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Looking good for the ladies – Week 1: the basics at the gym

Fit manMost of us are aware of what happens in nature – the majority of the time the male of a species needs to attract the attention of the female in order to mate. I would hope that we’ve evolved a long way from this behaviour but some of the basic principles apply – if a girl has a choice between two men that are pretty similar in personality – she’ll probably choose to give the more physically attractive one a go first.

So how would you like to know how to give your body an overhaul just like the professionals?  In this series, I’ll be sharing with you some common details that most personal trainers will use with their clients in order to get their clients looking great in the shortest time possible.

This week, we’ll take a look at some of the basics – the groundwork on which you can build your own training programs and only including techniques and exercises that get results! I’ve tailored these posts to enable you to go through the process of building a foundation of muscle, then cutting back to show some great definition.

Where I got this information from

I’ve had an interesting journey around building a body that I’m happy with. For many years I struggled with building muscle and toning it. I’d spent hours and hours at the gym, followed all types of training programs with little results. Why? I didn’t really have much of an idea of what I was doing and I’d neglected 2 edges of the health pyramid (more about this in a couple of weeks).

When afternoon when training at the gym I was approached by a personal trainer. I started training with him and started seeing results literally straight away. That person was Rupi Hothi – who’s personally trained the Mr Australia U70kg bodybuilding champion. I’ve had the honour of training with Andy Fernandes – winner of Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) open men’s bodybuilding and I’ve spent time with Guy Stein – 3 times Australian Natural Bodybuilding National Champion.

I’ve also sought advice and knowledge from countless high profile personal trainers, dietitians and bodybuilding champions.

How does the body build muscle?

Muscle anatomy armThere are many theories out there but generally accepted knowledge is that lifting weights breaks down and stresses the muscle fibers. Most theories discount the idea that more cells are created – rather that each cell gets bigger and stronger. Why is this? Well the cell creates more mitochondria – the part of the cell that converts chemical energy into energy. As a side note, higher reps increases the mitochondria count.

Working a muscle also increases the protein fluid and glycogen stored in each cell. If you really interested, read up on how a muscle contracts – this will reveal why these components are important.

So ultimately it appears that exercise doesn’t increase amount of muscle – but forces muscles to grow in size.

REMEMBER: the body actually repairs and builds muscle only when you’re resting, so leave at least 24 hours in between working a specific body part.

Further reading – http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/issa7.htm

Where do you start?

Train for failure…

Training buddyA great technique that my personal trainer taught me is to aim for failure in both directions. NOTE: to successfully achieve this you’ll need a training partner who can handle the weight that you’re training with.

Training for failure in both directions means that the muscle should be exhausted both during contraction AND during relaxation.

A great example is a bicep curl. When you’ve reached maximum reps lifting the weight (positive failure), follow this routine:

  1. Allow your muscle to support the weight as your lowering it – i.e. under your own control for around 3 seconds.
  2. Get your training buddy to help lift the weight to the contracted position.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until yo
    u’re no longer able to lower the weight under your own control (negative failure). Your training buddy should also be able to spot when you’re exhausted as other parts of your body will generally want to compensate.

Burn baby burn!

Train hardYes, training to add muscle is hard work and it will burn. The more it burn, the more you’re stressing the muscle and the more likely that you’ll be working the muscle to its full potential.

The final 1-2 reps of each set should be your maximum limit – if not either:

  • Check your technique – are there other parts of your body that are compensating? A classic example I see all the time is people swinging their body to get the last few reps in of a bicep curl. BIG NO NO! For this exercise stand with your back firmly against a wall for the whole set and engage your core – this will help you isolate the bicep.
  • Increase or decrease the weight – if you’re really really struggling – drop the weight a little. If it’s too easy, increase the weight.

Get your form right and make use of angles

Seated incline dumbbell curlGetting your form right is critical when training with weights. Getting it wrong can result in you wasting time and energy with limited results and worse can result in injury. I always recommend training with a professional to ensure you’re getting the best out of your workout and ensure that your minimising the risk of injury.

Even though I’d been doing weight training for at least half of my life, when I trained with a PT I quickly realised how small changes can have huge results when doing it the right way.

Another handy thing I picked up with my PT is the use of angles. By shifting certain body parts I noticed I was able to double my results. An example again, is a bicep curl with a barbell – when lifting the barbell have your wrists cocked completely downwards – this makes a massive difference in isolating the biceps.

Low weight high reps or high weight low reps?

There are a stack of arguments about which technique is better but here’s the basics.

High weight low reps will tend to increase strength really quickly. Low weight high reps will tend to increase your endurance really quickly.

The verdict is pretty much out – people who constantly train only lifting heavy weights aren’t reaping the benefits of low weight high rep routines. Both are equally as valid and both will result in muscle growth. Take heed of the next piece of knowledge – change between these two types of routines every 4-6 weeks.

Change your routine

Every 4-6 weeks your body will adapt to the exercises you are doing. Change your routine – this will shock and stress the muscles so the body will continually be wanting to repair them. Changing your routine can involve the types of exercises your doing, e.g. instead of always doing standing barbell curls, do seated dumbbell incline curls.

You can also change the duration of each repetition. Instead 1-2 seconds for the contraction and 2-3 seconds during the release try contracting for 10 seconds, holding for 1 second, releasing for 10 seconds, then straight into contracting – muscle time under tension can have huge results quickly!

Lastly, alternate between high weight low reps and low weight high reps.

Next week…

I trust you got some useful information out of this post. Join in next week where I’ll be covering the basics of nutrition – what to consume to give you the best results and how often.

Bodybuilding nutrition

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