Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Creating Productive Training Sessions

Lu Yong probably knows a thing
or two about being productive.

A somewhat similar post to this previous one, but last time there was an emphasis on "preparedness." The difference now is we'll be examining more direct factors in training. Specifically, understanding advantages already present. Like I've mentioned before, this is aside from other factors that contribute to a truly productive training cycle.
1) Set-up

I learned this a while back from Eric here and then again I read a post of Jamie's discussing - or ripping on guys - taking too long to start a set.
  • The goal each session should be improvement. This comes in the form of moving more weight, focusing on quality movement, executing better reps (more on that below), and being able to approach the exercise with a solid set-up quickly.
  • Getting into position to start a lift should be a) comfortable, and b) relatively quick. With new exercises, this may take practice. However in subsequent sessions, you should focus on becoming proficient AND efficient at getting yourself ready. Personally I think if you can start within 5 seconds of the lift, that's pretty good.
  • Warm-up sets before work sets help as well as regularly using heavy weights. If you can handle heavier weights, than more volume-based work shouldn't present itself as a challenge.
  • Additionally, identify major areas of concern in the lift. Deadlift: How are your hips positioned? Bench: Are your scaps pulled together and feet driven into the ground? Understand what you need to do prior to starting the set.

2) Reps

All reps are not created equal.
  • The disparity between a good rep and bad rep is obvious. Whether the weight is heavy or light, a good rep feels easy without excessive strain on the body. On the other hand, a bad rep feels ugly and is a struggle despite the load being light. After the set is over, you're left either satisfied or dissatisfied with your performance.
  • Again, a good set-up and warm-up sets are key. A thorough dynamic warm-up is essential as well. I'm not squatting well if I haven't stretched my hip flexors, done any glute activation, or ankle mobilization drills.
  • Awareness is equally crucial. Know what the good reps are if you do them. Was there something you noticed that made you feel particularly strong about the set? In snatches, one important detail for me is my wrists. If they're in slight extension, the bar tends to deviate further away from my torso leading to a poor catch.

3) Exercise Choices

Just like reps, all people are not equal - that is, anatomically.
  • There's variance among length of limb structures, such as the arms, legs, and torso. As a result, your body's structure will give you the advantage in some lifts, but put you at a disadvantage in others. Long arms lead to better pulling in the deadlift, but causes the bar to travel further in the bench press. If you're familiar with physics, it's called leverage.
  • By experimenting, you can identify what works and what doesn't for yourself. This doesn't mean you eliminate an exercise altogether, but instead use it less frequently or work with variations.
  • Frankly, Boris puts it much more nicely here. Suck at squatting? Try box squats, Bulgarian split squats, or another variation. You can find more tips in this article.
As you can see, quality - by being cognizant of yourself - plays a big role. Instead of zoning out during a set, listen to your body.

Next time: Winter Warm-ups!


  1. Lovely tips!

    I'm in London for the semester, where gyms are ridiculously expensive, but I have a TRX and exercise ball. Won't quiiite be able to pull off crazy deadlifts (unless I deadlift my roommates) but I think your tips still apply to suspension and bodyweight training.

  2. You sure can Mimi. Have fun in London!


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