I was driving to the gym this morning and was just a bit stuck……..what was I going to do today? When you go 4/5 times a week as I do , even for the most committed trainer, there are days when you just fancy a change. It’s very easy to become stuck in a bit of a rut and just do the same things day after day. There are two big problems with this. Firstly, from a physical perspective, there comes a time when the exercises just stop working. Your body is an incredible machine and adapts very quickly. If you do the same workouts week after week then within 2 to 3 months your body will adapt, recognise what’s coming and just stop responding. Growth slows down and you hit what is known as a training plateau.
The second problem is that you become mentally stale. It becomes the same old same old, and when that happens, much as you might try to kid yourself, you just stop working so hard. Less effort, less intensity equals less response, less growth, less fitness.
So as I looked out of the window at the first really wet morning of the Autumn, it came to me. I’m going to do what I haven’t done for far too long and really go back to basics. What do I mean by that?
Well it really is as simple as it sounds. When you first start out in weight training or body building you learn about the main Compound Lifts. These are the big exercises that typically work multiple muscle sets and multiple joints at once. When you are starting out the idea is normally to do something like a full body workout comprising of about 3 to 4 sets of 5 or 6 exercises, and do that 3 times a week. When you do that your body initially responds at an amazing rate. You get stronger and fitter very quickly and you train your muscles, tendons, joints and nerves to cope with lifting heavy weights.
But then what happens?? Well, we all become experts. We believe we have moved beyond all “that basic stuff” and can really start to specialise. We start trying to isolate tiny little muscle groups and to hone our physique, with the net result that by neglecting the basics we unwittingly stall our own progress.
So today I decided to change that. I was going to go back to basics, and not only that but twice a week for at least the next month I’m going to hammer those basic exercises and try to really ignite a fire under my muscle growth AND my strength.
You may be asking WHY these basic exercises work so well and there are a number of reasons. Firstly they are bigger body part exercises which enable you to lift and shift heavier poundages. Heavier weights leads to more muscle, it’s a pretty unavoidable conclusion. Secondly the effort of doing these “all body” type exercises and lifting heavier weights shocks your body into action. It forces the body to react and one of the ways it does this is to release chemicals and endorphins into your body, a couple of which are HGH (Human growth hormone) and Testosterone. I won’t bore you with the science but if you want to become bigger and stronger then both of these are essential ingredients. As you get older your body naturally produces less of these and the best way to stimulate their production is to hit some big compound exercises on a regular basis. More of these in your system combined with eating right WILL grow your muscles.
The final big plus point is that doing this sort of workout not only fires up your muscle growth but it also fires up your metabolism. Hitting a heavy, all body workout, especially if you don’t rest for too long between sets ignites your metabolism and keeps it burning for many hours after you finish training….net result, you burn more calories, lose fat and lose weight. So to capture what I’ve just said in one short paragraph.
Include a full body compound lift routine into your workouts on a regular basis. It will fuel fantastic muscle growth, make you stronger AND help to burn more fat. What’s not to love?
So without further ado here is what I did today.
- Squats – about 7 sets. Starting with a warm up set of 15 reps with just the 20kg bar. Then a set of 12 with 60kg, set of 10 with 80kg, 2 sets of 6 with 90kg and then finished with 2 more sets of 10 with 60kg
- Bench Press – 8 sets. Warm up of 15 reps with the 20kg bar. 2 sets of 10 with 60kg, 2 sets of 6 with 70kg, 1 set of 4 with 80kg and back down to 1 set of 10 with 60kg and 1 set of 15 with 40 kg.
- Deadlifts – I have a knackered lower back so have to be very careful with these, so kept it much lighter than I am able to lift and concentrated on great form. I also incorporated a shrug at the top. Did a simple 6 sets of 8 with 50kg (Yes i know that is baby weights!!)
- Pull Ups – This is really simple, just aimed to do 50 in as short a time as possible. Didn’t keep too much track of sets but it ended up being something like 10, 8, 8, 6, 6, 6, 4, 2. Sounds easy but I’m not great at these and it killed me.
- Military Press – Again I’m not great at these as have a weak left shoulder so again concentrated on good form. 5 sets of 10 with 40kg.
That was it, job done. I threw in 3 planks just to do a little Ab work (although these get heavily used for stability during compound lifts) and walked out of the door feeling like a born again caveman!!
Not only that but it was fun (although I’m feeling it already and trying to get up the stairs was more difficult than it should have been). I really enjoyed it and as I said at the top I’m going to throw this in twice a week for a month and see what happens. Try it. It really works. If you are like me and have been training for a long time it is really easy to forget about the basics. Go back to some big heavy compound lifts and a proper full body routine on a regular basis and you will definitely notice great results and great muscle growth.
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