By Fitness Intern Quinton Augusto, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown.
One of the most common misconceptions among gym goers is the proper number of sets and reps to do during a workout. The answer is very dependent on your individual goals. Before venturing into the gym and aimlessly meandering around until you find a machine that looks cool, take some time to reflect upon what you want to get out of your precious time spent in the gym. Ten minutes spent thinking about your fitness goals prior to starting a program will allow you to have purpose in your training.
As far as training goals are concerned, there are 4 options; first is strength (you want to lift heavy things), second is power (you want to be as explosive as possible), third is hypertrophy (you want to look like Arnold), and lastly it endurance (you want to run a marathon). For each one of these training goals there is a guideline set by the National Strength and Conditioning Association for how many sets and reps to do and what they say may actually surprise you.
If you are someone who wants to increase your overall strength and be able to bench press your mini van while changing the oil, then you need to be doing between 2-6 sets of a given exercise for no more than 6 repetitions with heavy weight at about 85% of your 1 rep max. Make sure you get a full 2-5 min rest between sets to allow your body to recover enough to finish out the lift. Someone with a 1 rep max of 225 on bench press should lift 2-6 sets of 5 reps at approximately 190 lbs if the goal is strength
If you are someone who wants to jump out of the gym or throw a car engine a quarter mile, then you need to incorporate explosive lifting into your program. This would be done by doing 3-5 sets of 1-5 repetitions at 75-90% of your 1 rep max; moving the weight as efficiently and fast as possible while maintaining control. Rest is very important for these movements because of how explosive and taxing they are so get a full 2-5 min rest between sets. Someone with a 200 pound power clean one rep max should do 3-5 sets of 1-5 reps at approximately 150-180 lbs if their goal is power.
If you want to turn your nice dress shirt into a cut off simply by flexing then you have to increase your total volume of work (Sets x Reps x Weight= Total Volume). Hypertrophy programs have a much higher amount of weight lifted in total and therefore expose your muscles to more adversity which promotes an increase in the cross sectional area of the muscle (size). You will need to do 3-6 sets of 6-12 reps with anywhere from 67-85% of your 1 rep max with a considerable shorter rest time of 30 sec-1.5min. You basically want to spend as much time under the weight as possible and by your last set you should be struggling to get your last few reps. Someone with a 315lbs max squat should do 3-6 sets of 6-12 reps at approximately 210-265lbs if hypertrophy is their goal.
If you want to be an honorary Kenyon and run hundreds of miles a week then your lifting program is going to be shaped a bit differently. First of all you are only doing 2-3 sets of greater than 12 repetitions at less than 67% of your 1 rep max. The kicker here is your rest time between sets is no longer than 30 seconds. As an endurance athlete you are doing very repetitive movements for long durations of time with very little rest. You want your resistance training to be the same. A squatting exercise for an endurance athlete with a 200lbs squat max would be 3 sets of 15 at approximately 130 lbs.
Overall, I hope these guidelines will help shed a bit of light to the people out there who are confused or looking for some clarity on what to do in the gym. Before starting a new lifting program take the time to think about what results you truly want, then implement these sets and rep ranges to reflect your goals. Your training should mimic the movements of the goal. Whether you want to lift heavy things, jump out of the gym, look like Mr. Olympia, or run a marathon, cater you workout to echo your goals.
When developing a proper strength program you need to have lifts that are classified as either main lifts or assistance lifts. Main lifts are what your program is focused around and what takes the most effort. For me and the majority of my clients these main lifts are; squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press. Choosing main lifts is relatively straight forward but assistance lifts are usually where people go wrong.
The most common mistake people make with assistance work is simply doing too much. They do too many sets or too many exercises trying to train each muscle individually. Just like the main lifts, assistance lifts should be large multi-joint movements that can be progressed over a long period of time. People also tend to put way too much emphasis on their assistance work, or as strength guru Jim Wendler says it “majoring in the minors.” Simply put, you do not want to work so hard on your assistance lifts that your main lifts suffer.
Assistance lifts should serve to:
1. Increase the main lifts
2. Build muscle mass
3. Provide balance and body symmetry
4. Strengthen weak areas
All of this can be accomplished with a few large assistance lifts each day. The way I like to build a program is to pair the main lift of the day with a corresponding assistance lift. Here is an example:
Main Lift Corresponding Assistance Lift
Squat Hinge Movement (Snatch-Grip Deadlift)
Deadlift Squat Movement (Front Squat)
Bench Press Horizontal Pull (Barbell Row)
Overhead Press Vertical Pull (Pull-ups)
If you pair the main lifts with a corresponding assistance lift all you have to do is fill any gaps in the program or work on weak areas. Generally on lower body days I will program abdominal work and on upper body days I will program some extra upper back and shoulder work.
