These are the 20 rules of intelligent fitness training you can put into practice next time you are in the gym.
1. The goal of intelligent training is to improve your ability to contract your muscles harder, NOT simply to complete reps. You don’t want to put out reps with bad form or reps that hurt your joints.
2. Aim to get better and better at this with every muscle, NOT to do more and more reps.
3. Lack of stability will affect muscular contraction. I spoke about it briefly here. If you lack mobility or stability you are not building muscle as optimal as you could. (And you are potentially agitating your joints due to compensations).
4. If you get into the gym early, do stability activations warm up. Exercises like kb bottoms up press, rotator cuff external rotations, hip airplanes, 1 leg hip ext holds are a few movements that will help.
5. If you notice some body part moving that shouldn’t be, you’re taking away from the working muscle. For example, if your shoulders are moving on a bicep curl… No bueno! No rep!
6. Train stability by spending more time in the range where you see the weakness/instability in your body. For many people this is overhead or at the bottom of a squat or deadlift. A kb bottoms up press can help overhead press and your shoulder health, a jefferson curl can help the bottom of a deadlift, and a squat sit can help your squat!
7. Strength starts in the trunk/core/spine. Stabilize there on every rep. Create an unbendable core. If you don’t know if you are doing this, you probably aren’t. In general, you want to think of a pelvic tilt on every rep, secured by good breathing.
8. DO NOT use forced reps or poor form EVER. This is very important in our met cons and finishers. Generally on these exercises you want to move through them with control and great form. If you are fatigued and this doens’t seem feasible shorten the length of your reps. A few examples of this would be doing 1/4 pushups, half range squats, and trap bar deadlifts instead of barbell deadlifts.
9. The set is done once you can not perform another single rep with stability and control. This is the same as above. Don’t keep going because the whiteboard says 15 reps if you can only do 10 reps with good form, stability and control.
You have 3 options here:
– rest and gather yourself and then finish off the last 5 reps
– just do 10 reps (listen to your body)
– go get a lighter weight and adjust for your next round so you can do 15 reps
10. Aim to do the work prescribed on the whiteboard with harder contractions. More is not more as it elevates cortisol and accumulates more stress on your body if you are just going through it without thinking about your muscles.
11. PAY ATTENTION to the rest periods. They are a very important to the stimulus and not to be shortened. On the flip side, sometimes they are so short it seems impossible. In both cases done with purpose.
12. To build strength, you need to rest. If there is 2 minute rest written into the workout it is there for a reason. (Mostly so you can attack your sets with focus void of fatigue and with a challenging weight).
13. Breathing happens properly when you inhale and your belly expands. Check your breathing right now. Lots of cardiorespiratory endurance is being left on the table if this isn’t happening.
14. READ the Coaches Notes on every workout. etc. This may elaborate on the sets, reps, and exercises. THEY MATTER
This is where the true intricacies of the workout will shine.
15. A1 followed by A2 (or any letter) indicates these are to be done in superset format (alternated. Do exercise A1, then A2.
16. B1 followed by C1 or B followed by C means these are straight sets. Complete all sets of B before moving to C.
17. When you’re done training, spend 5 extra minutes stretching, being still/calm and working on your breath. This will help take you to parasympathetic rest and digest state and improve your recovery.
18. With regards to stretching. Be mindful of your breath. Try a 5:5 breath (5 seconds in, 5 seconds out).
19. If muscle building is your primary goal, consider adding carbs during your workout. If fat loss is your goal, consider eating carbs only after workouts and don’t eat carbs on non-training days.
20. How was your posture while reading this? If you spend most of your time in a bad position throughout the day it makes it harder to get the most out of your workouts. Improve that and you will feel better before, during, and after your training.
Have any questions about any of this? Email me below.
Committed to your success,
Josh Saunders, BS, CSCS