1. Get the Blood Flowing
No… “Warm up” does not mean bend over and touch your toes and do a couple side bends. To properly “warm up” you need to get some blood flowing and warm up the muscle group you are training that day. For example, if you are training lower body, do some bodyweight squats and lunges. If you are training arms, do some push up and pull ups. Add in specific mobility drills to target problematic muscle groups. The point of a warm up is to prepare you for what you are training that day and prime your body for movement. Heck, perhaps the best things you can do as part of your warm up is push a prowler. That will certainly warm up the body and over time add to a good aerobic base.
2. Start with a Compound Movement
It is important to tart your training session with a compound movement. A compound movement is defined as a movement that engages two or more joints to enhance muscle fiber recruitment. The importance of doing a compound movement first is because it is more taxing on your central nervous system due to the engagement of muscle fibers. Good examples of compound movement include bench press, standing press, squat, deadlift, or lunge. Train those compound movements for strength. You should be fresh because this is your first movement in your training session. Remember: Your working sets and reps should be in the 3-6 sets and reps range. Try to push the weight for each set to maximize strength gains.
3. Compound Movement Followed by an Accessory Movement
An accessory movement should be similar to and follow the initial compound movement. Train in the same plane of motion. For example, a deadlift should be followed by a Stiff Leg Deadlift, Romanian deadlift, or a movement that trains similar muscles. If you bench, follow that with Close Grip Bench or Incline Bench. If you squat follow that with a Good mornings or a Lunge. Basically, the main purpose of the accessory movement is to build some volume and resiliency in your weak muscles. Building volume over time will increase both size and strength. Working sets of these types of movement should be down in the 3-5 range and between 8-12 as far as reps in each set.
4. Push and Pull Movements
Your training should have good balance between the anterior and posterior chain. When training the anterior chain (front of the body) perform push movements. This can be any type of push movement including bench press, standing press, push up, incline and decline dumbbell bench press. For the posterior chain (the back of the body) perform pulling movements. Pulling movements include all variations of deadlifts, pull-ups, pull-downs, rows, hamstrings, and bicep curls. There should be more of an emphasis put on the posterior chain. These muscles are going to be your main power generators and if they are strong they will save you from injuries. A good ratio to work for is 1.5:1 ratio for pulling to pushing movements.
5. Horizontal and Vertical Push and Pull
Pushing and pulling movements can be trained in different planes of motion including horizontal and vertical. Working in different planes will engage different muscle groups and hit muscles from a variety of angles. For example when training your back, a Lat Pull-Down works in a vertical plane, and a Row works in a horizontal plane. They are both pulling movements, both train your back but they engage different muscle groups within the back. For training your chest, a bench press works in a horizontal plan, and a machine press will work in a vertical plane. For chest, it is also important to change different angles from incline to decline, which is working different planes of motion.
6. Isolate Muscle Groups
Once all compounds are preformed, then isolation movements can be utilized. The definition of an isolation movement is a movement that only engages and utilizes one muscle group. For example a leg extension (quadriceps), leg curl (hamstrings), biceps curl (biceps) and triceps extension (triceps) are all isolation movements. Isolation movements are great to end a training session with or to bring up a lagging muscle group. If your deadlift suffers because your hamstrings are weak, then isolate the hamstrings and make them stronger. If you can’t lock out a bench press, then train the triceps. Isolation movements are also great for recovery after a heavy training session. They can be utilized to rush the muscle full of blood and kick-start the recovery process.
7. Save the Cardio or Conditioning for Last
If you are going to do any form of cardio or conditioning it should come at the end of the training session. The most effective way to burn calories is to contract muscles. Your muscles need energy if they are going to work and produce force. Save the energy for the weight training. If you are going to perform cardio at the end, keep in mind that you have already done an entire weight training session. There is very little that a cardio session can do for you that a weight training session has not done already. If you are going to do cardio, keep it light. Even better, add a strength component to it. For example, do some sled work, or even some farmers carries. These are all a great and effective way to end a training session. Not only will this be a good challenge, but also it will start the recovery process and it is easy on the central nervous system. The main purpose of this is to add to your work capacity. Keep the session under 15 minutes. There is no need to go overkill. Carry some heavy dumbbells, push the prowler for a 5-10 trips, or run some sprints with a sled. Keep it simple.
8. Recover with Intensity
The goal of training is to get enough of a stimulus to ignite a recovery response. You don’t get stronger when you are training. In fact, you are actually tearing muscles apart. You get stronger and increase size when you recover from the stimulus placed upon the muscle. You can train for strength, hypertrophy, speed, or a combination of all. Regardless, have intent in your training session and get a stimulus. Once the stimulus is achieved the most important part of your training session is your ability to recover. Training is not about one session or an 8-week program, it is about trying to achieve your human potential, and that can only be achieved through out time. Your recovery must include proper nutrition. Within an hour after training, try to eat a meal that has about 40 grams of protein and at least 60 grams of carbohydrates. Different supplements are great but there is no supplement for whole foods. There is strong data that shows muscle protein synthesis is maximized within an hour after training. You will not be optimally recovered for your next training session if you fail to eat properly. Other aspects of proper recovery include rest, mobility work or light stretching. Much like food there is nothing better for recovery than at least 8 hours of sleep a night. The recovery process should be approach with the same intensity as a training session. Once you are done and walk out the door the next training session starts.