3 Rules Of Strength: Maximize Your Gains

Don’t overcomplicate strength training because a DVD said to. Harness the gains you seek with proven lifts and the principles of practice, efficiency, and intensity.

I coached high school football for a year after I graduated college. Working with teenage linebackers taught me to condense and convey information quickly because they could only handle so much at one time. Now, several years into my professional career, I find the same training rules apply to adults.

 

I give my clients one piece of information at a time, and only two or three coaching cues during a training session. The limited information keeps my trainees from overanalyzing, which subsequently improves their performance. The same is true for exercise selection. Rather than crowding a program
with excess miscellaneous, wonder exercises, I keep it simple and use 2-3 solid movements per session.

Cut what’s meaningless and keep what’s productive. That’s my program mantra. I used to overcomplicate and overanalyze every program I wrote, which was dumb. Instead of spending limited time on a thousand lifts, it’s better to build strength with the basics. That’s what I’m here to help you do.

Strength Made Simple ///

Practice, efficiency, and intensity are elements that build a strong human. Whether you’ve been a competing powerlifter since the 1980s or a desk jockey looking for manly time with the iron, using 2-3 concentrated movements per session will hit all three elements. Oh, and it gets you strong. Strong like if Godzilla and Sasquatch had a baby named Thunder.

1 / Practice

Most people don’t view gym time as practice, but that’s exactly what it is. People who achieve excellence aren’t born excellent. They achieve excellence because they do what they’re excellent at often. A terrific housepainter most likely got that way through painting a lot of houses. If you want to be a great squatter, do lots of squats.

2 / Efficiency

Efficiency comes from time spent training quality movements. Concentrate your focus on a few solid exercises and you’ll spend less time in the gym. To be strong you must put yourself in the best position possible to efficiently generate force. Finding the best position for your body requires countless reps.

3 / Intensity

Reps must be performed at varying intensities for the same exercise at different times within a training session for maximum results. You don’t have to move on to a random exercise. You can continue to focus on a lift that requires practice.

Take these three elements and apply them consistently to get big and strong. Forget “muscle confusion.” The body adapts with consistency, not randomness. Use the same lifts consistently and progress by building size and strength. Unless you’re in the midst of a seven-year plateau, training at maximum intensity, you don’t need a variety swing.

What Lifts Should You Perform? ///

It depends on what lifts you want to be good at and what lifts work well for your body. Luckily, there are movements faithfully devoted to the promotion of human strength. They should be familiar to you: squats, presses, deadlifts, and Olympic lifts.

When you determine what you want to master and what lifts don’t leave your frame in shambles, all that’s left is to combine the elements: practice, efficiency, intensity, and your chosen lifts. The result? A supernova of progressive strength and size gains!

(Note: If you’ve never had your movement assessed by a qualified strength coach, make it happen. It’s the most efficient way to discover what exercises work for you.)

Let’s get started with an example week.

Sample Training Week ///

Under the intensity column, you’ll see @6 or @8. This nomenclature is based on rate of perceived exertion, not percentages. @6 means the bar moves fast without maximal force. You will still apply maximal force, but you’ll choose weight that doesn’t require it for speed. @8 means you could complete 2-3 more reps with the given weight until failure, but won’t.

This is a snapshot of a program. It’s a Polaroid, not a movie showing full progression into and out of the program. Progression depends on your current needs and goals. It’s your job to determine those.

The program volume isn’t remarkable. In fact, it’s low because it doesn’t take lots of volume to get strong; it takes focused and intense volume.

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10 Rules For Ripped Abs!

Use these 10 abdominal truths to effectively burn fat, target your abs, and build a strong six-pack.

As a personal trainer, I’m constantly bombarded with questions about how to build six-pack abs. My clients want to know the best core exercises, what to eat, and how to train for best results.

To help you complete your own quest for a chiselled middle, I’ve gathered and answered my clients’ top 10 questions into one supercharged six-pack article. Start shredding!

1 / Are Crunches The Best Way To Get Ripped Abs?

