Smart Strength Training
There are many things to know about strength training, but to stay focused you need to ask yourself some important questions. What are you trying to achieve? Do you want to become stronger and lift larger weights, but not necessarily gain weight by building larger muscles, or do you want to do body building to build bigger muscles?
While Westside does not participate in bodybuilding events, we can help you to understand the differences between pure strength training and bodybuilding. A bodybuilder’s main objective is to gain muscle mass.
Bodybuilders must train on isolation exercises. Many of the exercises are on machines. Remember machines build muscle, but not motion. While bodybuilders’ muscles are much larger than a weight lifter’s, they are not pound for pound as strong. This is due to the lack of exercises that produce learning and improving coordination.
This is not a mistake, but it is how bodybuilders must train to reach the highest standard possible.
For the powerlifter or a weight lifter, the goal is to be as strong as possible at the lightest body weight. This is the goal for those of you competing in running events as well. A lifter or runner must learn skills and movements and coordination. The strength athlete must master many movements with more and more resistance.
There is no isolation in sports movements like lifting, jumping, or running. If Westside needs to add muscle mass to increase a lift, it has the lifter do small special exercises that concentrate on only a single muscle.
This means back or arm extensions or reverse hypers or hamstring curls on working with a calf-ham-glute device or an inverse or standing leg curl. This would hold true for lats or calves as well.
One must understand what percent of a 1RM builds what special strengths. Not only must you look at what percent, but at what velocity the resistance is moving. A young child of the untrained can gain a training effect with as little as 20 percent of their best effort (Siff, Verkhoshansky, Zatsiorsky, 1999), while the advanced must use 80 percent of a 1RM for much of their training.
Westside trains at 80 percent for the majority of their speed strength training for all their lifts. The Chinese and Russians train very close to Westside methods. For high level athletes, two methods are trained most often.
The most important workout is max effort. This workout calls for lifting as much as possible on that day. Westside rotates a new large barbell exercise each week on the squat-deadlift day. The same exercises will build both the squat or deadlift or Olympic lifts and all types of pressing. Max effort or maximal resistance permits only one rep. Remember in a contest you are required to only do a single.
When doing a max effort workout you should break a personal record by a small amount, but try not to miss. Truly a max effort should be a near max, but not a failure.
Your goal is to develop maximum force (Fmm); this means motion velocity is small.
When doing submaximal efforts the repetitions are two to three reps, which builds maximal strength endurance, not maximal strength. Most often one will conserve your efforts to permit the lifter to do the second or third rep. This method will not permit the athlete from using the maximal number of muscle units. The above two methods should be performed in TFmm, meaning training maximum efforts with little or no emotion.
If the contest maximum (CFmm ) is used too often in training, it can result in being burned out, causing tiredness, high blood pressure at rest, anxiety, and other staleness syndrome. In a monthly plan, 12 lifts are used for max or near maximal attempts for the squat and pulls, and 12 lifts are also used for pressing.
Speed strength training is 72 hours later with reps ranging from four to seven lifts. Westside uses five to six reps at a pace of 0.8 m/s. The volume is high for squat: 25 lifts and 20 pulls. A monthly plan is 100 lifts for squat and 80 lifts for pulls. That's a total of 180 lifts for speed strength with intermediate velocity.
This is quite a contrast to a max effort monthly plan where only 12 lifts are performed in a monthly plan. This plan prevents accommodation through loading—high barbell volume on speed strength day compared to low barbell volume on max effort day. On both days the ratio of classical barbell lifts is 20 percent compared to 80 percent small special exercises.
Research by Naglak (1979) characterized all resistance noted in this article. He described the majority of training with resistance ranging from eight to 12 as moderately heavy. Moderate resistance is characterized as 13 to 18 reps. Light resistance is described as 19 to 25 reps and very light resistance over 25 up to 100 reps.
For safety we do not use a barbell for reps for the repeated effort method. This method calls for one to perform a set to complete failure because the body does not divide the forces equally on all body parts. The weakest muscle group will fatigue first, which can cause an injury. Most of Westside’s training calls for single-joint training.
Single-joining training means extensions for the hips, arms, back; curls for the arms and legs; raises for the delts, abs, and so forth. This single method is much safer and can reduce muscle imbalances to produce strength and size if needed where needed.
This helps muscle recruitment leading to the size principle that causes recruitment of both fast- and slow-twitch fibers. Most of the work with reps between eight to 25 reps are done with dumbbells or a special machine.
Very light resistance starting at 25 and up to 100 reps are intended to build strength in not only the muscles but the tendons, ligaments, and bones by stimulating blood flow in these areas by using rubber bands. This is just a modest review of how to build eccentric, concentric strength as well as building isometric strength.
When trying to build muscle or develop a special strength, you must know what velocity to use at a certain intensity zone as well as the correct rep range.
More can be found by reading:
- The Science of Sports Training by Thomas Kurz
- Science and Practice of Strength Training by V. M. Zatsiorsky and William J Kraemer
- Supertraining by Mel Siff