It may seem too simple but if you are doing the right things there is no reason to have more than 2-3 assistance lifts on a given day of the program.
Here is a list of my favorite assistance exercises in no particular order:
You can and should use a variety of grips and hand widths when performing pull-ups. You can switch them up every week or even every set. It really doesn’t matter; just pull yourself up to a bar.
2. Dumb Bell Rows
These can be done for straight sets or in “Kroc Row” fashion where you do a couple warm-up sets then perform an all out set of high reps (my favorite way to do rows). These are great for back development as well as grip strength.
3. Barbell Rows
There are many different ways to do these but my preferred method is to let the bar rest on the floor between each rep so you’re pulling from a dead stop each time. When doing these be sure to keep your back level and flat. Use a grip that is the same width as your bench press grip.
4. Front Squats
These are great for building up your squat strength as well as quad size. Whether you use a “clean grip” or cross your arms like a body builder, the bar must be resting on your shoulders just behind your anterior deltoid muscle (weight is not held by your hands). Take a stance slightly narrower than when you back squat and drop your hips straight down until they are below your knees. Keep your elbows high and chest up.
5. Snatch-Grip Deadlift
These are performed exactly like a conventional deadlift only you are using a very wide grip (as you would in a snatch). Your grip should be wide enough that when you finish the movement the bar is at the crease of your hips. These are great for developing the posterior chain and upper back.
6. Close-Grip Bench
Grip the bar with your pointer fingers just inside the smooth part of the bar. Focus on keeping your elbows tucked close to your torso while lowering and pressing the weight. This is one of the premier lifts to improve your triceps strength and bench press.
Great for developing pressing strength and muscle mass. Dips are very straight forward, just be sure you are using a full range of motion. These can be done with bodyweight for high reps or with weight added for strength work.
If you have any questions about programming your assistance lifts please contact:
Summer sun; summer fun. Whether you are going on vacation or enjoying the multitude of options available in our backyard, here are a few exercises that can go outdoors with you.
*Superman pushup (full or modified) – This pushup incorporates an opposite arm and leg raise at the top position to train in a transverse plane (posterior oblique fascial line) for increased core strength and stabilization. The modification for this is a kneeling pushup or finding an inclined surface, like a bench or a wall.
*Wall jump dips- With your hands on an inclined surface jump as high as you can getting your legs in a tuck position like you are trying to jump up on the wall.
*Surfers- Start by lying on the ground and jump into a surfing diagonal squat position, jump back into a plank, lower yourself to the ground, and repeat on the other side.
*Multi-directional lunges- Lunges forward, reverse, lateral, or in a curtsy target stabilizers and train proprioception in different planes of motion.
*Single-leg squat touch down- Perform a single-leg squat with a hinge motion forward and touch down diagonally with the opposite hand. For an added level of difficulty, add a pepper jump (a single-leg jump) in the top position of the squat for dynamic stabilization.
It’s important you know how to do these movements correctly for full benefit and prevention of injury. There are additional outdoor workouts in our archive that can give you more exercises to try. Contact any our fitness staff for details and instruction. Be safe this summer and have fun out there!
As the snow starts to melt and the flowers start poking their heads through the frozen ground, hikers across the Puget Sound area are dusting off their boots and trekking poles as they prepare to resume their exploration of the vast Pacific Northwest! Will you be one of those hikers this year? Better yet, will you be PREPARED to be one of those hikers this year?? Below is a simple series of exercises designed to strengthen the muscles used while hiking. Most people tend to focus solely on quadriceps strength in regards to hiking. While the quads are very important (especially for the decent), the glutes and core muscles help prevent injuries to your ankles, knees, hips and back.
These can be incorporated into a regular, normal routine or at the completion of a cardio session!!
Hip Bridges – 10 reps
Knee Drops – 10 each side
Walking lunges – 1 lap (feel a stretch in the hip flexor, keeping the stomach strong!)
T walks/Birdfeeders – 1 lap (no weights. Take 3 steps in between each 1 to bring you to the next leg)
Curtsey Squats – 10 each side
Step Ups – 10 each leg (Stay on the same leg for all 10, then switch. Bring opposite knee up to add a balance component.)
