Sunday, 26 October 2014

Common Gym Mistakes and Simple Solutions to them - Introduction

There have been thousands of books written claiming to have the perfect workout and promising results quickly.  This book is not one of them.  There is no perfect workout; there are no ways to achieve quick results.  What we do have are fundamental training principles that can be applied to all training which will help maximise improvements in strength, or muscle size or fitness as appropriate. 

What we also have is loads of myths, ‘Broscience’ and ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ that sadly finds credibility with gym goers.  This book is to teach you these fundamentals of training and to eradicate the mumbo jumbo you have accidently picked up.

Fitness is defined in different ways such as:

Muscular Strength
Muscular Hypertrophy (muscle size)
Muscular Endurance
Aerobic/Cardiovascular (CV)
Balance and Coordination
Motor Skills

While everyone has their favourites from the list above it is important that we try to improve all areas of fitness through our training.  This is a lot easier than it looks as we get a crossover affect so we can improve 3-5 elements of fitness per training session.  However, you cannot assume a large crossover in every case.  For example, there is no direct correlation between hypertrophy (muscle size) and muscle strength as strength factors in other elements such as biomechanics. The training protocols for strength training and hypertrophy training are different.  Therefore, someone with smaller muscles can be stronger than someone with bigger muscles.  In short lifting a weight does not automatically mean we will gain large muscles.  The key thing to remember is that we are only as strong as our weakest part.

In order to improve all elements of fitness it is important to utilise a variety of training variables (ways we can change the same exercise to change how our body responds to that training) from the following:

Volume – No sets x No reps x weight ie 3 x 12 x 15kg = 540 kg
Reps – No of times we lift the weight without stopping
Sets – No of times we repeat each exercise
Rest – between exercises, includes cardio and weights
Speed – run/row/walk faster
Cadence – the speed in which you move the weight up and down
Load – weight or resistance
Type of weight (barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, bodyweight etc)
Incline/Decline – angle of your body on a bench
Isolation – train an individual muscle
Full Body – train as many muscles as possible, or multiple muscles
Dynamic – jumping, sprinting
Isometric – static exercise such as wall sits
Vibration - Powerplate
Pause rep – pause during a lift

If training 3 times a week you should be able to make use of every variable at least once within a 2 week cycle.

To stay healthy, adults aged 19-64 should try to be active daily and should do:

An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week (for example 2 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of fast walking), and

Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).


At least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week, and

Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).


75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week, and

Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

It is important to note that this is just to stay healthy and that it includes both CV(cardio vascular) and strength elements.  It is also important to see that many of the CV elements can be achieved in normal life by, for example, walking or cycling to work or the shops.

Exercise can be defined as “activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness”

Training can be defined as “the systematic use of exercises to promote bodily fitness and strength

As you can see there are subtle, yet important, differences between the 2.  It is perhaps easier to define the differences like this:

“Exercise is planned, additional activities, in order to promote health, training is planned specific exercise in order to reach a specific goal”.

So returning to the top of this chapter in this context fitness can be defined as “the ability of the body to cope with a specific task under specific conditions” where the task is characterised by a set of particular physical and psychological stressors[1].

Simply, if you have a goal (reduce body fat, increase fitness, increase strength) then you need to train, not exercise and obtain a level of fitness appropriate to that goal. 

[1] From Supertraining by Mel C Siff PHD