Methods of Training

By Gareth Ramsden aka MuscleTalk ProMember OoOGazOoO

There are various ways that individuals train dependent upon their goals and aspirations, be it on a personal and self driven basis, or possibly through a team or sport related activity. The following outlines routines and information on how to train for your goal and the best ways to gain the most from your training. It will include the following methods of training:

Power Training

Strength Training

Hypertrophy Training

Endurance Training

Power Training

Power training is a highly intense method of training which focuses on the 'big three' movements, as mentioned below. Power training with the three compound movements allows for a total body workout at a high intensity, which places elevated demands on the body. The two exercises mentioned at the bottom of the list, require skill and co-ordination in order to be performed correctly, as well as having a decent base of strength.

Base your training on the following compound movements:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench Press
  • Power Cleans
  • Snatches

A very popular way of training for power is to use the conjugated periodisation method, which sees various repetition ranges as well as sets, used each week. For example, two days of the week can be considered a 'heavy' day, whereas two of the other days per week are 'lower weight' days. On the heavier days, individuals training for power can use 1-3 reps during their sets on their exercises. On the days when lower weights are selected, it is in the individual's interest to complete the repetitions as fast as possible, as this will increase their ability to develop force and power.

Accessory work is very useful in helping the main lifts of power training, as listed above. Bench press, squats and deadlifts are the main moves for power lifters. There are various other exercises which can help with these movements.

For help with bench press, consider exercises such as:

  • Board presses
  • Tate press
  • Dips

Accessory movements for squats include:

  • Stiff-legged deadlifts (SLDL)
  • Good mornings
  • Box squats

Exercises which should help with deadlifts:

  • Deadlifts off a block
  • Abdominal work

For people who wish to train for power three times per week, an example routine would be as follows. Using a two week rota; A-B-A in the first week and B-A-B in the second week:

Week 1
Monday – Workout A
Power Cleans – 5 sets of 3 reps
Bench Press – 3 sets of 8 reps
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Chin-ups – 3 sets of 10 reps

Wednesday – Workout B
Deadlifts – 5 sets of 3 reps
Leg press – 3 sets of 10 reps
Shoulder press/military press – 3 sets of 8 reps
Dips – 3 sets of 10 reps

Friday – Workout A
Power cleans – 8 sets of 1 rep
Bench press – 5 sets of 5 reps
Squats – 3 sets of 10 reps
SLDL – 3 sets of 10 reps
Bicep curls – 3 sets of 10 reps

Week 2
Monday – Workout B
Deadlifts – 3 sets of 8 reps
Leg press – 5 sets of 5 reps
Shoulder press/military press – 5 sets of 5 reps
Close grip bench press (CGBP) – 3 sets of 10 reps

Wednesday – Workout A
Power Cleans – 5 sets of 3 reps
Bench Press – 3 sets of 8 reps
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Chin-ups – 3 sets of 10 reps

Friday - Workout B
Deadlifts – 5 sets of 3 reps
Leg press – 3 sets of 10 reps
Shoulder press/military press – 3 sets of 8 reps
Dips – 3 sets of 10 reps

The above routine involves all of the main three exercises for powerlifters: bench press, squat and deadlift. The above routine also includes conjugated periodisation, rotating the repetition ranges and sets completed on the differing days of the week. Conjugated periodisation will allow for strength and power to be covered, as well as training in higher repetition and 'mass' ranges.

Strength Training

Muscular strength is defined as, 'The maximal amount of force a muscle can exert with a single maximal effort'. Strength training often sees individuals work within the lower repetition ranges, such as 6x3, 4x6, 5x5, etc. For trainers interested in gaining strength, singles are often used to promote strength gains. Working at above 90% of the 1RM (repetition maximum) is favored during training with singles.

Starting off with a routine such as 5x5 is a good way of getting into the lower repetition ranges, rather than going straight into singles, doubles and triples straight away. It will give your body the chance to get used to the demands that are required of it, especially the ligaments and joints, as they will be taking on heavier lifts with lower repetitions. A good routine to start off with would be Frankie's 5x5 routine. A good, solid routine, based on the principles of Frankie's 5x5 is:

Day 1
Deadlifts – 5x5
Dumbell rows – 5x5
Barbell curls – 5x5

Day 2
Barbell bench press – 5x5
Dumbell shoulder press – 5x5
Close grip bench press – 5x5

Day 3
Squats – 5x5
Stiff leg deadlifts – 5x5
Calf raises – 3x20
Weighted crunches – 3x12.

If a new trainer wishes to utilise lower repetition ranges, I recommend Rippetoe's Routine, Starting Strength. The routine is great for new trainers and works within the lower repetition ranges:

Week 1
Monday - Workout A
Wednesday -Workout B
Friday - Workout A

Week 2
Monday - Workout B
Wednesday - Workout A
Friday - Workout B

Workout A
Squats – 3x5
Bench press – 3x5
Deadlifts – 1x5
Dips – 2x8 (optional)

Workout B
Squats – 3x5
Military press – 3x5
Barbell rows – 3x5
Chinups – 2x8 (optional)

Both of the above routines provide an excellent basis to improve upon. The routines above cover the major compound movements, as well as some accessory and isolation work. Rippetoe's routine has provided many people with increases in strength as well as mass and is an excellent un-complicated routine.