Walking lunges with 15lbs dumbbells – 2 laps
Lateral quick steps over the BOSU – 10 each side (start at the side, move sideways over the BOSU staying as low as you can. Be sure to bring each foot down to the ground before you change directions.
Standing squats with 15lbs dumbbells – 20 reps
Band side steps – 1 lap
Plank Mountain Climbers (knee to opposite elbow) – 10 each side
Mobility is the ability of a joint to move in a functionally adequate range of motion. It is the foundation of movement ability because it allows your body to be comfortable in stable positions. Mobility is the opposite of the stiffness, tightness and restriction that many of us experience everyday. I have noticed several lower body “hot spots” in SAC members lately. Ankles, knees, hips and even upper backs (thoracic spine) are commonly tight which leads to difficulty in squats, jumping and sports. Many people assume that these malevolent joints are caused by muscles being too short but mobility is actually much more complicated. Mobility is in part determined by nervous system control of all the tissues surrounding a joint which means that increasing mobility at a joint really depends on changing the neuromuscular system. The bad news: this means that passive stretching will probably not make a long lasting improvement. The good news: using smarter mobility exercises can help you overcome immobility in as soon as 2-4 weeks of consistent practice. Genuine Movement is a program that teaches great movement ability in a semi-guided format. Here are some Genuine Movement mobility drills to get you moving naturally and spontaneously. Please contact Hunter Spencer at Hspencer@sacdt.com with questions or for more information about Genuine Movement.
½ Kneeling Stretch
Targets: Ankle, knee hip
Lean forward until you feel a moderate stretch in the thigh or calf
Return to starting position. Repeat.
Oscillate continuously for 10 reps
2 x 10
Lying on your side with top knee pressing into the support
Keep knee above hip level
Rotate shoulders away from bent knee
Hold 3-5 seconds and return to starting position
2 x 6
Targets: Ankles, knees, hips, upper back
Use small silver box
Start with arms overhead
Bend down and touch box with straight legs
Continue pressing into the box as you drop your hips down into a deep squat
Lift one arm and look at your hand, hold 10 seconds
Switch sides and repeat
Lift both arms overhead and return to starting position
3 x 6
Please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Hunter Spencer with your questions.
She’s a tiny, lovely, wonderful, amazing, hard working, positive, funny, strong, brave, determined woman who I’m proud to call a client and a friend.
Cookie Laughlin has been a member of the Seattle Athletic Club along with her husband John since October of 2004. She has been a mainstay down in the Pilates Studio as well as the occasional venture into the weight room. In the past few years Cookie has battled a serious illness that has kept her from the club for lengthy periods of time. Since August of 2012 she has been back and better than ever! She trains with Adriana Brown as often as her treatment schedule allows, sometimes it’s twice a week, sometimes once, sometimes it’s every other week. But no matter what, Cookie and John find time in their very busy lives to come into the club and train as much as they can. This is some real devotion, with all that is on her plate and all that she has to weekly recover from, Cookie is doing her part to work towards better health. When she started training again in August Cookie was still walking very slowly, couldn’t do much balancing, was having a hard time with her foot and hand neuropathy and was out of shape due to her lengthy period away from the club and her aggressive treatment. But in just these past few months she has overcome so much she hardly seems the same person! She works hard every session, pushing herself, trying new things, moving more and more weight, and really giving 100% every hour spent with Adriana. As of today, Cookie has come along LEAPS and BOUNDS. She can stand on one leg, she can lift 12.5lb dumbbells (for a woman who can barely feel her hands or feet this is nothing short of AMAZING), her cardiovascular health has improved 10 fold, she can go up the stairs every other step (sometimes every 3rd step, with a little help from her friends), she has done so many things that both her, her husband, and even Adriana didn’t think possible. This is the kind of woman trainers would kill to have as a client. She NEVER gives up, she hardly ever complains (she’s known to be disgusted that she sweats, she hates to sweat), she works hard, she keeps a smile on her face, and above all, she pushes herself each and every session.
With all that she’s up against, with all that she deals with concerning her health, she makes the hour in the gym her one and only priority while she’s training. She could duck out, she could sleep in, she could decide that she’s just too run down (most people dealing with what she does would easily go down that road), but she doesn’t. If everyone had her mind set we’d all be accomplishing our goals big and small every day! She doesn’t do it alone, she’s got an amazing support system, her husband John is always sweating right along side her and always has encouraging words. Together these two could move mountains… I think they already have.
