Go Big or Go Home

Go Big or Go Home

By Raymond Shipley

The majority of clients I have trained throughout my career have had one specific goal, and that is to get "toned." Yes, I've had more than my share of clients with injuries, medical conditions and all the rest; however, getting into shape has been the mainstay of reasons people seek out a trainer.

The definition of "toned" varies from one person to the next. Many people see Hollywood stars such as Brad Pitt in "Fight Club" and think this is the pinnacle of the male physique. Others, myself included, prefer the physiques of Frank Zane and Steve Reeves to the typical Hollywood actor. Without giving a trainer specifics there really is no way to get to a goal, but it is typically after a month or two that a client will finally begin to articulate what their definition of "toned" is. Once results, or lack thereof, start to occur the enthusiasm will shift the idea towards aiming the training in the proper direction.

Lift Heavy

For anyone trying to gain muscle, heavy weights must be used. Heavy weights stimulate the Type IIB muscle fibers that have the ability to get bigger, thicker and stronger. The typical bodybuilder will lift a weight that forces failure on the concentric portion of the lift somewhere between 4-12 repetitions, and I usually keep my clients in the 8-12 rep range for maximum safety and efficiency. This means that by the 12th positive contraction the target muscle has failed and a 13th rep is not possible. Whether this is achieved at 5 pounds or 500 pounds is not relevant, only that the weight is appropriate to force change.

Leg muscles have shown to respond a bit differently, typically having the most growth when higher rep ranges are used. Although this is individual unique, at times I have had clients perform upwards of 50 repetitions on heavy leg presses in order to stimulate growth. As always, what is right for one client is not always what will work for the next, so basics must be adhered to in the initial stages before a program can develop into what is best for the individual.

Use Compound Movements

To build muscle, compound lifts must be the focus of training. There are only two types of lift a person can perform: compound or isolation. Compound simply means more than a single joint is involved in the lift, and therefore massive amounts of muscle, while isolation means a single joint and one target muscle. Sometimes these lifts are referred to as linear or circular due to compound movements moving the weight in a linear plane while isolation movements, like the biceps curl, move the weight in a circular plane. 

Basic compound lifts such as the bench press, overhead press, pull up/row, squat, deadlift, and dip should form the basis of any program for they stimulate the most muscle fibers and overload the body forcing it to adapt. Moreover, such taxing exercises force the body to produce greater amounts of testosterone, which aids in muscle gain as well as fat loss. It really is a win/win.

In developing any training program compound movements should be considered first. This isn't to say they should always come before isolation movements, but developing a training regimen without compound exercises is simply an exercise in futility. Using heavy, compound movements to form the backbone of one's routine is a must.

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