When most people think of strength training they think of heavy weights and big exercises. People yelling at each other to get another rep or break a PR. Think big squats, bench presses, cleans. Heavy weights and high intensity.
That is what builds strength..... Right???
After 17 years of strength sports I can say that what I explained above is certainly the "romantic" view of strength training. Though I believe that the high intensity, heavy yelling, PR breaking aspects of the workout are important, it really can only make up about 5% of training. After that there is mental burnout, injuries, lack of motivation, pick your ailment.
Now, I believe that doing work for the sake of doing work is the most important aspect of training.
What does this mean??? Exactly what it sounds like. After the "important" part of the workout is done, you know, that part you are going to brag about later, you have the part of the workout that consists simply of getting work done.
Work (which is often referred to as general training, work capacity training, GPP training, recovery work, pre-hab work, bringing up weak areas) is the heart and soul of strength training. Work, is what brings about increases in "the important lifts." Work, is responsible for 90% of all gains made by anyone who is training.
"You mean I don't just touch my toes a couple of times and start training???"
Here at "The Compound" just about everybody starts with the dynamic flex. This is a series of range of motion exercises used to prepare for the next part of the workout. Often this will take 10 minutes or longer. When done properly, this is not an easy task, to most people this will feel like a "workout" the first time it is done.
This is an excellent way to prepare for the upcoming workout as well as increase GPP (General Physical Preperation)
Some like to do more "warm-up" after the dynamic flex. This usually consists of some sort of body weight circuit, medicine ball circuit, or plank / abs circuit. I find that this work really helps to increase local muscular endurance, general conditioning, injury prevention if pre-hab work is done, and further prepares one for the main workout.
Now you may be asking "Isn't this a little counter productive? Won't doing all of that work before 'the important stuff' decrease performance?"
Not at all. It really helps one to be more prepared for the "intense" portion of the workout. And lets face it, if you are not in good enough shape to do some body weight and med ball stuff before the "lifting" part of the workout, you are not in good enough shape to make good gains, and the warm-up work is all the more important.
The after the workout, workout, is very beneficial. It is here that the real conditioning portion of the day begins. Using kettle bell, dumbbell, barbell, or just "random exercise" circuits are hugely beneficial here. This can be taken as an opportunity to increase general conditioning as well as bring up weak areas.
The process is simple.
Pick 3 or 4 of your weakest areas. Then pick 1 or 2 exercises for each area. Then, start working. Here the amount of weight does not matter, the number of reps does not matter, the number of sets does not matter. Just move from exercise to exercise without any real rest periods, and get the work done. Take 10-15 minutes for this. You will find that you are going to have to use "baby" weights and it will be much harder than you think it should be.
This is a great way to increase your general work capacity as well as bring up lagging body parts.
I was in the gym the other day and was talking about how it was not a "real" training day. I was asked what the plan was for the day, that is where the idea for this article came from. See, I did not really have a good answer at the time.
I just said, "Um, I am going to do some work, on...... some areas of my body.... yea"
This got me to thinking about what I was doing on these days. I have always been an advocate of getting into the gym on a daily basis, regardless of whether or not it was going to be a "big training day."
So what is the purpose of extra workouts???
This also has a simple answer. The goal of these days is to bring up weak areas, increase general conditioning, and decrease recovery time.
Light, continual work will aid the recovery process better than most people realize. This is one of the best ways to ensure that you are able to train intensely on the "heavy" days. Doing work on off days rushes blood to sore areas and cuts recovery time in half.
Again, the weights do not have to be heavy. You do not have to be mentally motivated, you just have to get work done.
To recap, doing extra work is the most beneficial part of training, and leads to greater gains than most people are willing to admit.
Take a look at many of the great athletes of our time and of the past, you will see that much of their training is "Getting work done."
Until next time -
"Start getting some work done!!!"