Matters of Resistance
Part 1: Essential Bodybuilding Tips
What is intensity and how does it contribute to a bodybuilder’s progress?
The intensity of a weightlifting exercise is determined primarily by the resistance being used by the bodybuilder. Resistance, or the weight of the plates themselves, has a marked effect on the bodybuilder’s performance.
Using lower resistance or lighter weights often allows the bodybuilder to perform more reps and sets.
An increase in reps and sets theoretically boosts a person’s calorie-burning capability during the workout, making him less likely to store excess fat (assuming that all other ideal conditions are present).
Using higher resistance, or heaviest weights on the other hand, tends to create micro-damage in the target muscles. Micro-damage is necessary to improve the size and strength of muscle tissues. Note that micro-damage is very different from a muscle injury!
Do you feel confused about reps, sets and intensities?
Admittedly, these three concepts can become confusing because there are innumerable combinations you can use and it’s difficult to ascertain which combination is more effective if you have limited time to observe the actual outcomes.
There’s no need to grope in the dark – we’ve compiled an expert list of tips that will make intensity adjustments a breeze:
- Don’t Force It! – There are many bodybuilders capable of lifting more than 200 pounds at a time and it actually pains many beginners that they can’t lift as many weights as the older bodybuilders.
However, it still doesn’t make sense to force your muscles to strain against resistance that you know you can’t handle yet. If you can’t lift a particular weight eight times in succession without heavy straining, your muscle’s total load is too high. Reduce the resistance and try again.
- Use the Higher Limit – Reps, sets and intensity all come together when you’re deciding how much weight or resistance to use in a particular movement. No one can actually predict how much resistance a person can handle unless it’s a person’s longtime physical trainer.
Use the principle of variable weight when you are deciding how heavy your plates are going to be in a particular movement.
If you want to perform twelve repetitions, load your bar/s until you can perform only twelve reps maximum. If you can perform 10 more reps easily, then the resistance is too low. Adjust it until 12 repetitions become the maximum reps you can manage for that movement alone.
The trick is to lift weights that aren’t too heavy but are heavy enough to stimulate muscle development.
It sounds incredibly difficult at first but if you just keep adjusting the resistance according to your training program, this piece of advice will make sense.
- Goals are Good But Excellent Form is Even Better – It’s normal for new bodybuilders to set ideal goals for themselves, especially during the first year of training. The “hunger” to do more and lift heavier becomes more pronounced as a new bodybuilder begins to feel his natural strength increasing by the week.
At certain points in your journey, you may be tempted to join the “Cheater’s Gang” so you can lift heavier weights without straining your muscles too much.
The “Cheater’s Gang” is composed of bodybuilders who swing, jerk and bounce weights like they were plastic toys. It’s amazing that people aren’t getting hurt in gyms when members of the “Cheater’s Gang” are throwing around weights.
Don’t join them. Don’t sacrifice your technique and form!
Again, our main concern is your safety when you are training in the gym. Swinging weights and bouncing heavy bars off your chest is the direct opposite of excellent form and gym safety!
Never mind that other people are doing these unsafe movements; they will be alone when they run into an accident or when a muscle or tendon suddenly gives away.
If you can bench 200 pounds perfectly but cannot handle 220 pounds without bouncing the bar off your chest, stick to 200 pounds for now. If you can only curl up to 35 pounds, there’s no point in attempting to curl 50 pounds if you feel excruciating pain.
- Be Patient – Everything about bodybuilding requires hard work and patience. If you want fast results in everything that you do, bodybuilding is not for you.
However, if you’re willing to wait and work quietly to accomplish your goals, this sport will bring you immeasurable happiness! No effort is ever wasted with physical training plus you’ll get an amazing physique in the end!
Matters of Resistance
Part 2: Training Hard
How can you consistently train hard for maximum strength and gains?
In our previous blog post, we discussed the importance of form, technique and the proper ways of determining the right level of resistance for specific movements. We also learned that no one can tell you how much weight you can safely push, pull or lift… You’ll have to find out for yourself.
Today’s post will focus on additional performance tips that will make you train harder and more effectively than you did before. Are you ready?
The Pro Tip Sheet
- Steer Clear of “Resistance Explosions” – A resistance explosion occurs when a tremendous amount of weight is carried by a muscle or joint for a very short period of time.
In bodybuilding, one second of applied resistance can shock a muscle or joint to the point of breaking. That’s why it’s important to reduce your momentum as you complete the positive phase of a movement. By reducing the momentum you also prolong the duration of the lift and this reduces the overall impact on your joint or muscle.
Ever wondered why experts always say that “slow and sure” is better than swinging a weight around?
You can actually break something by using pure momentum. Momentum is risky because you’re relying on physics to carry the weight for you, instead of steadily controlling your muscles so that they will oppose the natural downward movement of your weights.
- Rep Speed – Speed isn’t a key factor in building strength and big muscles. You don’t need to complete a full rep in one second if you’ve increased the resistance significantly. The ideal speed or tempo for regular workouts should be at least 2 to 4 seconds.
Let me explain: a complete repetition is actually composed of four distinct phases: starting phase, positive phase, pause/stasis and negative phase. Previously I discussed that there are two main phases (positive and negative).
If you want to make real gains, you have to take the other two minor phases into consideration, too.
When you lift a barbell, dumbbell or any piece of gym equipment that involves resistance, you have to make sure that you pause at the top (positive phase) before performing the negative or relaxation phase of the movement.
Pausing after completing the positive phase of a movement prolongs the duration of the repetition but it safeguards your soft tissues and joints, which is more important in the long term.
Slowing your repetitions also improves muscle growth!
Adding speed to the equation may sound like a macho thing to do, but it’s actually a slow, controlled ascent and descent that greatly improves muscle tone and size. Why? Because your muscles have to work extra hard to maintain proper form as you are performing the movement.
- Train All Muscle Groups Equally – If your goal is to be in contest shape soon, pay attention to all of your muscle groups, not just the ones you see when you admire your physique in the mirror. The real champions of bodybuilding know that the muscles that can’t easily been seen on the mirror are the deciding ones during competition.
Overtraining is also a serious problem when you’re lifting weights regularly. A good rule of thumb would be to train the larger muscle groups first before focusing on the smaller groups that are present around/on the arms and legs.
By focusing on the larger muscle groups first, you will be able to reduce the overall impact on your smaller muscle groups because they are also constricted when training your back, chest, etc. If you tire them out at the beginning of your training session, you won’t be able to perform well when it’s time to hit the larger groups.
- Re-prioritize When Needed – After half a year of hard training and endless changes to your diet, you may start seeing serious gains in your large muscle groups. But wait… Is that a small muscle I see?
If you think that you’ve under-trained some muscle groups because you’ve focused too much on your “mirror muscles” or your muscles in the front, modify your training system to prioritize these under-trained muscles.
Develop under-trained muscles as soon as you can before they are dwarfed by your other muscles. It’s important that you change the order the intensity of your workouts to center on muscles that need the most attention.
- Don’t Train to Failure – Unless you have been blessed with natural strength and large muscle cells, “training to failure” will become your “road to failure.” Overtraining can cause catabolism and loss of muscle size, or even plateaus that can last for months. Listen to your body and train adequately at all times.