Training Tips From An Exercise Physiologist That Will Take Your Workout To The Next Level

Training Tips From An Exercise Physiologist That Will Take Your Workout To The Next Level

Trying to bust through a training plateau? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.

Here, exercise physiologist, sports scientist and 12RND Fitness ambassador Drew Harrisberg shares his expert intel.

1. Periodise. Periodise. Periodise.
Raise your hand if you show up to the gym each week and do the same handful of workouts over and over again. Have you ever wondered why you haven’t made any significant progress for a while? I see this all the time in the gym and I’m occasionally guilty of it myself. We stick to certain exercises, focus on our strengths, neglect our weaknesses, and get paralysed in our comfort zone. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. It’s like building a house. Different jobs require different tools. If you keep trying to drill a nail that requires a hammer, you’re not going to achieve the desired outcome. Choose the right tool for the right job.

For example, many guys get overly focussed on hypertrophy training and neglect strength training, plyometrics, power, and endurance training. There are a number of different stimuli for muscle growth, therefore an optimal program should incorporate all of them. A program that I personally like to follow is a Daily Undulating Periodisation (DUP) program. In other words, each workout will have a specific objective. Each day will have different rep range, intensity, and loading parameters and these will fluctuate in micro and macro training cycles.

On strength days, the objective is to produce force i.e move heavyweights to create mechanical tension and muscle damage. Focus on low rep, heavyweight, in the 4-6 rep range.

On hypertrophy days, the objective is to get a really good pump i.e fill your muscles with blood and metabolic substrates which have an anabolic growth effect via cellular swelling. Focus on moderate reps, moderate weight, in the 8-12 rep range.

On endurance days, the objective is to feel a burn i.e create a metabolic stimulus for growth. Focus on higher reps, lighter weights, in the 15+ rep range. Use supersets, drop-sets, sets to failure etc.

Also make sure you vary your exercise selection and the order in which you perform them. One of the reasons why I love 12RND fitness is because you can show up any time within opening hours and be guaranteed a full-body circuit made up of compound lifts (12x 3-min rounds). Every workout is different and the program is periodised by the trainers so that it includes strength phases, power phases, and endurance phases.

2. Master the compound lifts
Compound exercises are movement patterns that require activation of numerous large muscle groups and joints. They are far more taxing on the nervous system and require a higher level of skill than isolation exercises. Sure, some guys can simply look at a dumbbell or cable machine and get bigger, but most guys do much better by focusing on getting strong and proficient at the main compound lifts in both the vertical and horizontal planes such as bench press, pull-ups, rows, overhead press, dips, squats, deadlifts, and lunges (or other unilateral leg variations). These should be the foundation of any good program. Perform these movement patterns at the beginning of your workout when you’re fresh and energised, then move on to the isolated, single joint, accessory work such as bicep curls, tricep extension, later raises, calf raises, cables and machines etc.

3. Don’t overuse ‘going to failure’
Going to failure is just one tool in the training toolkit. Sure, it can be an effective anabolic stimulus if used correctly but if overused may become detrimental. One of the most important factors when it comes to hypertrophy is total volume. Going to failure may rob you of total volume across your workout due to central nervous system fatigue. For example, let’s say your 10RM on the bench press is 100kgs and you decide to do 4 sets of bench to failure. On your first set, you fail at 10 reps. On your second set, you might only get 6 reps. Your third set 5. And fourth set 5 (if you’re lucky!). Following this protocol, your total bench volume is 100kgs x 26 reps = 2600 kgs. Now imagine you do 4 sets of bench with the same weight but you stop 1-2 reps shy of failure on the first 3 sets and take your final set to failure. On your first set, you get 9 reps. On your second set, you get 8 reps. On set 3, you get 7 reps. And on your final set, you get another 7 reps to complete failure. That’s 100kgs x 31 reps = 3100 kgs total volume lifted. Now extrapolate this across weeks, months, and years of training and you can see how much more work/volume you can get through plus you’ll probably experience less DOMS which often gets in the way of high training frequency. Each set you take to failure can steal reps off the following sets so instead of taking every set to failure, go there on the last set of each exercise.

4. Use Objective Measures to Monitor Recovery
Using objective insights into your state of recovery and readiness to perform is a great way to avoid burnout and keep making those gains. Use an app or device that measures heart rate variability (HRV) and/or resting heart rate (RHR). HRV is like a window into your autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is made up of two parts; the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). We want a balance between how much time we spend in each. If we are constantly in fight or flight mode we may experience burnout. HRV is a great tool to help dictate what kind of workout you should do each day. We want high HRV. If you have a low HRV i.e small, metronomic intervals between heartbeats, its an indication that you are overtrained (or under-recovered depending on semantics). On days like this, consider swapping your scheduled high-intensity session for something less strenuous and taxing on the nervous system like a long brisk walk in nature or some yoga, or swap your strength session for a lower RPE workout using lighter weights and higher reps. On days when your HRV is high i.e large variable intervals between beats, its a green light to go hard! Lift heavy weights or smash a high-intensity full body circuit. You can also use resting HR as a measure of recovery and readiness to perform. Here’s how I use it. My RHR is usually around 40 bpm. If I smash a few hard workouts in a row and then wake up the next day feeling sluggish and notice my HR is sitting around 10-20 bpm above normal, it’s a pretty clear indication that my body needs more recovery so I’ll take an active rest day i.e a long walk with my dog, yoga, foam rolling and mobility work.

About 12RND Fitness

12RND Fitness is a concept started by Queensland based entrepreneur and exercise scientist Tim West and it is co founded by 4x world champion boxer Danny Green. There are over 80 studios Australia wide and 13, 000 members which are a lot of people to be feeling displaced!

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