Cycling repetition ranges is often a way to overcome plateaus during training. Trainers often get stuck on a weight that they can't seem to increase for a prolonged period of time. When a trainer stagnates in a repetition range of 8-10 reps, then a decrease in the repetitions can often see that individual overcome their plateau. The individual can then work at 6-8 reps for a prolonged period of time, before going back to 8-10 repetitions, to again progress from there.

Another form of cycling repetition ranges is known as conjugated periodisation, as mentioned above, where the trainer utilises higher and lower repetition ranges during the week, rather than having for example four weeks training at higher reps, followed by four weeks at lower repetitions, and so on. The power routine, as outlined above, is a great example of conjugated periodisation. Training with higher repetitions and also lower repetitions on a two week rotation, with the idea of covering both sarcoplasmic and also myofibrillar hypertrophy.

Linear progression is a training concept which has been around for many years. Linear progression simply means that once you get strong on a weight that can be completed for the desired sets and repetition ranges, you increase the weight. Linear progression is evident within the routine such as Frankie's 5x5 as mentioned above. Once the trainer can complete all 25 reps (5x5) on a specific weight, then the weight is increased, and the cycle continues again from there.

Hypertrophy Training

For a trainer interested in hypertrophy gains, rather than training for power, strength or endurance, the following routine is a good starting point. It is based upon training four times per week, covering the major compound exercises, in addition to some isolation work:

Day 1 – Legs and abs
Squats – 1x20
Squats – 2x8
Leg press – 3x10
SLDL/leg curls – 3x12
Calf raises – 3x20
Rope crunches – 3x12

Day 2 – Chest and arms
Incline bench press – 3x8
Flat dumbbell bench press – 3x10
Dips – 3x8
CGBP – 3x12
Dumbell bicep curls – 3x12

Day 3 – Back and traps
Chin-ups – 3x8
Single arm dumbbell rows – 3x10
Barbell rows – 3x8
Deadlifts – 3x8
Barbell/dumbbell shrugs – 3x10

Day 4 – Shoulders and abs
Seated dumbbell press – 3x8
Standing military press – 3x10
Lateral raises – 3x10
Rear delt raises – 3x10
Leg raises – 3x12

Working with the above routine, the individual can again utilise linear progression in order to improve during their training. Additionally, he/she cycle their repetition ranges as outlined above, if a plateau becomes evident during their training and progression.

Hypertrophy routines are those often utilised by bodybuilders and trainers that have body image as their training goal. For powerlifters and strongmen, aesthetics often aren't their number one priority for training, where as endurance is often sports performance related, and again, performance doesn't always result in a priority for aesthetics. Bulking and cutting cycles are utilised by bodybuilders and trainers in order to either increase their lean mass by eating a calorific surplus, or to lose weight by being in a calorific deficit. Big Les has written a fantastic article on Bulking periods, which can be utilised in combination with the above hypertrophy routine. For trainers wishing to lose weight, then James Collier's article on Cutting can be utilised again in combination with the above routine. There is no real need to change the routine of the trainer from bulking to cutting, unless the individual has expressed a desire to change their routine in order to combine differing training methods to form a new approach.

When losing weight, keep the weight training intense and keep the repetitions as outlined above. There is often a myth that higher repetitions is the better way to train when trying to lose weight, however, going heavy and training with high intensity is the best way to encourage your body to hold onto lean mass whilst losing weight, as long as the individuals' diet is in check.

Endurance Training

Muscular endurance is referred to as 'The ability of a muscle or group of muscles to perform repetitive contractions over a period of time'. With this in mind when training for muscular endurance, the repetitions need to be kept higher in order to sustain the effort for a prolonged period of time, which will mean that the weight has to be lowered. For an individual that wishes to train more for endurance, then the repetition ranges will often become higher in order to improve their efficiency at sustaining an effort over a longer period of time. Weight training for endurance sports and goals, often means not training to failure.

Endurance based sports and training utilise the Type I muscle fibres, also known as 'slow twitch' muscle fibres. Type I muscle fibres are more efficient than Type II ('fast twitch') muscle fibres, at utilising oxygen during exercise. For endurance based activities, oxygen is present and available to use, over a longer period of time, allowing for continuous muscular contraction to take place.

Trainers with aspirations of training for endurance will often utilise a method known as calisthenics, which sees their own bodyweight used as resistance during their exercises. Such exercises include:

  • Press ups
  • Pullups/chinups
  • Dips
  • Crunches
  • Bodyweight squats
  • Etc

Keeping the rest periods between sets and exercises short will also help to increase the endurance of the individual. Circuit training type methods has rest periods kept short, whilst the individual then moves onto their next exercise.

There are various guidelines and percentages that can be used when selecting weights for endurance training. Around 60% of the individuals 1RM would be a good starting place to adjust from; 20-25 repetitions are a decent starting point to base their efforts upon, with three sets for each exercise being utilised.

Periodisation for endurance training may see the individual progress by increasing the repetitions performed, or possibly by decreasing rest periods between sets and exercises. Once the individual plateaus on a certain exercise, they may change the exercise and replace it within their routine, in order to continue their progression.

If you have any questions or comments, please ask Gaz on the MuscleTalk Training Sections