In the first part of the “training guide”, we explained how to navigate the information chaos, emphasized the importance of planning and keeping a training diary, and tried to realistically evaluate the amount of time and energy we can invest in training. Today I will be a little more specific and try to explain how to plan the training, and explain the basic training parameters.
It is not possible to put together optimal training if you do not know what goal you want to achieve. Of course, it is possible to set a general goal in the sense of “being stronger”, “increasing muscle volume” or “being in better shape”, but the more precisely you define your ambitions and plans, the easier it will be for you to find the optimal way to fulfill them. If you want to increase your bench-press performance, you know you need to focus on it. If you want to manage 20 push-ups on the crossbar, you will logically train the push-ups regularly. You need to increase the volume of your thighs … no, walking the dog and riding an exercise bike will definitely not be enough.
It would seem like a matter of course, but I am often surprised at how many people train without having any specific vision of where their training progress should go. A beginner who has barely touched the barbell will probably not have such a specific idea (or, on the contrary, his ideas will be very specific, but completely unrealistic). But if you have several months of training behind you, you are probably already observing where your strengths and weaknesses are. However, it is advisable to ask for an objective evaluation of someone more experienced to be sure. It is possible that although the mirror tries to tell you that it is most necessary to focus on the development of the chest and biceps, which will become a blockbuster of this year’s beach season, in fact the development of the back and hind deltoid muscles lags the most. An independent observer with sufficient experience can also alert you to details that you would otherwise easily overlook. For example, it reveals uneven muscle development, protruding shoulders or a bad arch of the legs. Although it is quite clear to me that you will be very happy to postpone my well-meaning advice as unnecessary, I still recommend that you have your overall posture and muscle development diagnosed, ideally by a physiotherapist or a good personal trainer.
Distribution of training units and training frequency
How often to train? How many times a week to train individual games? Few people have enough free time a week to train more than 3-4 times a week. I do not consider more frequent training to be suitable for the slightly advanced. Usually, three workouts a week are really enough, which will provide sufficient stimulus for growth and leave adequate time for regeneration and possibly also for other sports activities.
Eternal and never-ending discussion of how many times a week to train individual games is a topic that, of course, cannot be overlooked. I will not convince anyone, there are enough articles and polemics on this topic in the end. I will mention here my personal preferences, based on my training experience, as well as my experience as a personal trainer. For beginners and intermediates, in my opinion, the optimal training of large muscle parts (legs, chest, back) is twice a week, once relatively hard, the second time lightly. Small parts (biceps, triceps, shoulders) are usually enough to practice once a week. More often, I don’t consider it necessary to train them with regard to their load during chest and back training, but of course you can try it (if you ask, no, I don’t really consider it a good idea to train the biceps 4 times a week). The training model is also very useful, where you exercise the whole body 3 times a week, each game with only one exercise. For example, a training program is based on this methodHST . When it comes to abdominal training, the situation is a bit more complicated. Especially depending on the posture in the lumbar spine, it is possible to train the abdomen more often. With increased lumbar lordosis and an increased load on the spinal straighteners, for example when training squats and deadlifts, abdominal training also serves as compensation and prevention of injuries. In such cases (and I meet them very often in my practice) it worked out for me to prescribe one abdominal exercise in each training session.
Why such a training frequency scheme? In some cases, of course, it is possible to train a certain game more often, for example as part of a specialization in strength training. The same can be done for games that stubbornly refuse to respond to training with an adequate increase in volume. However, you should leave this procedure to individuals who have gained enough experience within a few years of training and gained a certain sense of training, which will allow them to complete similar demanding programs and at the same time minimize the risk of injury, which is definitely not negligible. On the other hand, some games can be practiced less often, if they respond very well to training and their development is more pronounced. By limiting work on these games to such, say, a “maintenance minimum”, you will save energy that you will be able to invest elsewhere. My recommendation for beginners is: avoid training systems where, for example, only one muscle part is practiced every day (Monday – chest, Tuesday – back, Wednesday – hands, etc.) and you only train each once a week. The reasons why I am not a supporter of this type of training, especially for beginners, I mention, for example, inthis article.
Selection of exercises and division of muscle parts
Not every exercise is suitable for everyone, and some exercises are better than others (and some are downright bad, don’t do them at all). With this general statement, we could close the topic, but it would be better to look at it in a little more detail. There are exercises that you can (and should) use in training, almost constantly, provided you have a well-mastered technical design, and they will bring you results all the time. From time to time you will adjust the technique or perform a less widespread variation, but you will almost never eliminate them from training completely. These are basic multi-joint exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench-press, various variations of pull-ups, push-ups and shoulder pressures. It will take a lot of effort, energy and also time before you learn these exercises and find the implementation that suits you best. However, it is the best investment, which you can do. The second group includes exercises, which you can include in addition, to diversify the training, as a lighter alternative to complex exercises, or serve as compensatory elements. These are countless isolated exercises, various exercises on pulleys and machines, or with the use of other training aids.
Beginners and intermediates should include exercises from both groups in the training. Complex multi-joint exercises develop overall coordination and provide sufficient stimulus for growth. To supplement the total training volume, less demanding isolated exercises are also included. The number of possible combinations of individual exercises is practically unlimited. You can combine muscle parts that assist each other in one workout, giving them a slightly longer time to regenerate before the next workout (for example, a combination of chest + shoulders + triceps). Or, conversely, combine antagonists (opposite muscle areas, such as the chest + back) to allow a slightly greater load on each of them. Of course, it is also possible (and appropriate) to include workouts where the whole body will be practiced. In time, you will find that some combinations suit you better than others, whether it is muscle, or specific exercises. When planning a new workout, always try to include only a few new exercises. You will learn them more easily and you will be able to better evaluate their effectiveness than if you did not leave the so-called “stone on stone” from your previous training plan. Perform new exercises more often and with less intensity (load) and only after you have mastered their technique, you can test your strength.
Determination of training volume and intensity
Under these terms is hidden nothing but the overall difficulty of training. Number of exercises, series, repetitions and the size of the load used. The relationship between these variables in strength training is very well explained here. From my own experience, I recommend alternating heavy and light training, not only in terms of the load of individual games, but also the overall intensity of individual training days. Training every time “to the stop” is the way to a dead end. For a while, this procedure can seem to bring great results, however, in the long run, in the end you will always encounter either a state of overtraining or an injury. Assuming that you train large muscle areas twice a week, I definitely recommend following the rule of one light and one hard workout. In practice, for example, in chest training, it will look like you are practicing bench-press and handles on the parallel bars on a difficult training day, using relatively larger loads for 6-8 repetitions. The second, light training will then include only light pressures of one-handed and pullover with weights,
Always try to plan your training so that you will be able to gradually increase the level of load, which, of course, you will not achieve by training the first training at the very limit of your possibilities. In this situation, the probability that you will be able to perform a little better each time for several weeks in a row than in the previous training is almost zero. The correct procedure is as follows: you practice the first workouts with considerable reserve and gradually approach your maximum, which you are able to handle. So you can gradually increase the load used, the number of sets or the number of repetitions (but do not try to increase all parameters at once in each workout).
A small summary
- Determine training priorities. Evaluate what needs to be focused on.
- Determine the number of training days and the frequency with which you will exercise each muscle part.
- Choose appropriate exercises and combinations of muscle parts.
- Choose a training volume – the number of sets and repetitions for each exercise. Set the training intensity correctly for the start of the training cycle.