22 Aug

Strength Training

Louis Cyr. Source: Source: http://www.vigile.net/Sur-Louis-Cyr

So you’re sitting at a computer all day packing on the pounds? Thinking about signing up to the gym to keep in shape? But hey! Most of us have been there. Sign-up for a few months and give up after a few weeks right? I’ve been there many times. But for the last two years and a half I did manage to keep in good shape by going to the gym. So I would like to share with you what worked for me.

First a quick recap (and bragging) of the progress I’ve made. Three years ago I could barely run around the block without thinking I was going to die. Now I can run 5 km three times a week pushing a stroller with my two kids in it. I was also very weak. Here’s the progress I’ve made with my strength over the last three years.

Bench press: 160 pounds to 275 pounds
Squat: 225 pounds to 360 pounds
Deadlift: 185 pounds to 405 pounds

Getting in shape

Training “to get in shape” never worked for me. You pump irons looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking you’ll look like Arnie in just a few months. But that never works. For two simple reasons.

No measurable goals and no lasting motivation. Looking better, being in better shape, that doesn’t work. Losing weight is easily trackable. But… “losing” is incredibly boring and depressing. How about gaining!

Gaining some strength! (And muscles too.)

Strength training is the perfect type of training for “office” workers like most of us.

  • It is intense without being mentally draining.
  • You can be done in an hour or so.
  • It’s the best way to wake up and get you pumped for the day.
  • It is easily trackable.
  • You can set achievable goals.
  • You’ll progress very fast at the beginning, this likely stay motivated.
  • The path to your goals is pretty straight forward.
  • The first time you lift more than 300 pounds, you’ll feel like a superhero. And that feeling keeps coming back each time you break a new personal record.
  • Strength training pushes you to be consistent. If you miss a workout, you’ll never break that record of yours this week!

Pick a simple program

The simpler the better. I recommend Starting Strength, also check out the book.

The nice thing about a program like this one is that you’ll actually know what you’re doing! The worst thing to do in the gym is to improvise. Starting Strength will make you master the barbell and a few very important movements you use every day.

But the most important point is, your progress needs to be easily trackable. With Starting Strength it’s pretty simple, your goal is to add ~5 pounds each time you go to the gym.

If strength is not your goal, there are many programs available. Check out this program picker.

Track your progress

I’ve tried many iPhone apps to track my progress. The most fun is Fitocracy. There’s a game aspect to it that helped me a lot at the beginning. Follow me here on Fitocracy.

A lot of my progress at the beginning was made by improving my techniques. Mastering something new is also a very rewarding experience and I found learning about better ways the squat, bench press and deadlift to be fascinating.

Set goals

I like to use this site to set my goals: Strength Standards.

A simple goal could be to go from Novice to Intermediate level. Don’t be too audacious and revise your goals if you’re losing motivation. But make sure you’re always progressing, ie. increasing weigths.

Consistency and intensity

Those are the two keys to make progress. Make a schedule that is reasonable and that you can follow in the long term.

And here’s the most important part. When you go to the gym: make it INTENSE! If you’re not progressing, you’re either not eating, sleeping or trying hard enough. Forget what you though your body could do. It can lift way more than you think!

I’ve been through some incredible pain to make the progress that I have. But this increases the feeling of accomplishment you get afterwards. It also thought me a lot about pushing harder and more brave in other parts of my life.

A few more tips

One big problem I had at the beginning was caused by breathing. I was thought that it’s bad to hold your breath when pushing. It’s actually important to hold your breath when lifting heaving to protect your internal organs. This is called the Valsalva Maneuver. It’s all explained in details in the Starting Strength book.

Regarding supplements. After some research, I ended up with the following combination. Whey protein isolate, creatine, Omega 3 and Vitamin D everyday. And BCAA around trainings. Check out Examine.com to get the details about all those.

One last thing that helped me a lot was to get a training belt. I’d recommend getting one once you reach intermediate level. It will help you stabilize your back and torso.

Diet

I use to follow a strict diet. I tried a few. Nowadays I don’t, but I still do intermittent fasting. But one thing is for sure. If you want to increase you strength, the more you eat the better. The math is pretty simple, try to optimize to get the most protein per calories you consume.

In summary, lifting heavy things is incredibly rewarding, a nice way to get in shape and a great excuse to stuff your face with copious amounts of meat. Seriously. What more could you want?

Join me on Fitocracy and lets lift together!

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