No. Crunches work your abs, but there are more effective core-centric exercises. A study from San Diego State University showed that the vertical chair knee raise, for example, stimulates up to 210 percent more abdominal activity than a regular crunch!

Core muscles are also an integral part of deadlifts and squats, both of which are more effective than crunches. They also burn more calories, giving you extra bang for each rep you perform.

2 / How Should I Train For Maximum Fat Loss?

Go hard and go heavy. High-intensity exercise has been shown to stimulate lipolytic hormones, including growth hormone and epinephrine, which promote greater post-exercise energy expenditure and fat burning.1 This after-burn effect is associated with a boost in metabolism, known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

High-volume, whole-body resistance training significantly elevates resting energy expenditure up to 72 hours after exercise in both trained and untrained subjects.2,3 In fact, a study from the National Taiwan Normal University found that EPOC after training with heavier weights—75 percent of one rep max (1RM)—is higher than after training with lighter weights at 50 percent of 1RM.

Basically, the heavier and harder you train in the gym, the more you burn when you’re done lifting.

3 / Why Is Stomach Fat So Hard To Lose?

Everyone’s different, but the stomach is generally the body’s favorite place to store and hold fat—even on a strict diet and fitness plan. When I was competing in bodybuilding, my lower abs were the last to appear before a show. Hormonal changes that result from lack of proper sleep, stress, and aging add more fat to your waistline.

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a quick fix—it’s all about proper nutrition, consistent exercise, and overall caloric expenditure.

4 / How Long Will It Take To Get A Six-Pack?

This is probably the most common question we hear from our clients at CircuitFIT. There’s no sure-fire answer because so many factors are involved, including your current body fat, your fitness level, your exercise routine, your diet, stress, and your sleep duration and quality.

Regardless, you won’t build a six-pack overnight. You have to put in real work and give it time. Get a fitness and nutrition plan together and follow it consistently for at least 12 weeks before you expect to see noticeable results.

5 / What Should I Eat In Order To Get Ripped Abs?

Fewer carbohydrates and more protein! Stick to nutritious carbs like whole grains and vegetables, and make sure each meal or snack contains a lean protein source like chicken, fish, or non-fat Greek yogurt. Don’t be afraid of fat, however. Include good fats from fish, fish oil, nuts, olives and avocados in your diet.

I personally have 3-4 whole-food meals and 1-2 protein shakes per day. I have my shakes pre- and post-workout on training days. It’s all about choosing whole fruits and vegetables, and nutrient-dense, complex carbs. My diet includes whole eggsyams, Greek yogurt, fish, chicken,beef, nuts, olive oilalmond butter, fruits, vegetables, quinoa, and other nutritious grains.

6 / Can I Get Ripped By Taking A Supplement?

Remember that supplements need to supplement something. If you want to get ripped and build muscle, you have to get off your butt and do the work! I always recommend that my clients have a solid training and nutrition regimen in place before they add supplements to their programs. When you’re ready to add a fat-burning product, choose one with ingredients backed by published studies.

Caffeine, CH-19 Sweet Red Pepper Extract, and raspberry ketone are all backed by quality research. These are some of the ingredients we use in our PharmaFreak fat burner, Ripped Freak.

7 / Will I Be Able To Maintain My Results Once I Stop Using A Fat Burner?

Of course! As long as you continue to train hard and follow a solid nutrition plan, you’ll maintain your results sans supplements. Most people eat super clean and train harder than ever while taking supplements, but go back to their old, lazy ways once they stop. This leads to the dreaded “yo-yo syndrome,” which destroys hard-earned results. Consistency is the key.

8 / Is It Easier For Men Or Women To Get Ripped Abs?

In general, men can achieve six-pack status easier than women because they produce more testosterone, allowing them to build more muscle mass and burn more calories while exercising and resting.

Women have a harder time because of their hormonal and muscular makeup, which is one of the main reasons we emphasize compound—or functional—lifts with our female clients.

That said, the older we get, the harder it becomes for both sexes to get a six-pack. Our hormone levels naturally decline. However, research shows that strength training can increase lean muscle tissue and strength, which helps us stay ripped.

Pumping iron is the key. Proper nutrition and supplements can also help naturally raise key muscle-building and fat-burning hormones.