Here’s to 2013 and conquering all the bad and making leaps and bounds to all the good. Cookie, you are a rock star, thank you for your inspiration.
Are you someone who enjoys a good challenge? Are you looking to improve every day fitness as well as fitness on the court/field/trail? If you want a leg up in all aspects of fitness it’s time you incorporated more “uneven training” in your routine. What does that mean? What does it look like? How does it help? Hold on, I’m getting there!
Uneven Training simply means uneven load, uneven surface, uneven base of support, and or single sided movements. This can be done with any weight equipment or even no equipment at all. A few of my personal favorite exercises are:
Single leg Power Jump. In this exercise you need no weight (although if you want to grab a 15lb dumbbell be my guest)! Pick a leg, “load up” meaning, drop down into a squat and then power up as high as you can in a jump. You can be way more powerful in this exercise if you use your non weighted leg by swinging it back behind you in your load up and then driving it up (think knee to chest) in your jump phase. The goal is to get maximum height and maximum load up as well as keeping speed and balance. The non loaded leg should never touch the floor.
Slide Board Scissor Lunges. Sounds fancy right? Grab those amazing looking booties, roll out the slide board, and get to lunging! Start in the middle of the board facing one end; begin the movement by SIMULTANEOUSLY pushing one foot forward while the other foot goes backwards. As you do this drop down in your lunge (don’t forget to bend that back knee!), then SIMULTANEOUSLY pull both feet back underneath you. See if you can do this without stopping in the middle. Enjoy!
Uneven kettlebell Squat and Press. Grab two kettlebells of different weight (I would use a 26 and a 36lb). Hold the bells in rack position as you descend down into your squat, as you come up power press (meaning use the quick up out of your squat) to shoulder press both weights. The uneven load will clearly make one side work harder as well as challenge your core to keep the bells tight and even. Don’t forget to switch sides!
Anything Sandbag or Sandbell. Both of these tools are amazing for Uneven Training. Both of these pieces of equipment are filled with sand so the weight is ever changing and the load is always different with each rep. One of my personal favorite Sandbell exercises is Power Jumps Forward and Backwards. In this exercise you hold the Sandbell by the sides (a 20lb-30lb bell is great), drop your hips down into a squat (butt down, chest up, spine extended, shoulders engaged), then stand up opening your hips and swing the bell up over your head as you jump. The weight and the swing should propel you backwards (a backwards jump), then swing the bell down the way you came back into your load up squat, the swing forward now creates a forward jump. Try to keep up your speed and push yourself to jump as far forwards and backwards as you can.
Why are we doing this again? Uneven training, especially combined with lateral training will greatly improve your small supporting muscles (muscles in your core, in your glutes, in your calves, and in your feet) with increased strength and coordination. This will help you move more quickly and efficiently during any sport. In addition, uneven training helps to create better body symmetry (I know how much that left side lags behind… not for long) and better non dominant body awareness. You will quickly find your weak points and by doing things single sided as well as with uneven weight you will quickly make strength, coordination, and flexibility gains. Your body must adjust to perform these exercises; otherwise they simply cannot be done. There is no “muscling” through a Slide Board Scissor Lunge, either you can do it or you can’t, end of story.
So if you are tired of feeling like you aren’t making the strength gains you want to, you just aren’t working hard enough but you don’t know how to push yourself, or if you are tired of your workouts and you are looking for something fun and challenging then Uneven Training is for you! If you have more questions or are interested in learning how to incorporate Uneven Training into your routine please contact Personal Trainer Adriana Brown.
We are friends. We’ve been together for almost 10 years or maybe just a month. I know your wife/husband’s name, I know your pet’s names, I know where your grandchildren live, I’ve been to holiday parties at your house, we get coffee together, we talk about your annoying co-worker, we talk about your horrible mother-in-law, we talk about your basketball tournament last weekend. We laugh, we complain, we work hard, we joke, but above all, I teach and you learn.
You are my friend but I am also your coach and your teacher. My job in our relationship is to teach you skills that make you a more fit person. I teach you things from the most basic (proper air squats, proper push-ups, etc) to the more advanced (proper kettlebell snatches, sandbag cleans, etc). When you walk away from an hour with me you better have learned a new skill or learned how to better an old one, if you haven’t learned one of those two things I’ve failed in this relationship. If you walk away from an hour with me and you are thinking about all the things you still need/want to work on, you feel like you need to spend another hour in the gym because you didn’t get the workout you felt you needed, you feel like you didn’t workout hard enough/were not challenged enough and thus need to do more on your own, I’ve failed.
