27 Sep Keep It Simple
Keep It Simple
I often get asked in the gym what the magical next step is to finally break a PR or add 20 lbs of muscle. There was a time when I would suggest adding supersets, complexes, clusters, high threshold motor unit recruitment training and a host of other cool sounding techniques to make me sound smart.
As I have gotten more educated and experienced though, I’ve realized a couple of things.
1. I’m not that smart and the only people who I care to pretend I’m smart in front of are smarter than me and thus would not be asking me such things.
2. Most people need to stop complicating their workouts and just focus on the basics.
The Truth and Nothing but It
I know most people want to read about something new and exciting but I would be remised as a self-proclaimed educator if I did not try to reach the few people who will actually listen to me.
If you want to get bigger and stronger there is a very simple answer.
Do compound exercises such as deadlift variations, upper body pulling, multi-joint pushing exercises and wait for it…… the squat.
My second tip is to do them with free weights. I know, this is revolutionary stuff.
Oh and regarding squats, do front squats, back squats, goblet squats, one-legged squats or squats with your nagging significant other raised above your head in triumph. It doesn’t matter what kind.
And for Buddha’s sake learn how to squat correctly.
Most Bang for your Buck
It’s important for me to repeat something. Use free weights not machines.
There is a reason machines became so popular in commercial gyms. If a gym has them they make money… the end. The owners of large health clubs cannot educate every member that walks in and so they provide a do it by yourself method for these people to come and get a “workout.”
Exercises that involve the most movement with the greatest amount of muscle groups involved provide the most strength and muscle mass. This is true even for those who are more focused on bodybuilding. There is no such thing as truly isolating a muscle.
“But Jay Cutler uses machines.” (The bodybuilder folk will get the reference.) When you have the same freaky genetics, take all the supplements he does and have been training for 20 plus years as a strength trainer I might concede that a machine here and there will be good for you.
The truth is that machines are good for adding extra volume to your workouts but the problem remains that most people don’t build their base first.
They are throwing stuff at a wall to see what sticks without first building a foundation to build upon.
The point is that if you cannot perform a squat correctly for 3 simple sets of 6-8 reps than there is no need to add machines, supersets or the like.
So am I going to give you a format to follow to finally start making those gains you want?
Just pick up a barbell or a dumbbell and start doing the basic movements that you should have been doing first. Learn how to perform these movements the right way and I promise you will make progress.
Want big legs? Squat. Want big legs and a big back? Deadlift. Want a wide thick back? Do a damn pull up. Want all of the above with bigger shoulders and traps? Take the time to actually learn how to do a clean and press CORRECTLY.
As far as programming goes to make strength gains. Do less work. Drop the reps and sets down. Do sets with lower reps and heavier weight with good form. Instead of doing 3 sets of 6, do 6 sets of 3. It’s the same amount of work. You can however use heavier weight within a given set because you are only doing 3 reps in a given set.
For most beginner and some intermediate lifters less really is more.
And before you think I am talking down to you, just remember that I thought the same thing at one time and what is worse is that I taught it to other people as well.
Oh and if you don’t think any of this is worthwhile and want me to blow it out my hole, at least you can google those cool terms in the beginning I used.
Have any simple advice? Leave it in the comments.