how the arm muscles work together so we can get the best results when training them.

 

A Breakdown of the Arm Muscles

arm muscles

 

It’s easy to make the common mistake of when you are thinking about bigger arms to think biceps.

I remember thinking big biceps mean big arms.

Well, that’s not actually the case.

The triceps actually make up a lot more of the overall size of the arm than the biceps do.

You can see in a picture like this, where the mass of the arms is held.

tricep workout

So if you’re really wanting to build arms that fill up your shirt sleeves then you need to put a lot of emphasis on the triceps.

 

Triceps Anatomy

The Triceps Brachii or triceps is a three headed muscle group that forms a horseshoe shape and makes up the entire back side of your upper arm.

triceps muscle breakdown

Sadly, the biceps are usually given the focus in most people’s workouts.

The triceps play an important role in stabilising the shoulder. Underdeveloped triceps can lead to muscle imbalances and overcompensation of other muscles.

Overdeveloped biceps and chest can lead to rounded shoulders and the closed off, semi hunched over look you sometimes see in gym goers that don’t train everything evenly.

 

Biceps Anatomy

The biceps brachii or biceps is a two headed muscle hence the “bi” in the name and looks like this:

anatomy of biceps

 

The biceps brachii has two heads, the long head and the short head. The long head is found on the outside of the arm and makes up most of the biceps.

The short head is located on the inside of the muscle.

Another muscle you should understand is the biceps brachialis. It’s a muscle that is found deeper than the biceps brachii and although it is less prominent, it does play a role in flexing the elbow. The brachialis also helps to push up the brachii which helps with the overall appearance of your arms.

biceps brachialis

 

Forearms

forearms anatomy

The forearms are like the calves of the arms. They are easy to overlook in training but if they’re underdeveloped it’s very obvious. Having a good set of forearms really rounds out the arm and enhances the appearance of your bi’s and tri’s.

Not to mention the carryover benefits strong forearms give to your other exercises. A large amount of compound movements require a strong grip. If your forearms aren’t up to scratch you aren’t going to be able to lift as much weight in other exercises which will cost you gains across all of your muscle groups.

The forearms are made up of a number of smaller muscles that run down into your hand.

Arm Training Principles

arm workouts

There are a lot of strategies out there when it comes to training your arms.

Some advise you to focus on high reps to get a pump and really feel the burn.

Others say you need to hit your arms multiple times a week to get real growth.

Then there are the people that say you don’t need to train your arms at all and simply doing a lot of compound movements will indirectly grow your arms.

With all of this confusion out there it can be difficult to really understand what you should be doing in your arm workouts.

What I’ve found works best is a combination of the above. The best way to grow your arms is through heavy compound lifting and directly training them with both high and low rep training. Like all muscle groups heavy weightlifting is key to maximising muscle growth.

When it comes to growing muscle there are two key factors:

  1. Performing the right exercises.
  2. Achieving progressive overload on your muscles.

Performing the right arm exercises is very important. Simply because some exercises are better at progressively overloading your muscles than others.

As a general rule of thumb barbell exercises are going to be more effective than machine exercises.

Achieving progressive overload in your workouts is the only way that you are going to see results on your arms.

In order to keep getting bigger and stronger we need to continue to subject our muscles to more and more tension over time.

So put simply:

If you don’t keep getting stronger you won’t get bigger.

You can accomplish this by adding volume (reps) but eventually you will need to add weight to the bar. That’s why the biggest guys in the gym are usually the strongest.

 

Volume

bicep exercises

When it comes to arm training getting the right volume is key. This becomes even more important when you are focusing on heavy weightlifting.

As a general rule of thumb the heavier the reps you’re doing the fewer you can perform each week.

Makes sense right!

Heavier weights mean you need to give your muscles more time to recover or you can risk overtraining.

Usually when training with heavy weights the optimal volume is 60 to 70 reps every 5 to 7 days. This is not just for arms but every muscle group in the body as well.

This is where it can get a little tricky for arms. Depending on how you are training the rest of your body will alter the amount of reps per week you will want to complete on your arms.

If you are doing a lot of heavy compound training for your chest and back then you will want to aim for a little less reps of your arms. This is because compound training involves your arms to train your other body parts too.

