So we all want a great physique. The big questions are how do we achieve…
Welcome to the second instalment of Great Physiques!
Within the first instalment, we discussed how and why 80% of great physiques are determined by diet. Now it’s time to discuss the other 20%, training.
Just like diet, in order to achieve and maintain an awesome physique, you need to have a sustainable training plan. This means three things:
- Lifestyle Restructuring
- Volume Optimisation
- Injury Prevention
Firstly, Lifestyle Restructuring allows you to create a training program that you will be able to stick to long term. It takes time to build muscle (unless you’re a newbie), so we need something that will work for longer than a few weeks or months. However, this will need to be tweaked over time to suit your ever-changing needs.
The main elements of Lifestyle Restructuring are fun, time efficient and schedule efficient. There is some overlap between these elements. For example, if your workouts are miserable, eventually you will quit. You need to have fun. If your workouts consistently take 2 hours or more, eventually you will quit. If your workouts clash, or could potentially clash with other events or activities in your schedule, you will find excuses to skip the workouts and eventually quit.
In order to meet these three criteria, you need a strategy. Heavy, compound movements will give you the biggest return on your time investment. Yes, you can implement some isolation work for weak body parts, but just be aware of the trade-off in regards to time efficiency. If you are a busy guy, schedule efficiency is crucial. The key is to plan ahead. For many guys like myself, schedule efficiency is a lot easier with three, full-body workouts per week. However, you need to figure out what works best for you. You also need to decide on what is fun for you. Most people tend to enjoy workouts that are shorter in length, and have a variety of exercises. Periodization is also critical to alleviating long term boredom. If your workouts are fun, you will be motivated to continue training.
The second factor for sustainable training, is volume optimisation. Again, this is something only you can work out for yourself. This means finding the perfect balance between progression on movements, without regressing due to excessive volume.
Volume is defined as sets*reps*weight. Although I don’t think this is entirely useful, for a few reasons that will be discussed in the future, it serves us well in understanding progression. As long as one of these factors increases over time, we are progressing in volume. We are MAKING SUM GAINS. Which of these factors increases depends on how experienced you are and consequently, the periodization strategy you require.
Many people say there is no such thing as “over-training”. They prefer to call it “under-recovering”. Either way there is only so much your body can physically recover from, and adapt to, and the solution is to reduce volume (assuming you aren’t in a huge calorie deficit and are sleeping as well as you can). Simply attempting to sleep for longer, eat more food or take more drugs isn’t going to make you recover any better once you reach a certain point of diminishing (or even negative) returns.
Admittedly, these people have a point. For 90% of lifters, their issue is too little volume over time, not too much. The simplest way to look at this is to ask yourself two questions:
- “Am I progressing?”
- If “yes”, don’t change anything. If “no” then “Am I under-recovering, or am I being a lazy bastard?”
Your answer to question 2 should tell you what you need to change, if anything.
Some symptoms of under-recovering in no particular order are:
- Feeling sick
- Strength falling (whilst not in a calorie deficit)
- Unable to fall asleep
- Resting heart rate increase
Despite the fact that some people need to reduce volume, the vast majority are lazy bastards.
Thirdly and finally, we cannot be getting injured. This is catastrophic for long term progression. I have torn ankle ligaments playing football before, and it is no fun at all. Being in a state such that you cannot train lower body properly for 4 months is awful.
The key to not getting injured, is not to take things to the EXTREME. Use your common sense. If your lower back or shoulders are hurting, back off. We want to have great physiques when we are older. So don’t cripple yourself now to hit a 10 pound deadlift PR – it’s incredibly short-sighted. I understand achieving and exceeding your goals is an awesome feeling, but don’t screw yourself over for the rest of your life in trying to hit them.
Deload weeks are a LIFE-SAVER in regards to allowing niggling little tweaks and pains to subside, before they evolve into something more sinister. Personally, I take these every four weeks. This is regardless of how good I feel.
I was going to talk about progression type and progression speed in more detail, but this will have to wait for another article.
Therefore, the main take-away’s for this post are:
- Body composition is 20% training.
- To achieve and especially to maintain an incredible physique requires a sustainable training program.
- Sustainable training = Lifestyle Restructuring + Volume Optimisation + Injury Prevention.