Lately, I have been focusing on a new strength training program in the gym. My goal is to build my strength and shed a bit of stubborn body fat before Christmas. I have a clear picture of what I want to achieve – the way I want to look and feel as I sit down for my Christmas dinner next month.
I rarely, if ever, write about my own training programs directly. However, having boiled it all back down to the simple basics, I feel suitably inspired by the results in the 4 weeks I have been doing the program that I wanted to share them with you. Perhaps you will be inspired to take up the mantle and present yourself with the present of a healthier ‘you’ for Christmas.
I’ll be the first to admit, it’s very easy to become confused by the endless reams of information out there in relation to the most effective training. Each month sees a new ‘breakthrough’ routine advertised in fitness magazines or online programs. I know lots of people become so enthusiastic trying out all the latest fads, only to end up frustrated by their meagre gains as they jump from program to program. So, let’s get back to basics. The program involves three simple pillars – strength training, high-intensity cardiovascular training and good, sound nutrition. Yes, I know, you’ve heard it before. But is really is that simple. This week we’ll look at pillars one and two– strength training & high-intensity cardio.
Lift like you mean it
The first thing to say about strength training is that most people don’t do it effectively. In order for your muscles adapt and grow, you must place them under progressive and unaccustomed strain. This means lifting heavy. In my experience, men tend to avoid this generally for fear of becoming too bulky and slow. Women fear heavy weights may make them too bulky also. Instead of going through the science, I’ll simply list what I have been doing.
I weight train three days weekly. On day 1, I perform only three exercises – the barbell squat, the bench press and the barbell deadlift. I do 5 sets of each exercise, with 5 repetitions in each set, resting for 2-3 minutes between sets. I use a weight that is 90% of the maximum weight I can lift 5 times. So, for example if I can squat 90kg five times, my weight for the sets is 90% of this, or 72kg. I do a couple of warm-up sets with about 75% of this weight (50kg) and always complete a thorough warm-up before I begin my routine. I recommend you begin with a lighter weight in the first week or two, so that you can focus on proper technique. Check out www.bodybuilding.com for correct technique (and don’t be put off by the name!).
My second day of weight training consists of 2 sets of squats with 80% of the weight lifted on day 1, 3 sets of chin-ups (or inverted pull-ups if you can’t manage chin-ups yet), 5 sets of barbell shoulder presses with 90% of 5-RM and 5 sets of good mornings (10reps each) to stretch out my hamstrings. This day allows recovery between days one and three. On the third day, I repeat the day 1 routine while trying to add 5% to each lift. Simple, effective and a great routine!
In between my weight training days, I complete 20-30 minutes of high intensity cardio on a treadmill or outdoors. Warm-up at your normal jogging pace for 3-minutes. Then increase the pace to run as fast as you can for either 30 seconds (beginner) or 60 seconds (advanced). Return to jogging pace for the same length of time as your sprint and repeat this process until the time has elapsed. Finish with a 3-minute cool down jog and stretch.
The high-intensity cardio will aid your body’s fat-shredding by spiking your metabolism. I also complete a circuit of 3-4 core exercises on these days. I use ab rollouts, medicine ball twists and knee raises, doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise.