If you are a seasoned gym rat (you can be considered as one when you start shouting inappropriate slurs for all the other gym rats to hear), you can probably skip this post and go read something by Charles Bukowski. I think his approach to life is pretty dope.
But if you would like a little guidance on how to workout and optimize your gains, stay with me. I promise it is going to be helpful. Granted, not as helpful as Charles Bukowski’s advice to often carry things to read so that you will not have to look at the people.
Anyway, here are six things you should know if you workout.
1. You need to know these 3 fitness terms
Progressive overload, hypertrophy, RIR/RPE.
Arguably the most important part of your training is progressive overload which means workouts that increase in difficulty over time.
If your workouts don’t have this, there are only two ways it can go and both have “holy shit, what am I doing wrong here?” in them. READ: You are not going to build muscle and get stronger. So:
- Lift heavier weight over time
- Do more reps with the same weight
- Use better technique (e.g. greater range of motion)
- Slower lifting tempo (emphasizing the eccentric part of the exercise)
- Add pauses at the top or bottom of the range of motion (I am a big fan of a 3-second pause at the bottom of leg press, hack squat, split squat, and RDL)
Then we have “hypertrophy” which stands for muscle building.
This is how you should train most of the time if your goal is to get the best physique possible. Whether you want to build muscle, lose fat, or maintain, hypertrophy training is the way. You just adjust your calorie intake based on the goal. Training stays the same.
The last one is RIR/RPE or reps in reserve/rating of perceived exertion (RPE is a scale of 1-10, 10 being max effort while RIR is how many reps you have left in the tank).
This is an easy way of measuring the intensity of effort aka how close to failure you get at the end of each set. A 0RIR or 10RPE would mean you could not have done an additional rep.
I typically recommend that my clients lift at 2-4RIR or 6-8RPE most of the time with occasional workouts to 0-1RIR/9-10RPE (to ensure they are gauging RIR/RPE accurately). This is smart training. You don’t have to go balls to the wall each workout.
On the same topic:
2. The barbell pad is not for squatting, you silly
…is to protect your insides from becoming your… outsides. Is that even a real word? Whateva, English is not my native language so no one will notice or care. Anyway, it is called a barbell back squat, not a neck squat, as James Smith once said.
I get it, having a bar on your back might feel uncomfortable but guess what? It’s probably because it is in the wrong place — on the bony part of your neck rather than on the “shelf” that your traps create when you create tension in your upper back.
Having a pad on the bar when squatting puts the bar in the wrong position (too high), it might make the bar unstable, reduce depth, and put you at greater risk of injury.
Don’t piss me off and don’t put the pad where it is not supposed to be used.
3. You can easily get 2-3k steps per workout
Lifting weights is good and all that. But regular movement outside the gym is important for both your health and weight loss or maintenance. During an hour-long workout, you can easily get in 2-3k steps. FYI, I did just that today:
So rather than being glued to your phone, stand up and walk a couple of laps around the gym via that horizontal walking surface called the floor.
No need to speed-walk. It would be weird. Like, biblical God says he does not want any sacrifices from people with damaged testicles kind of weird.
4. Random workouts aren’t the way
If you are not following a proper training program and just winging it at the gym, you are not going to make measurable progress.
Look at the program I write for my clients. It has everything—clear instructions for each week of training, exercise videos, set, rep, RIR recommendations, workout tracking, form check, etc.
Random workouts = random results. If you spend time and effort in the gym, you might as well do it properly and get the damn results. Stop fugging around.
5. Do less, do better
Some people think you need to lift every day or do 30 sets per workout to optimize your progress. If you are following a proper evidence-based program, 3-5 workouts per week is plenty. If your boss asked you to work 7 days a week, you would go like hey boss man, you are proof positive that stupid is definitely a thing.
So train less but do it better. And I’m not talking just about training frequency. I’m talking volume too as most people do way too many sets. If you are genuinely training with high effort (close or to legit failure) you can make great gains off of a lot less volume than you might think.
I’m near damn sure that most people would see better gains if they scaled back on both training frequency and volume and doubled down on intensity. Thus, do less, do better.
Further reading: 6 Signs You Don’t Train Hard Enough to Build Muscle
6. Video yourself while lifting
Look again at the training program that I wrote to my client. Notice there is this “form check” thingy:
This is because it is a great teaching tool. And if you don’t have a coach who would review form videos for you, do it yourself. Compare your video to the video you learned the movement from. Pick one to two things and improve your technique next time.
Be your own coach. Record your workouts because dodgy technique will keep you from building muscle and strength.
That is it. Just by reading this post, you achieved peak levels of an amazing lifter. Bye.
Originally published by me on Medium on January 1, 2024