All my lifting experience in one post

Lifeforce

Master Don Juan
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#1
I owe this forum and so many people here a lot. Since I found this place my life has become transformed, I don't even dare to think where I would be if I hadn't found this place and integrated many of the good advice given here. So I thought it would be time to give something back. In this post I'll try to post everything that I have learned when it comes to weightlifting. This is not just my ideas, some is mine and some is things I've picked up and incorporated.


The general idea of weight lifting

When you get down to the very basic principles of lifting it all comes to fighting against gravity. We do this by utilising good technique and our muscle strength. To lift heavier objects we need to be stronger and to get stronger we need to lift things which are heavier than things what we are used to lift. This is common sense for everyone but I am stating this because I want it to be abundantly clear.

The fundemantal idea behind lifting is to always aim to get stronger in the exercises you use. That's it, period!

It seems many people seem to forget this very basic law of lifting when it comes to chosing the right work out program to follow. People tend to jump on any shortcut they can find to get bigger and stronger fast. If you want progress you should stick to the very basic lifts, do not jump onto any new fad-program which flourishes on different bodybuilding forums. Be conservative, even stubborn in changing your program. If you progress, then keep your program as it is and get any idea of changing your program out of your mind.

Progress in weight lifting comes with dedication, persistance and ever increasing weights in the gym in the basic exercises. No new program, any fancy technique such as drop sets, super sets, etc is going to change this.


The volume in your program to avoid overtraining

THere are no cut programs which fit every person on this planet. Everyones body is different and our ability to recuperate from a workout differs. In general though I recommend to cycle your training and not go heavy all the time. This prevents overtraining from occuring and halting your progress with motivation loss and even injury.

It stands to reason that the heavier you lift the more tax you will have on your body. Lifting lighter means you can do more sets, lifting heavier means you need to do less work for the same effect. The more you tax your body the less work you can do and the more recovery you need.

I usually cycle my workouts with 2-3 months basis. Taking one week off then starting up again.

At the start of a new cycle I usually lower my weights to about 85-90% of my normal rep-weight (i.e, if I squat 350 for 10 reps, I rep 300 for 10 reps with more sets at start of cycle). I then increase weight the next 2-3 weeks to my ordinary rep range and then I start to decrease the amount of sets I do as I reach and go past 100% of my normal rep range. Example:

Leg day at start of cycle:

3 set squats 10 reps per set
3 set leg press 10 reps per set
3 set kneeling hamstring raises as many as possible
3 set stiff leg deadlifts 8 rep
3 set standing calf raises 8 rep heavy as possible


Leg day at end of cycle


1-2 set squats 10 reps
1 set leg press 10 reps
3 set kneeling hamstring raises as many rep as possible
2 set standing calf raises 8 rep

As you can see the amount of volume is severly cut at the end making it possible to go all out at the end of the workouts and pushing to the limit. Going lighter at the start of the cycle makes it possible to correct any possible degrading in form as well as not having to go insane from the psychic strain of going balls to the walls.


Choosing a good program and rep range

A good program is easily identified by a few parameters. Firstly if you intend to gain mass then it should be mainly focused around the compound lifts. A good program should also not have too much volume as I wrote above and it should be a balanced program which train every body part. It should also be constructed so there are not too many conflicting muscle groups, i.e not train triceps heavily and then bench press the next day.

The important thing is to find what sort of program fits you and your recovery ability. For some it might be good to train five times a week while some people will need to have only one training every fourth day. Just make sure you feel fresh in the muscles you are about to train. There are no right and wrong as long as you manage to progress on your exercises.

Rep ranges is also a very debattable subject. In general I do not recommend to have too low rep range on exercises. I know this contradicts everyone who says that low rep is the best things. There are a few reasons why I believe in this.

Using low reps makes it harder to increase the weights and from my experience form degredation is more likely to occur. If you however can use low reps without degrading form then go ahead. In general I like 4-8 reps on upper body exercises and 6-10 on lower body exercises.


To give an example of a program I will post my own which you can modify as you wish. It is not an optimal program for everyone and I dont say it will fit you.