For example if you are doing heavy rows for your back there is also a lot of bicep involvement too. Heavy benching recruits a lot of tricep involvement etc.

If you are following the other workout plans we have laid out on this blog then you would want to aim for 30 to 40 reps per week on your arms.

 

Best Arm Exercises

arm exercises

I’ll break these exercises down into movements for biceps, triceps and forearms.

 

Bicep Exercises

There are dozens of different exercises that you can perform to target your biceps. However some are more effective than others.

Stick to these proven bicep builders in your workouts:

 

Barbell Curl

There’s a reason why the barbell curl is a staple in every bodybuilders routine. It’s damn good at building your biceps.

 

Dumbell Curl

A slight variation on the barbell curl that delivers great results. Single arm exercises don’t allow you to lift as much weight as their barbell counterparts but they do help to make sure you aren’t overly dominant in one arm.

Chin up

The chin up is a great functional bicep movement that allows you to target your biceps as well as your back. You can progress in this movement by adding weight to a dip belt as you get stronger.

 

Tricep Exercises

tricep exercises

As we talked about earlier in this article, the triceps make up the bulk of the arms mass. So if it’s bigger arms you’re wanting you need to be hitting your triceps hard.

Here are the best tricep exercises to build bigger arms:

Close Grip Bench

Don’t mistake this for just a chest exercise. The close grip bench activates your triceps heavily as well. The close grip bench allows you to safely push heavy amounts of weights and will help your chest a bit too.

When performing the close grip bench grab the bar with a slightly narrower than shoulder width grip.

 

Skullcrushers

Scull crushers are a great exercise for activating the triceps. You can perform the movement with the bar coming down to your forehead or down behind your head for a different angle on the arms.

Overhead triceps press (french press)

Another great exercise to really hit the triceps hard. The overhead triceps press allows you to safely press heavy weight and progressively overload the arm.

 

Tricep Pushdown

You’ve probably seen this done a lot by people at the gym. It’s probably one of the most popular triceps exercises out there and it is pretty good for isolating the triceps.

I like to do this at the end of my workouts after I have done some other heavier lifts first. You can try it out with a bar and a rope to see what you like best.

 

Dip

There are two variations of dip that you can do to target the triceps. Both are good exercises and can be interchanged depending on the equipment you have available to you.

The first variation of triceps dips is on a bench:

 

The second variation of dip requires a dip station like the one in the video below. To keep the focus on your triceps make sure you keep your elbows tucked in to your sides and keep your body relatively upright. The further you lean forward the more emphasis is put on your chest and shoulders in the movement. This is how you do it:

 

Forearms

Often your forearms don’t need a lot of direct work.

You see the forearms are used a lot in heavy strength training of your chest, back and arms. Simply having to grip and hold the barbell with a lot of weight on it is probably the best training you can do for your forearms and grip strength.

If you are following a workout program that is made up of mostly heavy compound exercises your forearms should be getting worked enough through your other training.

However if your other training isn’t mostly compound exercises or you feel you need to improve your grip strength the reverse curl is the exercise I would use to bring your forearms up to scratch:

 

Best Arm Workout

A good arms workout focuses on hitting all three heads of the triceps, the biceps brachii and brachialis as well as the forearms.

You should focus on heavy weightlifting with some higher rep work at the end of the workout.

Barbell Curl

3 sets of 4-6 reps

Dumbell Curl

3 sets 4-6 reps

Close Grip Bench

3 sets 4-6 reps

Weighted Dips

3 sets 4-6 reps

Overhead Triceps Press

3 sets 6-8 reps

 

Allow 2-3 minutes rest between each exercise so your muscles can fully recover. Perform this workout every 5-7 days to see the best results.

Remember progression is key in gaining muscle. Once you hit the top rep range for an exercise you need to increase weight. Then work with the new weight until you can hit the top reps range on a set and increase again.

 

Like This Workout? You’ll Love These:

The Best Leg Workout

The Ultimate Chest Workout

The Ultimate Back Workout

The Push Pull Legs Bible

The Best Tricep Workout

What do you think of this arm workout? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Continue Reading

Training

The Ultimate Back Workout To Add Size and Strength To Your Back

Kyran Doyle

Published

on

best back exercise

If you’re wanting a wide, thick back then this article is for you.

Most people at the gym don’t put enough emphasis on their back workouts. So much time is spent on the chest and biceps which can often lead to the back becoming neglected.

This is disappointing though as a strong muscular back is the key to a good physique.

If that’s not enough reason for you to train your back hard, then this should be. If you’re back is lagging you can become more prone to injuries through training.

Fear not, in this article we are going to break down the best back exercises and workouts so you can bring your back up to speed.

If you follow the steps laid out in this article and eat the right macros your back will get bigger and stronger than ever before.

 

Anatomy of the Back

The bulk of the back is made up of a range of different muscles.

  • Trapezius (traps)
  • Latissimus dorsi (lats)
  • Rhomboids
  • Erector spinae
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres major and minor

This is how they look on your body:

back muscle groups

If you want to have an aesthetic and powerful back you need to follow these rules:

  • Make sure you are training your traps with heavy weight.
  • To create the “V-Taper” in the back you need to build your lats.
  • Heavy rowing exercises will build the mid back and rhomboid muscles
  • Deadlifts develop your back like no other exercise. They work the whole back and bring about serious gains.

A lot of guys just train their lats and end up with a slight V-Taper from exercises like lat pulls downs etc but they are often lacking the other areas that make up a truely powerful and aesthetic back.

If you want to build an incredible back there are a few principles you need to know…

 

Back Training Principles

back workouts

There are a few key rules to follow if you want to build a big, strong, aesthetically pleasing back.

1. Focus on the right exercises.

If you’re like me when I first started training, I spent the majority of my time on machines and doing isolation exercises to try and target each of the back muscles individually. I should have been spending my time on compound exercises like the deadlift and barbell row.

2. Focus on heavy strength training.

I used to train to get a pump (rather than increase my strength.) I thought that it was better to do multiple variations of drop sets and super sets but found myself hitting a plateau fairly quickly.

In fact you should aim for the majority of your back exercises to be compound movements and heavy lifting (80 to 85% of 1RM and higher.)

That means heavy barbell pulling exercises are going to become your new best friend.

When you’re focusing on lifting heavy your reps are going to be in the 4-6 range.

Performing heavy compound exercises in this rep range allows you to safely achieve progressive overload in each of your workouts.

Progression is the key to building muscle naturally. You see the human body is naturally quite lazy. We could quite easily just plod along without growing in strength or size.

In order to keep getting bigger and stronger we need to continue to subject our muscles to more and more tension over time.

So put simply:

If you don’t keep getting stronger you won’t get bigger.

You can accomplish this by adding volume (reps) but eventually you will need to add weight to the bar. That’s why the biggest guys in the gym usually lift the most weight.

Lets say you are deadlifting 230lbs in the 4-6 rep range. As soon as you are able to perform 6 reps in a set it’s time to up the weight for the next set and aim for 4+ reps again.

Each time you walk into the gym you should be looking to improve on your last workout. Whether it be adding an extra rep or increasing your weights.

 

Back Workout Volume

Getting the right amount of volume in your back workouts is essential to your success.

If your weekly volume is too low you will see smaller results than you should be getting.

If your volume’s too high you’ll run into problems with overtraining. Recovery is an essential part of building muscle and strength. If you are training too frequently your body will fall behind on its recovery and eventually your results will start flatlining.

Heavy weightlifting requires a significant amount of recovery time. So when you are training your back using heavy lifts there are only so many reps you can do per week before it has a negative effect on yourself.

I find training falls inline with two reviews on this topic which have shown this:

When your training consists of mainly heavy weights (80 to 85%+ of 1RM), optimal volume seems to be about 60 to 70 reps performed every 5 to 7 days.

A Bigger Back Makes Bigger Arms

Your back is the foundation of a lot of heavy lifts. So the stronger your back is the heavier your other muscle groups can lift on their exercises.

Your body works in symmetry so having a strong back will help you press more on the bench and curl more with your biceps as your muscles work together through functional strength.

This is where a push pull legs style of working out can be beneficial as it makes sure you are training your back as much as the rest of your body.

