With over 30 years of lifting experience, we at Muscle Evolution were recently fortunate enough to interview renowned exercise physiologist Scott Stevenson (PhD) who offered our readers practical ways to improve their training.
Get the January/February 2018 edition of Muscle Evolution, available at retail outlets, for the full interview with Dr. Scott Stevenson. You won’t be disappointed!
13 Practical ways to boost your training immediately:
1# Use a log book: Overload progressively by using a log book to record training weights, repetitions, etc. It may not be as fun as just “winging it,” but it will hold you accountable to making progression in the gym and also make you aware of your performance (and tune you in to how this can help when determining if you to deloading or take a break). The log book is “objective” – the weights never lie and the book doesn’t give you a pass when you decide to go easy one day. It just tells you like it is.
2# Don’t programme hop: Find a training programme that makes sense to you and is suited to how you would like to train, and ride it out as long as you can. You’ll learn more this way in the long run. Persistence and consistency go a long way in bodybuilding for those not particularly genetically gifted.
3# Don’t be dogmatic with exercises: Find the ones that feel good and are right for you (targeting the muscle you are training) and become brutally strong on them, even if they are off the beaten path a bit.
4# Get a partner: If possible, train with someone better, stronger and tougher than you. This might mean a better bodybuilder, a much larger/stronger person or perhaps a person who can handle a tremendous workload. This challenge and perspective will make you better and help you learn your limits.
5# Please stretch: Include some form of stretching in your programme, especially if you are noticeably inflexible. This can add a novel growth stimulus and the gain in flexibility may allow you to train more effectively with exercises you currently do (e.g., with greater range of motion) or start using exercises you can’t currently safely do.
6# Deload: Pay close attention when to deload and take a break. Use some form of periodisation in your training. Recognise the signs of overreaching and overtraining and be smart about adjusting accordingly. The mental strength you enlist to push your limits can actually slow your progress if your training exceeds your recovery abilities.
7# Experiment: Experiment with novel exercises, exercise order, and/or intensification techniques as needed. If, after banging away at the basic exercises, the immense strength you’ve gained is not reflected in your physique, then you may need to find ways to make exercises more difficult (hand position, depth, cable attachment, body positioning, etc.) or focus on the target muscle (pre-fatiguing, mechanical drop sets, etc.) Know that doing what you’re not doing (within reason) is a way to spur new muscle growth: If you’re doing lower reps, then high reps (taken to failure) may create the novelty of stimulus you need to foster continued growth. Even an entirely new training split can fill this bill.
8# Intelligent programming: Set your training days up around your recovery and diet. Train larger or less developed muscle groups (legs, back or a muscle group you’re trying to bring up) after a day of rest or allow a day of recovery afterwards.
9# Think outside the box: Structure your workouts to suit your goals. Train weaker muscles when your energy is greatest. This is typically at the start of a workout or after warming up psychologically (getting into your training groove) by training a smaller muscle group (e.g., calves or abs). You might even try hitting delts before chest if your delts are relatively weak and delt training (muscle loading) is impacted by chest training.
10# Use weights to burn fat: Try using more weight training (and perhaps a higher training frequency) in place of cardio. This could be for the purpose of pre-contest fat loss, staying lean in the off-season or increasing physical activity levels to prevent cardiovascular disease.
11#Train at the right time: Train at the best time of the day for you, if at all possible.
12# Train at the right gym: Find the gym with the best training atmosphere and join it, even if you can only train there on the weekends (e.g., due to distance). The like-mindedness will very likely rub off and carry over to your effort level even when not training at that gym as you’ll set a new standard for yourself.
13# Focus, focus, focus: Spend as little time on your phone as possible. Unless you find it to be an absolutely vital tool, e.g., for tracking progress or video recording lifts, don’t distract yourself in whatever ways (social media, emails, text messaging, etc.) you may otherwise with your phone. Try instead to use that time to stay focused on the task at hand, in the moment, as well as to visualise and prepare your upcoming lifts and using imagery in the greatest detail possible, including all forms of sensory input.