One week it’s the paleo diet. Then, it fits your macros (IIFYM). But Hey, don’t forget intermittent fasting, it’s so easy a caveman can do it, bro. And that’s just diet.
How about CrossFit? Should I train like a powerlifter and just get hella’ strong? How about training like an athlete so my body is both show and go?
To be frank, the number of possibilities for training and exercise are startling. With so many options, what are you to do? This is a question I’ve been trying to to answer for years. As it stands, one factor reigns king over all other factors for building an epic body: Consistent effort over all is the secret way to build an awesome body.
Luckily, I’m not the only one who has come to this conclusion. Today, my good friend Mitch Calvert of Mitchcalvert.com drops by with an awesome guest post to tell you exactly what you need to hear about training hard, consistent effort, and the best methods to get your training back on track this New Year.
In the information age in which we live, it’s very easy to fall into the ‘paralysis by analysis’ trap, jumping from one diet or exercise program to the next depending on what’s the flavour of the month. Problem is, it’s also a first class ticket to mediocrity rather than high-performance training and a bad-ass body.
Train Like A Warrior
I swear, the weightlifters and bodybuilders who came before the internet were better off. They got into the gym and lifted weights, emulating the big guys who came before them, and didn’t always stick to a pre-programmed workout regime day-in and out. They had fun, pushed their limits and got huge and strong beyond comprehension.
It just seems as though these guys were more willing to bust their balls, put in the work, and get things done at no cost.
Do you think Arnold Schwarzenegger trained solely based on the results of a peer-reviewed scientific study or only when he felt like it?
He got in there, hoisted huge weights, ate like a machine, and made sacrifices to get great results. It’s great that science is starting to catch up with the experience of bodybuilders – with studies actually looking at guys and girls who work out with some form of intensity – but there’s more than one way skin the cat (Eric’s Note: I’ve never tried, but I’m sure there are).
In all honesty, you’re selling yourself short to a mediocre body if you refuse to do something that hasn’t been backed by science.
Even worse, scan the gym next time you’re in. Here’s what you’ll see: Some bro checking his cell phone, another trying to pick-up girls at on elliptical, and a few buddies hanging by the water fountain gossiping about how their fantasy team sucked this year or their boss is riding them hard at work. I respect that the gym is a social place, but Where’s the intensity?
Having the perfect plan written down won’t get you results. The science isn’t going to do the work for you. Your pre-workout won’t do it either.
After a certain point of development, you need to get into the gym with a mindset built on kicking ass. Cut the crap, put your headphones on and go to work. Be a warrior, and you”ll reap what you sow. A diamond without pressure is a lump of coal. Rather than make excuses, it’s time to polish things up, and get down to the basics of old school, intense training.
The Best Methods to Boost Training Intensity
You don’t need some fancy new scheme and equipment to boost intensity; rather, you need proven methods to test your mettle and shatter plateaus in the gym.
These movements involve pairing a loaded movement with an unloaded one. As Lee Boyce explains it, the fast twitch muscle fibres will be stimulated by performing a set of heavy front or back squats, for example, and then by pairing the compound movement with bodyweight jump squats.
As a result of the contrasted loading the fast twitch fibres “think” that they still need to recruit themselves in the quantity (and intensity) they needed to during the heavy squats when performing the unloaded movement.
Theoretically, the nervous system becomes hypersensitive and recruits a greater amount of muscle leading to greater gains in explosiveness and strength to get you jacked.
Some examples of pairs include Bench Press with Plyo Push-ups. Rep out 5 of the main compound lift and then finish off with 5 reps of the secondary movement as explosively as possible. Not only will these build explosiveness, there is a hidden metabolic benefit to improve conditioning and get you shredded.
[Eric’s note: Contrast sets, when used to boost performance are a very advanced method using post activation potentiation. Learn more about them here]
Drops sets require you to do a target amount of reps and then, upon technical failure, drop the weight and rep out another set, then repeat again. Alternatively, you can do a drop set without decreasing the poundages by lessening the level of difficulty with each set.
For example, with incline dumbbell bench presses, start at a 45 degree angle, rep out 8-10, drop to a 30 degree angle and rep out again, and then flatten the bench and do one more set all in quick succession.
The cumulative volume, metabolic stress, and muscular damage will great test your mettle, but help you build muscle and jump-start stagnant training.
Once you have completed all the reps you can with good form, you maintain your form, but only do smaller, half reps, sometimes even quarter reps. These should still be done in a controlled manner and certain exercises aren’t very well suited to them. Some examples that do work include quarter reps on a lying leg curl machine after you’ve completed all your full ROM sets – this will pump your hamstrings full of blood. Try to hammer out 20-30+ quarter reps.
Similar to drop sets, partials add tons of metabolic stress, and muscular damage will great test your mettle to help you build muscle and jump-start stagnant training.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this– widow makers are brutal work and must be done with sound technique, spotters, and all necessary safety measures taken. That said, you reap what you sow.
Here’s How it’s done: After you’ve completed your working sets for a muscle keep the heaviest weight on the bar. Instead of doing another 8-12 rep set, you’ll aim for 20 reps with sound form through rest pauses and true grit. This will be a grind and force you well beyond your comfort zone.
“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”- Bruce Lee
It’s OK if you don’t make it, but the goal is to push beyond those mental barriers holding you back. Unless you’re a really advanced trainee, exercises with the most risk of injury (where form can be difficult to maintain) should probably be avoided, i.e. deadlifts. Props to Dante Trudel (DoggCrapp Training originator) for turning me onto this method.
Supersets & Trisets
This is when you do one exercise immediately followed by another, not necessarily with the same muscle group. For example, pair bicep and tricep movements together and rotate back and forth. For further intensity (and some cardio) you can pair three exercises – trisets – in a similar fashion.
A Word of Caution
The Secret to Build an Awesome Body is consistent effort t and intensity. That in mind, there’s a risk reward with every activity and risks rise when you work beyond your typical limits. Still, growth must be forced, it doesn’t just happenYou want to push your limits, not beat up your joints or risk a serious injury.
The techniques listed must be incorporated as part of a periodized workout program. If you’ve had a month-long layoff from the gym (for shame!), don’t jump into high volume workouts with drop sets and widowmakers right off the bat. You’ll get plenty of stimulus/results simply from easing back into it and progressively increasing the volume and intensity over weeks at a time. Train hard but train smart. The pursuit of muscle is a marathon, not a sprint!
About the Author:
Since 2010, Mitch Calvert has been working privately with clients, helping them break through their mental and physical plateaus towards sexier and healthier bodies.