The 10 Training Commandments for a Lean Physique

Tired of not seeing the results you wanted in the gym? Perhaps your training needs some fine-tuning, or major tuning. Weight training is a complex task, much more so than many gym-goers may believe. Naturally, it makes sense to have some sort of guidance to show trainees or all experience levels what they should, and should not, do in the gym. Read on to learn all about the 10 commandments of weight training!

1st COMMANDMENT:
PROGRESSION MATTERS
The stimulus for muscle growth is progressive overload – the addition of weight and/or volume over time. This is due to muscular adaptation as the body requires more and more physical stress to keep growing. Progression begins on the set level, with the addition of reps. Eventually when you are capable of performing a quality number of reps per set, you should add weight to make the set more challenging and force continual adaptation. If you aren’t progressing in some form or fashion, there is little reason to lift weights at all. Without progression, you simply won’t see much improvement in your physique or strength.

2nd COMMANDMENT:
FOCUS ON REP TEMPO
The tempo at which you perform your repetitions ultimately determines the total time under tension (TUT) for the working muscle(s). Longer TUT is not necessarily correlated with more muscle growth, but it can undoubtedly make lighter weights more challenging and increase the work performed by targeted muscles. Start by using a 3-1-2 tempo on all repetitions, meaning 3 seconds to lower the weight, one second pause at the bottom, and then 2 seconds to lift the weight.

3rd COMMANDMENT:
TRAINING VOLUME = MUSCLE GROWTH
For those who aren’t familiar, training volume is the total amount of work done. It is typically calculated as the number of sets performed by the number of reps per set. Research consistently demonstrates that when volume is equal, muscle growth between test groups is essentially the same (assuming each set is taken to failure or near failure).1 So for example, performing 4 sets of 10 with at 65% intensity results in the same muscle growth as doing 10 sets of 4 at 90% intensity. Intensity in this case is the percentage of weight relative to one’s one-rep maximum.

4th COMMANDMENT:
GO HEAVY & HARD
Compound exercises are the meat and potatoes of what any efficacious training routine should be built around. They work multiple muscle groups and are the bang for your muscle-building buck. The most bang for your buck. Since compound exercises involve several muscle groups, you should focus on proper form and going as heavy as possible (safely). As such, it’s best to have compound movements as the first exercises in any given workout. Isolation exercises, on the other hand, should still be done intensely but focusing on the mind-muscle connection and a strong muscular contraction is key for stimulating blood flow to the target muscle. Do these towards the end of your workouts when energy levels dip and muscular fatigue is high.

5th COMMANDMENT:
LEAVE YOUR EGO AT THE GYM DOOR
Make no mistake that lifting hard and heavy is vastly different from using a weight you’re incapable of lifting safely and with proper form. Far too often gym-goers let their ego get way ahead of themselves, resulting in dangerous lift execution (and often injury). Know your limits and keep your form proper, your body will thank you in the long run. In fact, you should err on the side of using a weight that is too light as opposed to too heavy. You can always do a few more reps if the weight is lighter than you want. If it’s too heavy, however, you could be in a sticky situation (especially if no one is spotting you).

6th COMMANDMENT:
SWITCH UP YOUR ROUTINE
People often tout that you need to “confuse your muscles” by switching up the exercises you perform. While there is certainly merit to changing up your routine, it shouldn’t be done as frequently as many gym-goers believe. For starters, every four weeks should be an efficient span to perform the same routine. Make note that just because you perform the same exercises for a given period of time, you can still be “confusing” the muscle by adding weight, reps, sets, etc. Also, using various intensity techniques like different rep tempos, drop-sets, etc… can help add a new way to keep the muscle adapting.

7th COMMANDMENT:
CARDIO ISN’T THE ENEMY
Many gym-goers and bodybuilders alike fear cardio like the plague, but done in moderation (and at proper intensity) it can be great for enhancing both muscle growth and fat loss. In particular, high-intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.) is the most efficacious form of cardio, and research has suggested that actually increases anaerobic capacity.2

Essentially, by performing a few H.I.I.T. sessions each week, you’ll boost your weight lifting performance and keep your metabolic rate high. Just be sure that you keep weight training as the priority. Unless you’re an athlete training for track and field, there’s not much reason to focus on cardio when looking to be leaner and more muscular.

8th COMMANDMENT:
GET IN – GET OUT – REST – REPEAT
It goes without saying that your muscles are not growing while you’re in the gym; they grow when you’re in bed sleeping the night away and watching T.V. on the couch (assuming you’re eating properly).

9th COMMANDMENT:
ANTAGONISTIC SUPERSETS ARE GOOD
Antagonistic supersets are pairings of exercises that work opposing muscle(s). A prime example is doing bicep curls followed up by tricep pressdowns, as the biceps – used for pulling – antagonize the triceps – used for pushing. Antagonistic supersets are a great way to make your training more time efficient, intense, and fun by keeping workouts challenging and fast-paced.

10th COMMANDMENT:
TRAIN WEAK PARTS SEPARATELY
Many gym-goers have identified select muscles on their body that just seem to lag behind the rest. In these cases, it’s best to set aside a workout or two every week that focuses on those muscles so you can really give them the attention they need to grow.

For example, if your arms aren’t growing as you hope, make sure to incorporate at least one day each week dedicated purely to biceps and triceps exercises (and really push the intensity and volume).

CONCLUSION
So there you have it, the 10 commandments of training for a lean, muscular physique.

In reality, all of these should be incorporated into your workouts/routine, but feel free to use as many or as few of them as you like.


References
1 Kramer, J. B., Stone, M. H., O’bryant, H. S., Conley, M. S., Johnson, R. L., Nieman, D. C., … & Hoke, T. P. (1997). Effects of single vs. multiple sets of weight training: Impact of volume, intensity, and variation. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 11(3), 143-147.
2 Ziemann, E., Grzywacz, T., Luszczyk, M., Laskowski, R., Olek, R. A., & Gibson, A. L. (2011). Aerobic and anaerobic changes with high-intensity interval training in active college-aged men. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(4), 1104-1112.

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