Day 1: Legs - Abs - Shoulders

3 set standing military presses
3 set squats
2 set leg press
3 set kneeling hamstring raises as many as possible
3 set stiff leg deadlifts 8 rep
3 set standing calf raises 8 rep heavy as possible
3 set crunches /w weights
3 set the plank /w weight on back

Day 2 Chest - Traps - Lats - forearms - rotator cuffs

3 set Bench press (powerlifting style)
2 set db bench press
3 set bent over rows
3 set lat pulldowns or pull-ups /w weights
2 set seated rows
3 set reverse curls for flex extensors
4 set rotator cuff exercises

Day 3 Lower back - upper traps - Arms

3 set deadlifts
3 set shrugs
3 set biceps curls /w straight bar
2 set db curls
3 set skull crushers
2 set dips

I've built this program so there are as little conflicting exercises as possible.
 

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Lifeforce

Master Don Juan
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#2
Note on Nutrition

Nutrition is a key part in lifting but it is not as rigid as people might seem to believe. Eating 3 times per day or 7 times is a matter of preferrance. Actually I'm eating 2-3 times per day and I'm still building muscle good and notice very little difference compared to when I ate 7 or more times per day. The important thing is that you get good quality food and a lot of protein AND good fat. (nuts and fish is good for this).

Do not fall into the same trap I did when I started and did a unclean bulk and added weight way too fast. Slow and steady gains where you add little fat to your body is the way to go if you don't want to look fat half the time. It might be hard but with a little practice you will find the sweet spot where you progress in the gym and also do not put on fat.

It is very possible to stay at 10-15% body fat and gain weight while retaining the body fat you allready have. If you start to add fat then cut some carbs from your diet.


Note on recovery and peace of mind

As I wrote above your training volume should be built on your recovery. You can help your recovery by removing things which breaks down the body and helping you find your maximal recovery ability. Maximizing your recovery is as important as lifting and eating properly allthough eating well helps your recovery.

A staple for good progress is getting enough sleep. The harder you train the more you should sleep. When I'm peaking I get as much as 12 hours a sleep a day. If you sleep badly then you should take steps to remedy this. Personally i find that using stimulants such as caffeine in the afternoon makes it harder to sleep at night.

If you have a hard time falling asleep during the night then take 15-20 minutes before you go to sleep to listening to some soothing songs and emptying your mind or training on "mindfulness". Do a search on google. when you put your head on your pillow it is time for sleep not for mulling over things in your head.

A way to up your recovery is to stop using drugs as well. Find a way to have fun at parties without alcohol.


Note on motivation

Motivation is what makes or break your gains. You will notice that with 100% dedication you seem to add muslce faster as if your psyche is putting on muscle for you. If you do not want to add muscle badly then you will add muscle badly and start cheating with your diet, recovery and training. It is motivation which help you press out the sweet last reps of the sets.

Sometimes there will be a lot of **** going around in your life. A girlfriend might break up with you, you have a lot of things to do in school or at your workplace, some personal tragedy, depression or similar. At these times it might be wise to just maintenance train until you can put 100% focus back on your training. You might spiral into lack of motivation by trying to train 100% when your recovery is out of whack from worries, stress and similar. Take it easy until things cool down.

Motivation can also be gained by setting up small and big goals for yourself. If you are just starting out and are far away from your long term goal it might be hard to find motivation to continue with dedication for several years. Set up short term goals which you can strive towards. Hitting double your weight in the deadlift or squat, lifting 100 kg bench for the first time or just being able to do 10 pull ups. It doesn't matter as long as there are something you want to achieve. Reaching goals is very satisfying.


Preparing for sets

The psyche plays a big role in how you progress. It is closely tied to motivation but it also has to do with the belief on how much you can actually lift.

When you lift heavier you are not only training your muscles, you are training your psyche. You learn your mind that you are capable of lifting a set amount of weight. Muscle memory is an example of this. You know you can lift heavier and you will gain quicker because you do not have to reteach your mind that you are able to lift a weight.

The psyche also play a role in how much you can lift. I am sure many people have accidentaly added the wrong amount of weight and maybe added 10-20 lbs extra and then realized this after the set was done. It felt a little heavier but it did go up. I am also sure some people have felt the difference in difficulty between seemingly small weights. Lets say 97.5 kg in the bench and then 100 kg. It is a mere 2.5 kg difference but the 100 kg might feel a lot heavier because it is a landmark goal which the mind haven't been trained to believe it can be lifted.

