By Jimmy Peña, MS CSCS, Contributing Director of Strength & Conditioning
1. Train the Target Muscle Group
After a Rest Day.
Notice that we didn’t say to train it after a night of sloppy eating and drinking! The goal here being to ensure that your body is fully rested and your stores of muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrates) are topped off so that you can hit the weights at your physical and mental best. You’ll most certainly want to make sure you’ve had a really good night’s sleep, not overextended yourself physically on the day off (two-hour pick-up games of basketball aren’t conducive to building your physique) and provided an ample infusion of quality foods and nutritional supplements to boost your chances of hitting the iron at full capacity. A great workout begins with all of these elements the day before you train — not when you walk in the gym door.
2. Prioritize Your Training by Reassessing Your Split
Let’s say you want to bring up your biceps. Well, the last thing you want to do is train your biceps after a back workout! Since your biceps are highly recruited during back training, you wouldn’t want to work them after back in the same workout; at least not if they’re a weakness that needs priority. Obviously your arms would be highly fatigued by the time you start hitting them after all of the back moves. Rather, hit your arms on another day, either alone or with another muscle group that won’t prefatigue them.
The same goes with training triceps after chest or shoulders. Since the triceps are hard at work doing both chest and overhead presses, they’re already stimulated when you finish training these larger bodyparts. If your goal is to hit your triceps with maximum intensity, you want them capable of lifting maximum loads, which is when they’re fresh. This is best done by training the secondary muscle groups on another day, preferably 48 hours from the session in which you trained the larger bodypart.
3. Get Progressive with Your Training Each Time You Lift
While most of you walk into the gym with an idea of what you’re going to do, it’s highly doubtful you know exactly how much weight you’re going to use for a particular number of reps or, better yet, what you did last time. That’s important because muscle growth only occurs via progressive overload, the practice of continually increasing the intensity of the workout. As a muscle adapts to the challenges you present, it grows stronger but you must continue to increase the stress placed upon it. Increasing the intensity can be done in several ways: increasing the amount of weight lifted, increasing the number of repetitions completed or the number of sets performed, or by reducing the rest interval between sets.
The concept of overload is the very basis of bodybuilding and muscle growth is the idea of overload. Sadly, most of us have never actually abided by its principle because it means knowing exactly what you’ve done each and every workout: every set, every weight, and every rep.
*Excerpted from the August 2012 issue of MuscleMag now on sale!