It’s not about the crazy equipment, it’s not about learning the newest fad, it’s not about laying in a pool of your own sweat trying not to vomit, its not about using chalk and grunting, it’s not about keeping up with your brother-in-law that lives in California. It’s about you being a better, healthier, happier, more fit you. To do that you need to be great at the basics, you need to understand how to move your body properly, you need to understand what it is you are doing and WHY YOU ARE DOING IT. It’s about knowing where you are now and where you want to be. It’s about pushing yourself within your limits and understanding that it takes hard work, effort, and patience to improve. It’s about learning!
I’m here as a friend, a coach, a teacher to motivate you. I’ll yell, I’ll tell you what great effort you are putting in, I’ll let you know when I think you could be working harder and when I think you should be resting more. I’ll keep you accountable, I’ll keep you on schedule, and I will keep you from harming yourself! We’re friends so I’ll do those things for you.
While we laugh, we sweat, we yell, we have angry face (push-ups are going to happen, sorry), we encourage one another, we will be making you a better more knowledgeable you. I will in return, enjoy all the accomplishments big and small like they are my own, because you are my friend and I am proud of you. If you are my friend and you know me… “I’ll take whatever you have left” and I’ll like it.
As discussed in Part 1 the shoulder complex is designed to allow both force generation and force transmission from the legs, hips and trunk. It can only perform these vital functions if adequate mobility and stability are maintained. To quickly evaluate the mobility throughout your shoulder complex, simply try to touch your hands behind your back with one elbow pointing up and the other elbow pointing down. Can you get anywhere close to touching? Do you notice a difference between the two sides? This motion requires full range of motion in the gleno-humeral joints, the scapulas and the thoracic spine and failing to touch or nearly touch the hands behind your back can indicate immobility at one or several of these joints. Re-gaining adequate mobility requires much more than static stretching because the underlying issue may not be the structural length of the tissues but rather the coordination between the brain, spinal reflexes, muscles and proprioceptors. To account for these variable explanations, a successful mobility routine must incorporate several modalities such as self myofascial release (SMR), proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching (PNF) and dynamic stretching. SMR includes massage-like activities such as foam rolling and increases mobility by relaxing fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds muscle bellies. PNF is a general type of stretching that involves a pattern of contraction and relaxation, for example stretching a muscle, contracting that muscle against a force and then relaxing to stretch the muscle more. Performing PNF at the beginning of an exercise session provides dramatic transient improvement in range of motion which allows improved mobility for the remainder of the session. Dynamic stretching includes anything that gives the shoulder an opportunity to explore a maximally large range of motion (ROM) at variable speeds and provides practice at incorporating the shoulder into whole body movements.
After acceptable mobility has been established, the ability to maintain a position within this ROM must be developed. Stability is not as dependent on strength as much as coordination; your neuromuscular system must work in harmony to quickly react to a perturbation. Training stabilizer muscles, such as the rotator cuff, for strength (with exercises such as rotator cuff rotations) does not train these muscles for stability and can even contribute to a dysfunctional, unstable shoulder complex. Instead stability exercises should challenge the shoulder to maintain position before, during and after a movement. Exercises such as a one arm bench press, reverse rows from a bar and even pushups can be used to evaluate and develop shoulder stability. The key to stability exercises is that they provide a stimulus-rich environment to teach the body what position is stable and how to maintain this position. Whatever exercises are being used, proper feedback is critical to avoid development of faulty motor patterns and ensure stability.
Both mobility and stability depend on the neuromuscular system to function properly. Several methods can be used to increase mobility and stability but it is imperative that any exercises designed to improve these traits provide an opportunity for the body to learn about moving through a complete ROM and maintaining a stable position. Because the neuromuscular system controls these traits, a chronic adaptation can be made within just 2-4 weeks. Adequate mobility and stability provide a safe and efficient platform from which to develop strength and then power. Mobility and stability in the shoulder are key to pain free, efficient movement and improved performance in racquet sports, golf and daily activities. There is no better investment for your shoulder function than to spend 2-4 weeks developing the mobility and stability you need to thrive! To learn more about shoulder and see if your shoulder mobility and stability are adequate, contact Personal Fitness Trainer Hunter Spencer.