Before each set you should cut out all distractions and give 100% focus on the next set. Imagine yourself doing it in your mind between the sets.

If you are scared of the weight then a solution might be to add extra weight to the bar and just unrack it to feel the weight and then the real attempt will feel lighter. This of course only works for some exercises such as bench and squat.



A note on form

Form is a double edged sword. Too good and perfect form and you will never lift heavy, too bad form and you will hurt yourself. With experience you'll learn what exercises you can cheat in and which ones you can never cheat in. If you are starting out you should never cheat on your exercises. Learn to use good form and lift properly instead of piling on the weights. Then you'll learn that in some exercises it is ok to use controlled cheating. These include biceps curls, barbell shoulder press and rows mostly.

In general form is degraded because people increase their weights too quickly. Imagine how much weight you think you can increase then take half that weight and add to the bar. Most people think they get stronger quicker than they actually do. It might be tempting to add extra weight quicker to make quicker progress but if you wreck your back and have to stay away from lifting for several months then not only will your progress be slower but your motivation might disappear as well.


Keeping progress and correcting mistakes

Always, always keep a journal over your lifting. Be truthful with yourself when you write in it. Progress might come a little bit slower than you want but there are no better way to screw over your progress than to compete against inflated rep numbers from a previous workout. If you get 7.5 reps on the bench press then don't round up to 8. If you do and then manage to do 8 reps the next time then in your journal you made no progress even though you added another half rep.

Put notes after every workout on what you need to improve and what was good.

A good idea is to take monthly pictures or video taping yourself. This is good for motivation when you can see a slow but definite change.
 

Lifeforce

Master Don Juan
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#3
Avoiding injuries / specifik exercise tips

I got a lot of bad advice when I started out and didn't learn how to lift the basic exercises properly.



Bench press

This is a seemingly simple exercise which nearly no one seem to be doing right. I often hear people who complain it is hard to actually hit the chest and that the shoulders overpower the chest.

Benching is actually one of the harder of the full body movements. To make steady gains in your bench you need a stable platform to press from. You get this platform by squeezing your shoulder blades together hard and keeping your upper body really tight. Depending in your style of lifting, if you use a regulear non powerlifting style then you flex your legs and push your heels into the ground and flex your core.

If you do it powerlifting style you have your feet behind your knees on the floor and keep tension in your entire body and arch your back.

Squeezing your shoulderblades together saves your shoulders from strain and you take a lot of the deltoid movement out of the lift and thereby makes it easier to hit the chest.

No feet up on the bench, no jiggly body during the bench, no shoulder forward. Your body should be stiff as a corpse during the movement or you are doing it wrong.

During the lift you should NOT look at the bar, fix your eyes in the ceiling and then press.


Deadlift

I've had trouble with the deadlift for ages. Every time I did them I went home with a sore back even though I filmed myself and the form seemed to be good. Nowadays I never get trouble with my back and I'm way past the weight I used to lift which gave me a crooked back.

Doing the plank (ab exercise for internal obliques) you will strengthen up your core. Having strong ab muscles is important for saving your back.

What screwed my back up was that I treated the deadlift as a pull exercise instead of a push exercise. I never really got it when people told me I should push instead of pulling until a guy showed me. Trying to lift the weight by pulling the weight up puts enormous tension on the lower back by pushing you will transfer that tension away from the lower back down to your gluteus and hip musculature.

When you reach about knee level with the bar instead if dragging with your lower back you push your hip forward as hard as you can and squeeze your glutes. The same movement you use when you ****. Imagine thrusting your **** into a really hot woman very hard, that's the movement you should aim for. This technique have managed to save my back from ever hurting again. (hopefully). By thrusting your hip forward you will automatically end up in the finishing position.

You can also make sure you get extra stiffness in the back by pulling the bar towards your legs as you go up. This engages the lats.


Squat

This is a silent back killer which people often do not consider when they get back pain. I know the mantra is ATG but for most people that is bad advice. Most people do not have the flexibility to go ATG on the squat. The reason for this is that their hip muscles aren't flexible enough and their lower back/ass start to dip inwards exposing the lower back to a great potential for injury.

One should also pay close attention to the hip on the squat. When you are down at the bottom of the lift if the weight is heavy it can be tempting to raise the hip and then good morning the weight up with the back. This is ineffective squatting which will stall your progress. It is also one of the most common mistakes I see in the gym.

