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Fundamental Weightlifting Principles

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Some people like to hit a body part really hard once a week; This seems to promote muscle growth for intermediate and advanced lifters, so I recommend it. If I have time, I also do a recovery routine or 'speed training'(2) later in the week. I usually don't have the time, though!

Here's my favorite split, but that doesn't mean it's the best:
    Monday: Chest and Shoulders, including rear delts.
    Wednesday: Arms (including forearms)
    Friday: Back! and rear delts (rotator cuff)
    Saturday: Legs.
I spend about 20 minutes per workout, including the warm-up! That's about all the time I have, and it's all the time you need, unless you're a pro athlete. Some trainers recommend 45 minutes (but no more than an hour).

People split body-part work-outs in many different ways, and there are tons of theories about which one is best. From my experience, eating habits are more important than what you do in the gym. I can't stress that enough.
Don't get distracted by un-important matters. Focus on first things first, then work on the smaller issues if you want to take it to the next level.

Here's a suggestion for advanced bodybuilders and powerlifters:
Don't work two major muscle groups on the same day.
IE: If you're 6'4" 260lbs w/11% body-fat, and you hit legs and back really hard on the same day, you'll gorge those large muscles with blood, and you only have so much to go around: There won't be any blood left for your brain! Seriously; you could pass out. Been there, done that!
It's also physically stressful for two large muscle groups to compete for the resources they need to recover from a workout. Recovery is vitally important! That's when muscle growth happens, so take it seriously.


Focus on one body part for several weeks at a time:

I learned this principle from Lou Ferrigno's book(3), and I couldn't agree with it more! It's more of an advanced technique, but I placed it here to help explain my split routine above. You may notice that I'm hitting rear delts twice a week. That's my area of focus right now.

This technique promotes growth in a needed area. IE: A powerlifter might have a weakness that hurts their bench-press total; a dock-worker might have shoulder soreness because his chest is over-developed; or a person could be constantly twisting their ankles because of weak calves.

In theory, you can hit one body part a little harder without becoming over-trained. If you're eating right, that muscle-group will respond.


Maintain good balance to avoid injury:

Make sure your workouts don't consistently focus on one area over another. Don't just focus on your chest and front shoulders, work your back and rear delts as well. If you're successful at building your biceps, but you ignore your triceps, you could end up injuring your tris. One of the most common injuries for runners is a pulled hamstring. This often happens because their muscles become out of balance. Be aware that this can happen, and take steps to avoid it.

This problem arises more often for people who are successful in the gym (and for laborers who perform some type of repetitive motion). If you don't eat right, you won't have much success in the gym, and you won't have to worry about this problem.
Am I getting the point across?
Diet is important if you want to achieve your fitness goals.       : )


Don't work out again if you're still sore!

IE: If you're still sore from last week's back work-out, don't hit your back again! It won't help. Recovery time is important; that's when growth happens!
If you have enough discipline, you can help the growth process by doing a "recovery workout"; otherwise, just rest the muscle group. If your sore from last week's workout, and it's time for the next one, try this:

Simple Recovery Workout:
Do the exact same work-out as last week, but with less weight.
  • Use 50% of the weight you used last week, even for the warm-up.
  • Maintain excellent form.
  • Do the exact same number of sets and reps.
  • Use the same speed of motion as last week; don't jerk the weights around.
  • Rest for the same amount of time between sets.
After a few minutes of a recovery workout, your muscles will likely stop hurting (perhaps for the first time all week). It's important that you don't give in to temptation and start piling on the weight.

Lingering soreness can be a sign that your workout is too intense. Pushing yourself too hard in the gym is a waste of time, so you should scale things back.
If you pay attention, you'll notice the strongest guys in the gym are not the ones who work the hardest. The strongest (drug-free athletes) in the gym are the ones who eat right and work smart. Here's a favorite quote from an elite Powerlifter I talked to at Power Shack in Westerville, Ohio:
"I workout for about 30 minutes, then I sit back and watch everyone else over-train!".

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      "Never give up! Never give up! Never, ever give up!"
      Winston Churchill