Weight training is a fantastic way to get in shape and build lean muscle mass. A well-designed resistance training program can take you from a skinny, scrawny figure to a far more impressive build in a matter of months.
However, when results don't follow weeks or months of hard work, you may start to wonder if you should carry on trying at all. Here are 7 tips to adjust your training routine to one that will bring on the desired body composition changes.
1. Avoid Injuries
Injuries can set your progress back by weeks or even months, depending on the severity of the problem. If you lift heavy weights too quickly, you may overtrain your muscles which will make you more prone to injuries, like pulling a muscle or tearing ligaments.
The best way to avoid an injury in the gym is to make sure that you are adopting the correct exercise form and design your progression gradually, so your joints and whole body will have time to adjust and become stronger and ready for the heavier weights.
It’s worth asking a gym friend or hiring a trainer to watch you lift a weight so you can check you are approaching it the right way. You might have noticed that gyms always have mirrors. This isn’t for vanity purposes. It's to help you ensure you maintain correct form through your exercises and are targetting the correct muscles.
2. MAster The Mind-Muscle Connection
Training your mind and muscles at the same time to work in unison is one of the best ways to improve your training performance and ultimately achieve your fitness goals. If you were out of action for a while or you are a complete beginner, you may need to make a conscious effort to teach your brain which muscles to activate on certain exercises.
The mind muscle connection can generally be defined as a conscious, deliberate, and mindful contraction of a muscle to recruit a high number of fibers within that specific muscle. Visualising how the muscles contract during certain exercises every time you perform the move will help you achieve that. Example: during performing any type of rowing movement, imagine that you are trying to retract your shoulder blades with the aim to be able to hold a pen between them.
3. Use Mantras
Sometimes the mind has a habit of talking us out of certain exercises we might find challenging or deem ourselves not to be good at. Develop the mental toughness to overcome these thoughts by using certain mantras that you can connect to specific exercises or movements.
You can attach labels or trigger words such as 'I've got this' or 'Let's go' to your self-monologue to pump yourself before hitting certain lifts. This can have a positive effect on reinforcing confidence in your own capabilites
4. Neural Pathways
Performing movements with resistance will prompt your brain to fire the correct muscles to achieve a desired motion and help establish better neural pathways.
Muscle memory is an intriguing part of this process. When you repeat certain exercises multiple times, your muscles become familiar with them, and the motor function starts to become automatic.
Once you manage to trigger the nervous system to perform a specific task or exercise better, you will notice that you no longer need to focus purely on performing the lifts.
5. Use Sufficient Load
Using a progressively challenging load during strength training will prompt your brain to recruit more muscle fibres. These fibres will then be repaired so that next time you put it through the same load it can cope with it better. This results in the growing of the muscle.
It's important to use a weight that is challenging for the specific rep range you are aiming for. If the load is too little then you won't achieve the necessary stress required in order to force the muscle to grow.
6. Understand TUT
TUT stands for time under tension, and refers to how long the muscle is under strain for during a set. Typically, most people think that you need to spend about 30 or up to 60 seconds with your muscle under strain. So, how does this work exactly?
Okay, let’s say that you’re completing a bench press and you do about 10 reps. This might usually take you about 1 second to lift and 2 seconds to lower, that leaves you with a total TUT of 30 seconds. But there there are different tempos we can use to keep the muscle under tension for a longer period and force us to recruit more muscle fibres. For instance, we could use 4-1-1-1. This means you lower for 4 seconds, pause for 1 second at the bottom, lift for 1 second and then pause again for 1 second at the top. If you did 10 reps, your total TUT would be 70 seconds.
7. Incorporate TUT Into Your Workout
Now that you know what TUT is, you can think about introducing it into your next workout. There are lots of options here to consider but it is important to get a good mix of different tempos. For instance, you might be completing a back squat. For this movement you could use the tempo 3-0-1-1. This would mean you would take 3 seconds to lower the weight, there would be no pause at the bottom, a 1 second shortening phase followed by a one second hold the top. Let's use a bicep curl as anothr example using the tempo 2-0-2-0. This would mean lowering the weight for 2 seconds and lifting the weight for 2 seconds, without a pause at the top or bottom. This would ensure you have full control of the weight throughout the movemeny and ensure the muscle stays under tension for the full duration of the set.
The most important aspect of any successful training program is consistency. You may choose to use an online coaching service, or you might want to have a crack at going it alone. But whatever you do, find a program, stick to it and make sure you see it through to the end.