Weight training is extremely essential to your overall workout program. When done correctly, weight training can help you lose fat, increase your metabolism to burn more calories, increase your strength and muscle tone, increase your bone density, improve your overall appearance.
Ladies, if you want to achieve the toned and strong look, you got to ditch the cardio machine and start lifting weights. I do understand that it can be confusing and overwhelming to some, so I’m going to share with you 6 Principles to Increase Muscle, Lean Up & Lose Weight.
I always emphasise on proper form and technique. Having good technique when exercising is extremely important because only that you’ll be able to achieve better results, target the right muscle and you’re less likely to hurt yourself.
Unless you have a previous injury, you want to always execute Full Range of Motion in an exercise to recruit the entire targeted muscle. For instance if you were to perform a half squat instead of a full squat, you will not full recruit your quads, glutes and hamstrings. Hence you are not training at your optimum.
Let’s also look at the Mind-Body Connection. This is important to focus your mind on the targeted muscle when performing an exercise. If you are a beginner, you may struggle with this initially. For instance when performing a chest press, instead of feeling the chest muscles, you can feel more on your shoulders. It will take time, but you got to keep telling your mind to focus on that particular muscle and eventually, you will create the Mind-Body Connection.
2) Mechanical Tension
Mechanical tension is the primary stimulus for muscle growth. During strength training, muscles experience stretching forces when they try to shorten, but are resisted when they do so. They also experience stretching forces when they lengthen while we are holding a load, but these forces are comparatively smaller.
If your focus is to increase Strength, then the weights must be heavy enough for you to only perform between 4 - 6 rep max (2-5 minutes rest interval). If your focus is muscle hypertrophy or muscle growth, then the weights must be heavy enough for you to only perform between 6 - 12 Rep Max per set (60 - 90s Rest Interval).
If you can lift more, then you aren’t lifting heavy enough! You got to add on the weights. Yes, ladies, you got to lift heavy to increase in strength and lean up and NO, it will NOT make you bulky.
You got to feel like you’ve pushed yourself hard enough and in fact you should “Train to Failure”.
What does that mean? Muscle failure during strength training is the point at which fatigue is high enough to prevent a muscle from exerting the amount of force needed to complete the current repetition, with a given load. If doing another rep is possible, you haven't reached muscle failure. The objective is to induce the most possible muscle growth by pumping maximum blood to the area.
Another way to target muscle fatigue is to increase the Volume Per Muscle Group. This is basically calculated based on the number of exercises for one muscle group multiple by the number of sets for each exercise.
Volume per Muscle Group = Total exercises per muscle group X total sets for each exercise
For instance, if we were to work on our glutes and perform 3 exercises, Hip Thrust, Romanian deadlift and Kickbacks and we did 3 sets for each workout. The volume for the workout will be 3 exercises x 3 sets = 9
A good Volume to increase muscle growth is between 6 - 10. Volume of exercise per muscle group to be gradually progressed according to training capability.
4) Eccentric Training
An eccentric movement is the lowering part of a move, when muscle is lengthened. It’s when your muscle works as it’s lengthened. For example when you’re lowering into a squat or as you’re lowering your arms in a bicep curl. The lifting or pushing of the weight would be concentric.
Eccentric training is much more demanding on the muscles and therefore it fatigues them far more than you could concentrically. Eccentric training promotes greater muscle damage, greater stimulation and muscle growth.
As a general rule of thumb for eccentric training, take 4 - 5 seconds to lower the weight. For instance the 4 seconds to lower in a squat, to lower the bar to your chest, or to lower the dumbbells during a shoulder press.
This leads on to the next point:
5) Repetition Tempo
I’m sure you must have come across some workout programmes, with 4 digits written on them. Some of you might be wondering, what does the each number represent.
The first number represents:
- Eccentric phase followed by
- Concentric phase and
Why is this important? Let’s first understand Time Under Tension (TUT) or more commonly referred to as TUT. Time Under Tension is the time your muscle spends under load during a set. This includes the time spent in the concentric phase, isometric, and eccentric phase. For example, if you perform a 10-rep set, and each rep takes you 3 seconds to complete, your muscle experiences 30 seconds of time under tension. Tempo 2-0-1-0 (10 reps x 3 secs = 30 TUT)
If you were to perform that same set but spend 2 seconds lifting the weight (concentric phase), 1 second isometric, and 3 seconds lowering the weight (eccentric phase), those same 10 reps would give you approximately 60 seconds of TUT. Tempo 3-0-2-1 (10 reps x 6 secs = 60 TUT)
Even though the rep count stayed the same, the muscle spent significantly more time under tension, and that extra time actually translates to a lot more work!
Remember, your muscle can't count. They simply feel the load created by the weight and the mechanical tension that comes from contracting the muscle under the load. Therefore, to increase the work done by your muscles, you can either:
- increase the load or
- increase the time the muscle is placed under this load.
Here are some of the common Tempos used in a workout programme:
Normal : 3-0-1-0 or 2-0-1-0
Good Control : 3-1-1-1 or 2-1-1-1
Eccentric Focus : 4-3-2-0 or 4-3-2-1
Concentric Focus : 2-0-2-2, 2-0-3-2 or 2-0-2-3
Pause Rep : 1-3-1-1 or 1-5-1-1
I’m sure you might have come across some people who spend long hours in the gym every single day. Spending more hours in the gym doesn’t equal to fast results because your muscles need to recover in order to grow and train and its optimum.
Recovery can include stretching right after a strength training session. During a lifting session, the muscles you use contract, making them tighter. Not stretching your muscles may lead to decrease in range of motion and flexibility, which may also lead to injuries long term. Regular stretching helps to increase circulation and maintain flexibility so that you can continue to train at your optimum.
Recovery also refers to fueling your body with enough high quality food. No matter how hard you train, or how heavy you lift, if your diet is crap, you’re pretty much wasting your effort in the gym. Make sure you feed your muscles with enough lean protein, carbs, vegetables and healthy fats. You will also need to schedule in your rest days to avoid overtraining. Check in with yourself consistently and ask yourself, how’s your energy level? How’s your stress level? How’s your sleep quality? All these would have a direct effect to your recovery.
Another important point is avoid under-eating of consuming too little carbs. Yes, you may want to reduce on your carbs, but your body still needs carbs for energy. If you are on an extreme low carb diet, that’s when your energy level dips, stress level increases and this will also affect your sleep and training.
If you have been doing regular strength training you would like to improve on your training or if you’ve hit a plateau and struggle to progress, then try incorporating these tips.