Now that you know about training variables, you can see how they can be used to construct different types of workouts and training plans. There are countless twists on it, but here are the three main foundations that people build training programs and workout plans on:
- High Frequency and Low Intensity: This type of program dictates that you to train each body part and muscle group multiple times a week. However, it also means that every workout that you complete is going to be at a lower intensity. This is common sense. If you work out super heavy and hard on every single workout, you are going to need more time to recover. However, if you train effectively without getting too intense (in other words, you don’t get close to failure), you will be able to work out a specific body part many more times each week.
- Low Frequency and High Intensity: This type of program is the exact opposite of what I just described above. Instead of training a body part multiple times a week, this methodology follow the classic “bro-split” where you train one muscle area a day.
- Skill-Based (Neuromuscular Conditioning): this is a very special type of training and I do not recommend it for beginners. In essence, the point of this type of workout plan is to help you become efficient at a certain exercise or movement. A common movement to focus on is the squat. Many European countries follow training like this. However, all people who train in this way are advanced. I simply included it in the book to give you the full picture of what will eventually be available for you to choose from.
Which is better? For a natural athlete, high frequency and low intensity is absolutely better for all of the reasons that I have already touched on. Keep this in mind and don’t forget it!
Furthermore, beyond these three there are literally hundreds of different approaches (all constructed using the three types of frameworks I mentioned) you can take with your workouts and training. However, only a few are tried, tested, and backed by scientific journals that have spent the time to look at how one’s body can adapt to stress.
Trying to find your way in the sea of fitness information on the internet can be very daunting and scary (that’s why I am creating this guide!). Finding the golden nuggets in all of the noise isn’t easy. On top of that, even if you do happen to find good information, you probably don’t have the context to truly understand how the workouts are designed to be executed. The content for your training is absolutely crucial.
If you are attempting to mimic some else’s training without completely understanding you own body, you are going to leave a lot of results and gains on the table. This is why finding a coach can be extremely valuable. Taking a look at professional bodybuilders can help to solidify this point; even the best strength athletes in the world have coaches and personal trainers to help them remain accountable and on the best possible path.
A great example of this would be two individuals who are looking to take part in a Bulgarian Squat Program. I have used the Bulgarian style of training before on my own and saw huge results (probably the quickest I have ever improved in such a short amount of time). However, that was only because I had already put in countless months training with such high variety. If a newcomer tried to follow me and squat every day, they would get injured. This actually happened with someone that failed to listen to my advice.
They were a younger guy on the team and under my supervision and leadership. I recommended that the person add in light squatting every day to help perfect their movement patterns. Instead of going light like I cautioned them, the decided to try to keep up with the weight that I was doing, which was almost 500 pounds. In the end this person ended up bothering their knee (luckily they didn’t get injured!) and came to understand what I was saying.
The moral of the story is that you need to understand where you currently are and where you want to go. Without these things figured out, you aren’t going to make it very far without getting injured or wasting massive amounts of time.
Another important point to make known is the idea of resonating thoughts. Everyone who I have ever trained receives the same disclaimer on our first trip to the gym: “I am going to tell you what works best for me personally. I will tell you a lot of things that will hit you directly and vastly improve your workouts. However, there are also some things that I may tell you that upon trying you do not like.” In other words, until I learn about your lifestyle and approach to training, I will only be able to provide signposts to your destination.
One thing that all successful programs will have though is a focus on the large, compound movements. I know that some people will disagree and point to every single exception under the sun (hint: there is a reason they are the exception and not the rule). However, I’m not giving any ground up on this topic. If you aren’t squatting you are missing out on an amazing full-body movement that can illicit some of the greatest possible hormone responses and cause a massive anabolic effect. If you aren’t benching (most people bench, but they do it incorrectly) with proper form and programming, you aren’t going to see your upper body develop holistically. If you aren’t deadlifting, you may be missing out on the single greatest lift you could possibly be doing.
Again, context is crucial here because as a beginner or someone just getting back into it you need to realize that variety also plays a large role in determining your long-term success. Just be cognizant that the big three need to be the foundation of your training program. Powercleans are also awesome but require perfect form which is hard to learn from just videos.
After you have figured out that squatting, benching, and deadlifting need to be the cornerstone of your workouts, you need to understand something extremely important about accessory work. A lot of people seem to mess this up on a regular basis. For every single body part, if you can perform a multi-joint movement, do that instead of an isolation exercise. A lot of bodybuilders are going to rush to disagree with me. However, you have to come to understand your body as a function of inputs and outputs.
You only have so much energy and recovery potential. This translates into limited input capabilities. At any given time you can input work to receive results. The results comprise the end game and are what we are ultimately concerned with. However, the results that you get aren’t going to be equal as long as the input is equal. This is because each “input” needs to be the best it can possibly be. If your body only has the potential to effectively recover for a certain work load, you don’t want to surpass that. If you do, you will reach a point of diminishing returns where every minute longer that you spend in the gym becomes less and less valuable. Instead, you need to pick the things that are going to bring about building the most muscle mass possible and losing the most fat possible.
If you are trying to work your triceps, pull-downs can be a great exercise. However, dips are even better and will help to develop not only your triceps, but your chest and deltoids as well. And, the input was roughly the same, which means that you just gained a competitive advantage by choosing the best exercise and movement possible.