Back Exercises

Barbell Deadlift

compound exercise deadlift

The barbell deadlift is more than just a back exercise. It hits the entire posterior chain (back side) from your calfs to your upper traps. It’s an absolute must have in your back workouts.

Performing the deadlift correctly is very important as incorrect form can lead to injuries.

Once you have your form nailed down you can progress to lifting incredible amounts of weight and build a huge amount of strength and muscle while you’re at it.

There are a number of variations of deadlift but the ones most people will perform for back training is the standard or sumo deadlift.

This video explains how to set up for the standard deadlift.

Barbell Row

barbell row

Barbell rows are a staple in any good back workout. Alongside the deadlift the barbell row is one of the best back exercises you can perform. You’ll feel it working the whole back throughout the movement.

The barbell row is the back exercise that you can lift the second most amount of weight. You’ll want to perform this towards the start of your workouts when you’re at full strength.

This is how you perform the barbell row.

 

Pendlay Barbell Row

Another variation of barbell row is the pendlay barbell row.  The pendlay row is similar however you start with the bar from a dead stop on the ground.

Here’s how you do it:

T-Bar Row

t-bar row back exercise

The T-bar row can be performed with a machine or a barbell. Generally it’s best to stay away from machines in favour of barbell exercises but this is one exercise where you can make an exception if you like.

This is how to perform the barbell version:

 

Dumbbell Row

dumbbell row

The Dumbbell row is a great single arm compound exercise for the back and in particular the lats. This variation is good if you need to give your lower back a break from barbell rowing.

Here’s how to do the dumbbell row:

 

Chin-up and Pull-up

The chin-up and pull-up are serious back exercises. They train every muscle in your back and involve the biceps as well.

Chin ups get more bicep emphasis in the movement so you should use these in conjunction with pull-ups as well.

Here’s how to do a chin-up:

The pull-up is one of the best exercises you can do to build your whole back.

Here’s how to do it:

What if you can’t do a pull-up or chin-up yet?

That’s fine there are plenty of ways to work your way up to a bodyweight pull-up or chin-up. One option is to build strength in other exercises like the lat pulldown and inverted row. This will allow you to build up your back strength to a point where you should be able to start doing band assisted pull ups and chin ups.

To do band assisted chin ups simply wrap a resistance band around the bar and hook your knee through it. This will make it easier for you to ascend to the bar.

You can then gradually work your way onto less and less resistance bands until you can do a few reps on your own.

Another option to build up your strength would be to do negative reps. So basically jump or use a step to get your chin above the bar and then begin by descending down. Try and resist gravity and don’t just let your body fall. Once you get to the bottom jump or step back up to the top of the bar again and repeat.

Progressing the pull-up and chin-up

Once you can do 10 chin ups easily it’s to to add some weight. Use a dip belt around your waist to strap plates to the exercise. You can then build  this exercise up as you would any other exercise.

 

Lat Pull Down

The lat pulldown is a machine variation that allows you to activate the same muscles as pull-ups and chin-ups while adjusting the weight.

Here’s how to perform the exercise:

 

Standing Cable Pushdown

The standing cable pushdown is an isolation exercise for the lats. If you want to really tear your lats up, this is an exercise to throw in at the end of your back workouts.

This is how to do it:

 

Best Back Workout

This back workout is made up of mainly compound exercises to train all the major muscles throughout the back. If you want to through in some isolation exercises at the end you’re welcome to but they should always come second to heavy compound lifts.

The back exercise below is designed to be performed once a week.

Deadlift:

3 sets of 4-6 reps

Barbell Row:

3 sets of 4-6 reps

Pull ups:

3 sets of 4-6 reps

Close grip lat pull downs

3 sets 4-6 reps

 

That’s it!

Remember to focus on progressive overload in each of your workouts. Once you hit the top of the rep range for an exercise it’s time to increase the weight.

Allow a full 3 minutes between each set so your muscles can fully recover and go again. You want to be able to give it your maximum effort on your second and third sets so make sure you don’t rush your rest time.

Like This Workout? You’ll Love These:

The Best Leg Workout

The Ultimate Chest Workout

The Ultimate Arm Workout

The Push Pull Legs Bible

The Best Tricep Workout

What do you think of this back workout? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Continue Reading

Check These Out as Well

Tags

Trending