Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Getting Bigger and Stronger: A Summary

By Andrew McGunagle

My mental model of the strength training process always seems to be much clearer than it was just six months before. I lift, I study, and I think, and then I do my best to synthesize what I have learned into a framework that will improve my training and the training of the people that I help. My ideas are never perfect or complete, as I always look back on my prior knowledge and laugh at how thoroughly incomplete my views were. However, I realize that I am a bit further along in the process than a lot of people due to the time that I have dedicated to this endeavor, and relaying what I have learned can help them in their quest to understand the strength training process. So, here is a summary of what I think I know so far. Surely my views will evolve as I educate myself, but I do believe there are some "truths" inherent in what I have learned up to this point. My summary is fairly simple and will seem very basic to many of you. If you already know all of this, then ask yourself how you can employ it more effectively. Here it goes:

How to Get Bigger and Stronger

Squat, press, deadlift, and bench press with the barbell using technique that is mechanically efficient. When your technique feels off, think about how to make it conform to the biomechanical ideal rather than customizing it with strange permutations. Do the mobility work necessary to allow your body to adopt the positions that you want it to adopt, using drills that are specific to the lifts that you do. If you are skinny and weak, then focus on sets of five to build both strength and size. Use a workload that induces adaptations, structure your training to recover from that workload, then lift again in the optimal time frame and increase your workload for further progress. Eat a lot of quality food, focusing on meat and vegetables. If you can tolerate it, add in large quantities of milk in addition to your high calorie meals when you want (need) to gain weight. Rest and recover on your off days, making sure to take in the calories needed to recover from your last session and prepare for the next one. Maintain good sleeping habits, consistently getting around 8 hours of sleep while doing your best to go to bed and wake up at standard times. Occupy yourself with quality activities, such as reading, between sessions rather than worrying about your training program. When you have a bad session, diagnose the problem as simply as possible and then determine whether or not you need to make (minor) adjustments to your plan. Account for periods of substandard recovery and layoffs from lifting by being conservative and, potentially, backing off slightly. Always be in control of your training plan and do the things outside of the gym that are necessary to make it work. Thoughtfully adjust your plan as you progress, or when you run into trouble/life. Be consistent.

To be continued...

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