1) Before you even get to the gym make sure you have your muscle building workouts planned out. You can’t get there and just wing it if you want to see serious results.
2) Psyche yourself up on the way to the gym by visualizing the workout in your head. See yourself going through each of your exercises and dominating the weights.
3) If you train at a public gym, where it’s more thank likely that they will be playing Usher and similar R&B tunes that will make you wanna clean out your ears with a gun, make sure you have some good training songs loaded on your iPod.
4) Train hard 3-4 days per week.
5) Always limit your workouts to an hour, tops. Excluding the warm up, the main strength training portion of the workout should never take more than 45-60 minutes. Use a stopwatch or GymBoss Interval Timer to keep yourself in check.
6) Stick with a muscle building workout plan for 12 weeks, minimum. The best way to see zero results is by jumping from one routine to the next from week to week.
7) Start each workout with a full body dynamic warm up to fire up the CNS, lubricate the joints and activate the muscles; especially those that might not always fire properly or in the right order.
8) If you have nagging injuries stay covered up and dress warm for your workouts. I always wear a few layers unless it’s over 80 degrees in the gym.
9) Knee and elbow sleeves can also be a great friend to the older beat up lifter.
10) The bird dog is an underrated but awesome exercise to include in a pre workout warm up. Give it a try.
11) Foam rolling before a big squat or deadlift workout can be a great thing.
12) Don’t over use the foam roller, however.
13) The less experienced you are the fewer exercises you should use.
14) The more advanced you are the more exercises you can use. But you don’t have to.
15) Spend a large portion of your gym time in the power rack.
16) Don’t skimp on your warm ups. If 405 is your starting weight on deadlifts, doing 135×5, 225×3, 315×1 and then starting is not an effective warm up. Multiple sets of low reps will better prepare you for the task at hand.
17) Beginners should use “straight weight” or “sets across.” That means that you pick a weight you could do comfortably for whatever the set and rep scheme calls for (3×10, 4×8, 5×5, etc.) and stick with that same weight throughout.
18) Advanced lifters are usually better off “working up.” That means you do a bunch of warm up sets and “work up sets” until you get to one or two heavy sets and maybe some back off sets.
19) Rarely will I have advanced guys do more than one hard work set at the same weight in the same rep range on a big barbell exercise.
20) Begin your workouts with some type of throw, jump or Olympic lift for 3-10 sets of 1-5 reps to fire up your CNS.
21) Speed work should usually precede maximal strength work but not always. There are situations when the rules can be broken and better results will come from it. Joe Kenn is big on sometimes putting speed work in at the end of a training session. I’ve borrowed this idea from him and it works quite well.
22) To develop maximal strength, use a big compound barbell lift and work up to 3-5 heavy sets across of 5 reps (beginners) or a top end set of 1-10 reps (advanced lifters). Advanced guys can go as high as eight reps for maximal strength work at the beginning of a long cycle a la Ed Coan or Kirk Karwoski, or even as high as ten like Kaz.
23) Linear periodization still works. But you have to know how to do it properly. A lot of people screw it up.
24) One way to make linear periodization more effective is to make sure the cycle doesn’t last more than 12 weeks and don’t have too drastic of a reduction in reps from week 1 to week 12.
25) Don’t train for more than about eight weeks straight without taking a deload week.
26) There’s a difference between grip work and forearm work. Grip work is more stressful and can not be done all the time. Forearm work is not very stressful at all and can be done quite frequently. Of course, there is some overlap so you need to pick and choose the right methods and exercises.
27) Using Fat Gripz helps you get both grip and forearm work in without adding any extra training time. It also helps save your elbows.
28) Try to use as many bodyweight exercises as possible for assistance work.
29) Incorporate odd objects and strongman type exercises to build real world, functional strength and stability. If you could only pick one farmers walks would be the best.
30) Always strive for maximal muscle stimulation with minimal joint stress.
31) In theory you should be able to do full body workouts forever and make great gains. But when you get quite strong when the joint degradation and/or spinal compression will make this very difficult. At that point you will probably have no choice but to switch to an upper/lower split.
32) Having said that, some muscle groups or body parts will always be able to tolerate higher frequency, no matter how advanced you are.
33) For example, if you are doing an upper/lower split four times per week it would be perfectly feasible to include some type of pulling/back exercise in there each day for 2-5 sets. The guys at Westside do this quite often.
34) Heavy pressing with big weights, three times or more per week for months on end, as a very strong, advanced lifter is definitely not the best idea.
35) If you were advanced and dead set on pressing heavy three times per week you could do something like 15-30 degree incline barbell or dumbbell pressing on Monday, some light high rep pushups on Wednesday and a standing barbell or dumbell press on Friday. That could work if you don’t have any shoulder issues.
36) Speaking of joint stress, be careful to avoid elbow pain. When your elbows get screwed up you will most likely have to deal with it for years. And whenever you think they have healed you will find some exercise that causes excruciating pain.
37) Never go heavy on extensions and save them for after you have done some dips, close grip benches or pushdowns. If you choose to do them at all.
38) Focus on compound movements but don’t be afraid to use some isolation movements if you’re a more advanced lifter who has been training properly for five years. Dips and close grip benches are great but if you need more triceps work you can’t rely only on compound exercises for the simple fact that your shoulders will get destroyed.
For this reason you could add in some band pushdowns and extensions from time to time.
39) The main benefit of assistance exercises is they allow you to get in some volume and train the muscle without destroying your joints or your CNS.
Sure, the deadlift is a better exercise for your posterior chain than the glute ham raise. But you can’t deadlift with a lot of volume every day. If you’re really strong you might not be able to do more than a couple of sets of deadlifts per month.
With the glute ham you can hit it every day if need be and there is minimal joint or CNS stress.
40) If you want traps like the late, great Road Warrior Hawk (and who doesn’t?) you have to add in some Olympic pull variations like cleans or snatch grip high pulls.
41) Do high intensity conditioning either immediately after strength training or as a separate workout on the same day, 4-8 hours later.
42) Before doing anything in the gym always ask yourself a couple questions. Will it help you? How? If you can’t come up with a good answer don’t do it.
43) Your goals and what you do during training should always coincide. If your number one goal is to gain 30 pounds of bodyweight and add 50 pounds each to your bench, squat and deadlift you have to ask yourself how a twenty minute circuit of battling ropes, sled and kettlebell work at the end of each workout will help you.
44) Have fun. At the end of the day most people will not continue to do something for the long haul if it’s not fun. So get a training partner or group, challenge each other, get strong and have fun.
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