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The last time you guys heard from me, I deconstructed the mistakes I made in and out of the gym with the hope that you could take something from my misguided decisions.
Today, I want to delve right into the fundamentals of training and hopefully clear the air on a lot of questions that I get on a daily basis from my younger audience.
I have 5 topics I'd like to talk about, so let's jump straight in.
JUST INCASE YOU'RE AT THE GYM, YOU'VE FORGOTTEN YOUR HEADPHONES, OR THE SUN'S TOO BRIGHT TO ACTUALLY WATCH THE VIDEO...WE GOT ZAC TO WRITE DOWN HIS TOP 5 TRAINING TIPS...
#1. TRAINING TIME
Being at school, work or university generally means you are limited to the times of day you can train. Essentially, you're left with two options: train in the morning before school or train after school.
Personally, I preferred the former as I was able to start my day with what I enjoyed the most and had the energy to attack the rest of the day.
Creating the habit of waking early and getting uncomfortable, not only trains your body to perform in a state with distractions but it teaches your mind to suck it up and do what has to be done and not what you 'feel like'.
In year 12, school was a MASSIVE priority for me as I set a goal to attend Australia's most prestigious University, which meant poor performance at school wasn't an option. However, fitness was my passion, and there was no way I would sacrifice the only thing I enjoyed doing.
So, I would train in the morning and study at night after school. This routine saved my sanity and also enabled me to achieve my goals in fitness and school.
Now; don't think I'm forcing you to set your alarm and train before school, but just know that it's an option and you can find a healthy routine in doing so.
#2. Training Type
I'm going to assume that you're quite new to training...
When I first started, I jumped straight into what my favourite bodybuilders were doing. They had a chest day, a back day and even a whole day dedicated to arms. I somehow managed to weasel my way out of the leg day, but that's another mistake altogether.
I assumed that I needed to emulate what these bodybuilders were doing as it was obviously working for them. What I should have done is to train my whole body as frequently as possible with fewer sets per workout.
Think of it this way; your body is not used to weight training. Weights will be a new stimulus and therefore probably enough to induce muscle growth. So, there's no point dedicating a whole day to training chest when you could accomplish the same goal with a few sets every few days.
It's like setting your house on fire to make a grilled cheese sandwich; yes it will melt the cheese, but you've also destroyed your family home. Alright maybe it's not that bad, but you get my metaphor for overkill.
So, my point here is to start small and progressively add volume and increase workload so that you have somewhere to go! Start with full body workouts, then move into the upper body and lower body days. Then after a while maybe try a push/pull/leg split before experimenting with the traditional bodybuilding split that I so eagerly began.
#3. Perfect Form
Now I know I mentioned this in the last article, but I feel as though it needs to be reiterated.
YOUR FORM IS EVERYTHING.
If you train with poor form for three years and develop bad habits, guess what: you're going to be doing the same thing in another three years only the weight will probably double, and your shoulders might tear in half. Focus on these two elements every time you train.
1. Stretch: lengthen the muscle in a slow and controlled manner. This is the negative component of the rep. Feel the stretch, a few seconds on the way down and take it through its full range of motion.
2. Squeeze: feel your muscle shorten and contract hard. Just when you think you're squeezing the target muscle, squeeze harder.
Focusing on these components will improve mind to muscle connection and enable you to get more out of your session in the gym than just shifting weight from point A to point B.
But don't be discouraged if this feels foreign or you don't pick it up straight away; it takes a lot of practice. This is what your first years of training are for!
#4. Weights Vs Reps
To this day, the question I'm asked most often is "should I lift high reps or heavy weight for growth?". And just like that every other complicated question, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
For muscle growth, the ideal rep range is 8-12 reps (provided they are decent reps, to begin with). If you train in the under six rep range you are mainly building strength; if you train above 20-25 reps, it is primarily endurance based. So, this is where the 8-12 figure comes into play.
Therefore, it is a heavy enough weight with long enough time under tension to cause a reason for adaptation. So, I'd recommend that you lift as heavy as you possibly can to achieve 8-12 reps (even 15-20 is good for muscles like legs) but ensure form stays consistent are perfect.
#5. Rest and Enjoy Training
One thing that is often overlooked in this seemingly 'hardcore' lifestyle of bodybuilding is ensuring adequate rest and making sure that you are actually enjoying your training.
Everyone wants to seem hardcore and adopts the "rest when I'm dead" approach. I don't think these people realise that growth occurs outside of the gym and not inside of the gym.
If you fail to rest and recover you will fail to improve and grow as a result. So, implement 1-3 rest days per week and make the effort to stay at home and not train! Now that I've touched on the importance of rest, I can't emphasise enough the need for you guys to actually enjoy this process!
I don't get up every morning at 4 AM to train because it's a chore and if I don't do it I will be obese. I get up because it's the best part of my day and I absolutely love it and always have.
If I hated the gym, I could tell you right now I would be pursuing another sport and probably writing a blog article on why I love professional darts instead.
If you don't like bodybuilding, maybe try Crossfit or powerlifting or another sport/hobby that you can better yourself at.
The best kind of training is the one that you will do consistently and sustainably.
So, find your niche and give yourself some time to enjoy the process. Have a laugh in the gym with your mates, take pride in the meals you cook and remember that it isn't the end of the world if you deviate from the routine.
So, in summary; train whatever time works best for you.
Start small with full body workouts and work your way up so that you always don't use all of your tools at once.
Form is everything; prioritise and perfect it. Lift as heavy as you can with good form to fall in the 8-12 rep range and finally, take a minute to enjoy the process and don't be afraid to rest when you need it.