9 / What If You Don’t Want The Six-Pack, But Just A Flat Stomach?

Wait, who doesn’t want a six-pack? OK, even if you just want a flat stomach, I recommend you train your abs from all angles 3-5 times per week to build a strong core that not only looks good but also helps you perform better and stay injury-free. Check out my favorite abs exercises.

10 / What Are The Biggest Mistakes People Make When It Comes To Getting Flat Abs?

Ninety-nine percent of the time, when clients aren’t achieving desired results, they’re consuming too many calories, making bad food choices, or both. You can avoid this by tracking your progress. In addition to writing down reps and sets, keep a food journal. Documenting your daily progress is extremely valuable because it allows you to look back, review, and tweak your plan.

Everyone responds differently, so to determine what works best, get to know your body and listen to its feedback.

Strong Body, Stronger Mind: 6 Steps To Mental Muscle

Big changes to your body and your lifestyle don’t come without a shift in your mental attitude. If your mind isn’t up to the task, your body will never be. Learn how to strengthen your mind in six steps.

1 / Know What You Want

Before starting on your journey, you’ve got to know where you’re going. What do you want to accomplish with your body? Are you a young guy looking to get big, or do you want to lean down? Do you want to focus on strength for a sport, or would you rather focus on mass? Do you have dreams of becoming a professional, sponsored bodybuilder or fitness model? It’s your body, your mind, and your choice. Remember that!

Despite the simplicity, answering the question “what do you want?” is difficult for most people. One reason that question is so hard is that it forces you to come to terms with your current state of affairs. You might want to be a behemoth bodybuilder, for instance, but if you’re already overweight to an unhealthy level, then gaining more weight isn’t a great idea. You’ll have to diet first, and that sucks! It’s a lot easier in the long run if you’re honest with yourself and honest about your goals.

strong-body-stronger-mind-2

2 / Surround Yourself With Positive People

Once you decide to change your body, you might find that all sorts of previously pleasant people start to become discouraging. It’s rarely anything overt, though. You’ll just hear off-hand comments about your “Spartan” diet or “obsessive” training schedule, and some people will not-so-playfully poke fun at you for taking fitness seriously.

3 / Do What You Hate!

If you want to make everything else in your routine seem a little easier, aggressively tackle the stuff you hate the most. Dreading your next leg day? Do double your normal volume on squats! Is cardio getting your down? Crank up the treadmill speed and tough it out. Getting a little sick of your diet? Try eating everything with zero spices or herbs for a few days and see if your normal meals don’t seem a little less boring.

You can only make so many tough choices per day. It’s a lot easier to fall off the wagon when every meal and every workout feels like a burden. By forcing yourself to do the hard stuff, you effectively make all of exercise and dietary habits “easier,” freeing up your mental energy for other tasks.

4 / Maintain Momentum

“The highs are high, and the lows are lower.” That old adage applies to most endeavors, and fitness is no exception. For me and most of my clients, training hard and eating right becomes easier the longer we do it. Like any other habit, they are tough to start, but even tougher to break.

5 / Set Short- And Long-Term Goals

When you try to improve your body, one of the worst things you can do is to become complacent. It’s fine to take a break now and again. Even pro bodybuilders have “maintenance” periods, but you need to keep new goals in mind if you want to make continual progress.

To keep yourself moving forward, have short- and long-term goals going at the same time. Say you want to increase your squat. If you’re currently hitting 225 for five reps, you might have a short-term goal of getting 275 for five reps. Don’t stop there! Think about how much stronger you want to be and set a lofty goal: try for 405, 495, even 585 for five reps!

6 / Embrace Failure!

It might hurt to hear this but, you should know that you are going to fail, and probably more than once before you reach your ultimate potential.

Even if you exert the utmost control over your diet and training, you’re going to have setbacks like bad workouts, periods of low energy, injuries, and external stress.

Know that this isn’t an excuse to be undisciplined, but an understanding that you’ll have to stay in the game for the long haul. If you don’t understand the likelihood of occasional setbacks, every mishap will seem like the end of the world.