This article is quite important if you are an advanced lifter.
These are the 8 elements that NEED to be included in your training program to ensure long lasting health and progress.
What training program am I talking about? Any Barbell Based Program.
Anything that involves moving weight better, building strength and muscle. This includes Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, Strongman and Olympic Weightlifting.
All these sports have a common base : Get Stronger. How you get stronger relies on how much emphasis you put on each element that MUST be part of your program :
This is the first element that should be taught in any training program. At first you go with very light weights and learn proper form. Technical work includes Bar Path work, Muscular Sensation during the lift, and what Cues and Steps to follow in order to lifte perfectly.
This is true even for Bodybuilding where ever the slightest change in grip, angle, and range of motion can target one or several different muscles. In bodybuilding targeting the small weaker muscles is as important as in all the other sports that seem to have a more important technical aspect.
Missing out on technique in the beginning will invariably lead to injury and slower progress in the future.
2) Maximal Effort
This is of greater importance in Powerlifting and Olympic Weightlifting as the goal is to successfully lift the heaviest weight possible. Also true in strongman where strength is the main focus (STRONGman), but where a lot of events are a number of reps for a certain weight, so stamina counts much more than in single lift events.
Maximal Effort should be included twice a week at most, for different muscle groups and movements, and needs a “deload week ». The stronger you are and the more muscle mass you have, the more frequently you need to deload.
Thor « The Mountain » Bjornsson deloads every other week, whereas a beginner lifter, or lightweight lifter can recover much faster and delaod less frequently.
3) Dynamic Effort
This is just as important as Maximal Effort lifting. If you look at force development it is F=Mass x Acceleration.
Therefore strength depends just as much on how FAST you can move weight as on how MUCH weight you can move. If you can move the same weight faster, you are stronger.
If strength was measured Isometrically ( without movement), then speed would play no role. But in all the above-mentioned sports, as you have to MOVE a weight from point A to Point B, speed is crucial.
This is more important in Olympic weightlifting than in any of the other strength sports, where the weight has to be accelerated up to certain speed in order to suspend it for a fraction of a second to jump underneath.
If you slow weights down, you see that for the same Force you use, the “weight increases” as m=F/A.
Not technically as the weight is a constant, but the Force you have to generate in order to move the weigh increases. So it’s as if you were using more weight. Which explains why moving a weight slower is so much harder.
You also increase the time under tension, which depletes your energy ressources, and increases the chemical load on top of the mechanical one.
So learning to move weights at different speeds is a MUST if you want to make constant progress.
You can do stato-dynamic work, chains, elastic bands to force you to accelerate the weight, use Tendo units… Whatever the means, changing the speed is a necessity if you want to make progress.
In order to move more weight you need more muscle mass.
Once you have created more muscle mass, you need to make that extra muscle mass more efficient by training is with maximal effort and speed training.
Producing more muscle entails stressing the muscle. It can be stressed chemically or mechanically, and both create damage. Once the muscle has been damaged, it reacts by making more of itself.
More muscle means more strength.
There are several methods to stress the muscle. The basic idea of hypertrophy is done by increasing “tonnage”, so the total amount of weight you have lifted during a session, and/or time under tension. So you can increase sets, reps, weight, and you are looking to go for about 120 seconds of time under tension to create Optimal Damage.
Too much and you’ll have trouble recovering, too little and it won’t have caused enough damage to create a reaction. This is the basis of lifting, and even more so for bodybuilding, where the only goals are muscle mass, symmetry and definition (low fat mass).
5) GPP ( General Physical Preparedness)
This quality describes the capacity your muscle has to endure work. It includes :
- your cardiovascular qualities ( amount of capillaries in your muscles, and the volume your heart can push)
- your stamina (the amount of energy reserves you can store and access)
- your lactic threshold (the amount of effort necessary to induce the production of lactic acid).
The stronger you become, the more GPP you will need in order to be able to sustain your level of performance, and recover from your training sessions.
Gpp must be related to the sport you do. Don’t do jogging if you are a Strongman or a powerlifter… Drag and carry things repeatedly.
For a bodybuilder, it is the concept of super sets of 15, 20 reps or more of light weight to pump blood into the muscle.
For Olympic Weightlifting think intervals of sprints and jumps to work on explosiveness and reactive strength at the same time.
The goal is to increase the number of capillaries that bring blood, strengthen tendon health, and also simply to pump blood into muscles that need the nutrition to grow.
Isometrics are to be used with care. Isometrics tax the nervous system just as max effort does without causing muscular damage, and stimulates strength in a specific angle, usually a “weak” angle, or « sticking point”.
So if you want to add isometrics, you can vey simply add pauses to different points during your lifts to increase tension in that zone, and increase the strength in that specific sticking point.
However isometrics are very safe, and there is less risk of technical fault, with maximal exertion. If these aren’t present in your current program you should definitely include them to help you push past your weaknesses.
7) Flexibility and Mobility
Flexibility is you ability to reach full range of motion in a static unloaded position. This helps understand how far your soft tissue can stretch, and if it can be put into end of range of motion and stay there easily. It is a great method to test if your tendons, ligaments, and fascia (connective tissue surrounding you muscles) are loose enough to allow you to safely get into your lifting positions without ripping under the loads.
Mobility is a close cousin to flexibility. It is your ability to contract and relax muscles in end ranges of motion without discomfort or risk of injury. This establishes if your soft tissue has the elastic qualities needed to support your lifts.
If you aren’t making sure you are able to lift weight in a range of motion that is superior to the needed range, you are at a high risk of getting injured and having to put your living on hold, which monstrously sucks.
These are the 7 elements that are absolutely necessary to include in any kind of training. So if your current training program does not have one of these elements, I can foresee injury or stalling in your near future.