What’s Best? Pt. 2

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In Part 1 last week I came to the conclusion that using various tools and taking the most effective parts from several training systems is best way to train for the vast majority of gym-goers, meaning those mainly concerned with feeling good and looking sexy.  No one tool or system is the ultimate.  This 2nd part was inspired by a conversation that I had with a member here at Ambition.  He told me that in the past he had trained similarly, but not quite the same way as we do at Ambition.  Our dialogue expanded over a few minutes time but boiled down to his question of, which way is the best to train?  For example, is it sets to failure, to 80% or to say only 50% but done for many sets? Is it better to do sets that begin on the clock, move more at your own pace or within a predetermined block of time?  Should you do as many reps as you can within a given time interval or have a specific number for each set?  In designing a program is it better to use tri-sets or larger circuits with several more exercises done in a row?  Just low reps or mostly high reps so that you have a slightly more “cardiovascular” effect?

The conclusion that we came to was, well, all of those can be good.  Physical training has been around for quite some time and all of these things have been done with some level of success.  It’s especially hard to argue against any of them considering logistics such as how many people are training at a time, the equipment available, the amount of time allotted and who the trainee is.  However, much like Part 1, none of these are the be all end all.  Some ways to do it way work better than others but for the average person, as a whole, there is no one superior way to get it done.

The key is that you are still training movements, not muscles and training the body as a whole piece, as I do still believe that (aside from diet) moving well and building strength is most important on the road to feeling good and looking sexier. Superior movements include variations of hinging, squatting, upper body pushing and pulling as well as carrying things. Although I despise the term “muscle confusion”, if I had to use it, it would be in this scenario.  By that I mean, you are sometimes changing the rest with or without specific work intervals, doing a specific amount of reps or just working to an 80% effort range, etc., ultimately changing the volume of work done (accumulated # of sets, reps, weight lifted) while still practicing the same movements and their variations.

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So, what should you do?  If you are training on your own think logistics.  Whether with a coach/group or by yourself, still consider what you may or may not enjoy doing.  You should still be aware of your weaknesses as training is still about getting a little uncomfortable, but you should be having fun.  Over the past few months I have found that many of our members enjoy doing what generically might be called circuit training.  To me it’s all the same we are merely doing sets on the minute and still focused on push/pull, upper and lower body with a few other things.  What’s important is that they’re happy and so am I.

In summary of both parts 1 and 2: First identify the most effective movements no matter what “discipline” they originally came from.  The best are still the best and when you come across something new, consider if it meets your standards and maybe give it a try.  See what happens.  Next, on the whole, look to identify how you can manipulate your reps, sets and time to accumulate work, or as we like to call it, practice.  There is no perfect way to feel better and look sexier but try a few different things and see what works best, is sustainable and even fun.

– Mike Baltren