The following is an account of how I would actually carry out a training session "as it happens" in real time. Taking into account the knowledge and experience that I have accumulated over many years and workouts, a process of trial and error to give the reader an idea of how I apply the information compiled on this website. It details my thought process and procedures and the events that take place in any typical training session, and how I try to maximise every valuable second in the gym to gain the most benefit from that commitment. It further describes what I do before, during and after in terms of preparation and recovery and what I am thinking and doing during the workout.
Before Training: While I'm eating or drinking the Pre-Workout Meal and possibly the night before I will be using visualisation to think about how I'm going to conduct the workout. I'll have designed a routine to forward plan what exercises I'm going to do, in what order, how many sets and repetitions and the implementation of any advanced techniques.
"So I walk into the gym knowing that my priorities are either to lose weight and increase definition or to build mass and size, depending on what stage I'm at. I know there are certain bodyparts that I want to prioritise, so I will concentrate on working those muscles first. Today I just happen to be working chest and shoulders and possibly arms if there's time. What are my weaker areas - upper, lower, outer, or inner pectorals?"
During Training: I'll have decided generally on which exercises I want to use and in which order, although this may have to change in real time if that machine or piece of equipment is being used or is otherwise unavailable to me. In this case I'll improvise by moving on to a similar exercise or completing another set until that equipment is free, anything to maintain the pace. After I've finished the set my mind shifts to thinking about what else I can be doing in between. I'll usually stretch the specific muscle while deciding what to do next. Shall I do another heavier set? Change exercises? How long have I been training? What are my energy levels like at the present time?
"I begin to warm - up with arm circles and then put on my gloves and belt. As always I'll start off light and gradually pick up the pace before I attempt the big compound movements. The first thing I want to do is pre - exhaust my pectoral muscles and it's a good way to begin warming - up by starting out using light resistance and higher repetitions. I move to the Pec - Dec machine, select a light weight on the stack and sit down. I position myself in the correct way, thinking shoulders down and back, extruding my chest. The better the form the more effective this will be. Initially, I press down on the step at the bottom with my foot to leverage the weight into position. I reach behind me with one arm, grab the pad and push it forward, and then the other to bring the pads together. This time I've chosen to grip the pads at either end and raise my elbows to horizontal, as if I was doing a flye movement with free - weights. Slowly I draw the pads backwards until they reach my outer chest and pause. This is as far back as I'm going to go to keep the muscles under constant tension. It's my first set so I want to complete 12 - 15 repetitions.
While I carry out the set I'm thinking stretch and contract. The last repetition is of course the hardest and it requires all out effort. It could be that I don't acheive this repetition and it's a partial, what do I do now that I've reached concentric muscular failure? I might rest at this point before raising the weight for the next set, but I've decided to increase intensity. At this point I could do another set of partial repetitions. Starting with the pads in the fully contracted position and then releasing them only slightly until they reach halfway between the start and finish point to failure, and work the muscle over its upper range. Then do several more repetitions taking the pads from the start position to the midway point to work the lower end of the movement. Or I could do a drop set. Once I reach failure drop the weight press out a few more repetitions, drop the weight several times and repeat.
I choose to change hand position to work the muscle from a slightly different angle. I bring my elbows down and re - position my hands so that the palms are facing upwards and are pressing against the pads rather than gripping them. This will allow me to extend the set and achieve a greater range of motion (ROM) by being able to press the pads closer together enabling further muscle fibre recruitment of the inner chest. I can now bring my elbows together at the bottom to contract the inner muscles even more. Either way my aim is to maintain the intensity for as long as possible. Although I will train instinctively and accordingly to my energy levels on that day, to stimulate growth, I'll always keep total workout time short but intense.
The warm - up is finished and I've begun to move into the main part of the workout. This is where I'll want to apply all of my strength and focus on a heavy multi - joint exercise that engages more than one muscle group. One that induce the body to release the most growth hormone. In this case this is the bench press. Once again I'll stretch, take a drink of water, release my belt slightly so that I can breathe, and take in three or four deep breaths to fill the blood stream with oxygen. I want to focus on the upper chest so I set the bench at about a 30 degree incline, and I haven't got a training partner today so I'm going to use the Smith machine. Although this is safer I want to isolate the chest muscles and not have to think about stabilising the bar. I also want to be able to push myself to the point of absolute muscular failure without worrying about being caught underneath it. Hopefully I'll just be able to replace it back in the rack when I can't push any further at the end of the set.
I begin by positioning the "pectoral girdle" correctly. Lying down on the bench with my lower back permanently pressed against the pad, I bring my elbows back, drop my shoulders and push my chest up. As I push the bar upwards I'll visualise squeezing the pectoral muscles together, and on the way down I'll contract the antagonist muscles in the back and stretch the chest. I consider it most important to think about what is actually happening when you push or pull against resistance, and focus on the mind to muscle connection rather than just mechanically moving the weight up or down.
While I'm doing the exercise I'm thinking about making the muscle do all the work by keeping it under constant tension, stopping short of lock - out and never letting it relax, keeping it tense and not letting it go slack. I want to feel it working as I lengthen and shorten the muscle belly over a range of motion. There are exercises that are basic "power" movements, the squat, leg - press, deadlift, bench press, but even then I want to try and feel the muscles during execution. I'd rather use less weight and move it slowly to make sure that I was using as little momentum and leverage as possible just to move the bar. I want to emphasise the negative concentric part of the movement as this is just as an important initiator of growth as the positive eccentric part.
After about 45 minutes I've come to the end of the weight lifting component of the workout. I feel that my energy levels have dropped far enough to limit the amount of intensity I can produce. I'm starting to feel hungry and anyway research tells us that growth hormone production ceases at around the 45 minute mark. It is time again to stretch out the muscles to fill the cells with oxygen reducing soreness and possibly helping the recovery process."
After Training: The next phase of the training session is the cardio - vascular component. For the purpose of expending calories I also want the cardio to be of a short duration and intense. I will use a piece of cardio equipment, usually a stationary bike or a cross - trainer to undertake HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). I always do the cardio after weight training because I have the most energy at the beginning. Doing it the other way round will affect my weight training ability.
"So I'll sit on the bike and allocate myself around 20 minutes of HIIT cardio. Occasionaly I'll employ "Steady State" training for about 30 minutes or so just to change the approach so that it doesn't become routine and my body becomes familiar with it. I start out slowly and keep the pace at around what I have gauged as 60% of my optimal speed according to the revolutions per minute meter (RPM) on the display. After about 5 minutes of warming up I increase the rate at which I pedal, gradually increasing the speed.
I'm not going to go all out yet as this would be too much of a shock to the system, but I am preparing my heart and lungs to the amount of work which follows. I'll begin to introduce short bursts of speed of about 20 - 30 seconds followed by a slower period of about the same time. One after the other consequtive intervals of a fast and slow pace. Research shows that while Steady State cardio expends more calories during that time, HIIT will expend more after and throughout the day.
After I become comfortable with the procedure I start to increase the speed and / or duration of the fast and slow periods as a means of producing intensity. I will always do this type of training after a leg workout as a way of clearing out lactic acid and other toxins that have built during leg exercises. If I don't I'll feel soreness for longer and believe my muscles and system as a whole takes longer to recover. Towards the end of the 20 minutes I'll reverse the process and start to gradually reduce speed and output and return my pulse back to a normal level. A good oportunity for a final stretch holding that stretch in postition for longer about 30 seconds to a minute will do."
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