Welcome to Day Four!
Today is another workout day, and as we’re on that topic, there’s several things you should know about how to resistance train effectively:
It Needs to be Hard
It shouldn’t be too easy. If you get to the end of the last set and you lifted the weight for all of the prescribed reps with no problems, then it was too easy. Ideally you want at least the last set to be somewhat difficult. You shouldn’t train “to failure” (the point when your muscles fail and you won’t be able to complete another rep) on compound exercises regularly, but you should be about 1 or 2 reps away from that point on at least the last set.
You can go to that point of “almost failure” on all of your sets, but you would have to reduce the weight between sets, or start with a light weight that you lift for fewer reps on each subsequent set. For example:
60×8, 55×8, 50×8
50×12, 50×10, 50×8
You Need to Use Good Form
I can’t stress this enough. Your form MUST be good. If you do not have good form, you risk injury and you will DEFINITELY not work the target muscles correctly (or even at all, if your form is really bad).
It’s really worth filming yourself and watching it back, then comparing that to videos of the exercises being done correctly. I’ve provided videos for all the exercises I suggest. If you want another one to check against, Scott Herman Fitness has YouTube videos on most exercises and he is pretty spot-on.
The biggest things to watch out for are:
- Not having a neutral spine (a rounded or hyper-extended spine).
- Your knees caving in on squats (this is due to weak glutes).
- Cheating weights up by swinging them, using momentum or using leverage.
Usually, the most weight you can lift is not the best weight for the job.
On these workouts, I want all of your reps to look pretty much the same, and you should be lifting the weights in a controlled manner.
You should ensure you have a neutral spine on lifts like deadlifts, squats, rows and pullups:
You Need to Progress The Difficulty
Whatever you do, your body is going to adapt to it so it can cope better next time. But then it will stop adapting. In order to keep getting stronger, you need to keep asking more of your body.
In each workout, you’ll need to do slightly more than the one before. You do this by manipulating one or more of several variables:
- Time under tension
- Rest periods etc.
At the beginning you’ll be able to progress quite fast. You may be able to add more weight from session to session. This won’t last forever, but you should definitely take advantage of it while you can.
You don’t have to always increase weight. Another easy way to progress is simply to add one rep to one or more of your sets.
If you’re working in a rep range (as I suggest on these workouts with a rep range of 8-10) then you can do one of the following:
Week 1: 8, 8 8
Week 2: 9, 9, 9
Week 2, Option 2: 9, 8, 8
Week 2, Option 3: 9, 9, 8
All of these have progressed in some way versus week 1. The idea is that when you get to the top of the range (10 reps) and you’re hitting 10 reps with all 3 sets, you would go up in weight, but go back to 8 reps.
You Need a Suitable Amount of Volume
More is not actually more. Less is more. Adding more strength training sessions, exercises, sets, reps etc. becomes counter productive after a certain point.
A classic mistake is doing too much, especially at the beginning when you’re not adapted to it.
For now, stick to the plan I am laying out for you. There will be three sessions per week, each with about 15 sets.
Perform Workout B
Here’s the new workout for today. This is assuming you had a rest day yesterday, as this (like Workout A) is another full body workout. That means it’s working all of the main muscle groups so you shouldn’t do these types of workouts on consecutive days. As explained above, you should have at least one day off to allow for recovery.
Here’s the workout:
All exercises should be performed for 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
Dumbbell Split Squat
The dumbbell split squat is a killer movement that will work your quads, hamstrings, glutes and also forearms.
To do them, find a bench. Set it flat. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your back to the bench, so that you can raise one foot and place it on the bench behind you. You can also use a box or a sofa if you’re at home.
Squat down by bending the front leg. Be sure to keep a nice central alignment of your knee. Don’t let your knee go to either side as you move.
Work both legs for equal reps.
Barbell Bent Over Row
The Barbell Row is a great movement for working your back. It will also work your biceps and your core.
To do one, find a barbell. You can use a 7 foot Olympic barbell, like I am using in the video. These weigh 20 kilograms or 45 pounds when used without any additional weights. You could also start with a lighter one if your gym has them. Sometimes there are smaller barbells with fixed rubber plates on each end that you can’t take off.
Hold one hanging in front of you as you stand straight, so it is resting against your body. Then bend until your torso is at about a 45 degree angle. Keep your spine neutral, don’t let your back round.
“Row” the barbell by pulling it towards your body. You want to aim for it to touch your stomach. Keep your elbows tucked in. If you can feel this in your lats you are doing it right, although you might not be able to feel that yet as a beginner.
Note, you can also do these holding dumbbells.
The barbell reverse lunge is a fantastic exercise for your glutes and hamstrings, and it also works your quads and core.
Get a bar on your back. If it’s heavy enough, you’ll need to use a rack or squat stands. When you pull your shoulder blades together it will create a ridge or “shelf” where the bar can sit on top of your traps. It should not be on your neck.
Walk back from the rack to give yourself some room. Take a deep breath and take a big step backwards with one foot and lower the knee of the back leg towards the ground. Aim to stop an inch or so above the ground and stand back up by applying force through your front leg.
Work both legs evenly.
To perform the lat pulldown, your gym will need to have a lat pulldown machine or cable station (most do).
Sit on the seat at the lat pulldown machine.
Make sure the seat is adjusted so the pads are against your legs comfortably. These are there to stop the weight from pulling you up out of the seat.
Try to get a slight arch in your back (not a rounded back, a slight arch the other way). Pull your shoulder blades back and get your chest right up. Sit up straight and pull your elbows back behind your body. That engages your lats and retracts your shoulder blades.
Reach up and grab the bar. Put your thumbs over the bar alongside your fingers, not around the bar how you might naturally grip it. This will really help you to target the correct muscles.
Pull the bar down to your upper chest. Don’t use any momentum or any of your own bodyweight to move the weight. Imagine squeezing some oranges in your armpits.
Control the weight at all times.
This is one exercise where I can really recommend using less weight to actually feel the right muscles working. This is the one exercise that is probably done badly by the most people, because they’re using too much weight.
Incline Bench Press
Note: This video is actually showing me doing a flat dumbbell bench press. The incline bench press is exactly the same, except you adjust the angle of the bench so that it is between 30 and 45 degrees. That’s usually the 3rd or 4th notch on the bench when you adjust it.
You can also use barbells for this, and they usually have dedicated barbell bench press stations, or you can do them in a power rack.
First, get a bench and adjust it to the correct angle (between 30 and 45 degrees – a shallower angle is easier and will target the chest more and shoulders less).
Sit on the bench and position the dumbbells on your knees. Kick them up into position as you lay back on the bench. The dumbbells should be above your shoulders.
From here, push the dumbbells up so that your arms are completely straight and vertical.
Slowly lower the dumbbells back down under control, keeping your forearms vertical, until they are just above your chest/shoulders. Push them back up.
Repeat for the specified number of reps.
That’s it for today!
Remember to keep an eye on the Facebook group for more content, and post in there if you have any questions, feedback or concerns!