If you raise your hip early you will get no chance of using your hip to get hip drive in the lift. The real power in the squat is in the hip. Box squats can teach you how to use your hip.

most people seem to enjoy using a wider stance on the squat, personally I find that a close stance will build your thigh muscles a lot better.







Some common questions I usually see


What Supplements to use

This comes down to personal preferrance and what you actually do respond to as well. It is perfectly possible to build a lot of muscle with no supplements. The very basic things which most people can benefit from is creatine/pre workout powder, protein powder and possibly multi vitamins.


How do I build big arms / do I need to train arms?

First and foremost people should drop the idea of "squat your way to big arms". It is a necessity to train arms just as it is a necessity to train your legs if you want big legs or back if you want a big back. The best exercises for the biceps is direct biceps work with curls. Back exercises are good as well but if you get sore in the biceps from back exercises you are doing it wrong. Rows, pull ups/downs, chins, etc hit your biceps but you should focus on hitting your back and not pulling with your biceps.

The arm is also compromised of the triceps/brachialis and for this either triceps extensions, bench presses with narrow grip or dips are good exercises. Brachialis can be trained along with biceps in many exercises. In general the small muscle groups like shoulder, biceps and triceps needs less work than bigger muscle groups because they are usually synergists in many big exercises.


Can I loose weight and build muscle at the same time

Generally no unless you are new to training or on juice.


How can I get a good looking body fast?

Generally this is not possible. You will gain muscle quickly the first year of lifting but after that it will slow down. You will never be a huge freak like the pros and you will never be as strong as the strongest powerlifters. When it comes to lifting you need to realize it's the road towards the perfect body / stength which is the important part, not the actual goal. Within a few years if you train with dedication you will get a body you can be proud of and a body which is better than 90% of all the men out there. You do not have to be 220 lbs ripped to be impressive. Even a measly 160-170 lbs body which is ripped will set you apart from most men.

Get the whole idea of quick fixes out of your head. The only real way to gain muscle is through dedication, perseverance, time and more time.


Is cardio bad for lifting?

No, no, cardio is actually great if you do it in moderation and not in conjunction with your strength training. You will notice that you will get more stamina in the gym from doing cardio. Keep the sessions short and intense 15-30 min is ideal. Some cardio is actually great for lifting and assist you in becoming stronger. HIIT (high intensity interval training) have had positive effects on my squat and possible other lifts as well but most notably the squat. Do some cardio as well, 1-2 sessions a week, you wont regret it unless you are on the last weeks of a cycle and are going 100% for improvement in the gym. Then cut out most cardio for faster recuperation.
 

Espi

Master Don Juan
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#4
Lifeforce said:
Get the whole idea of quick fixes out of your head. The only real way to gain muscle is through dedication, perseverance, time and more time.
So true.

I read every word of your posts and found lots of good stuff in them. Thanks for taking time to put this together.
 

TyTe`EyEz

Master Don Juan
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#5
Lifeforce said:
No, no, cardio is actually great if you do it in moderation and not in conjunction with your strength training. You will notice that you will get more stamina in the gym from doing cardio. Keep the sessions short and intense 15-30 min is ideal. Some cardio is actually great for lifting and assist you in becoming stronger. HIIT (high intensity interval training) have had positive effects on my squat and possible other lifts as well but most notably the squat. Do some cardio as well, 1-2 sessions a week, you wont regret it unless you are on the last weeks of a cycle and are going 100% for improvement in the gym. Then cut out most cardio for faster recuperation.

I just want to emphasize that everyone should be careful when incorporating HIIT into an already strenuous weightlifting routine. I pulled my hamstring recently by pushing myself too hard.

Good post, though. A lot of good information here.
 

Quiksilver

Master Don Juan
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#6
That was three posts. :)

Good to see an old face Lifeforce, stop in once in awhile.

You had quite a training journal going, back in the day. Its still buried here, if you care to Search for it.

I won't comment on your advice. We can debate about the finer points of training and nutrition protocols all afternoon, but if someone follows your program and dietary advice for 6 to 60 months, they will have admirable results.

Social Leper said:
Wait. So are you saying if you want big arms you need to focus on working the arms (isolation) instead of doing compound exercises? All this conflicting advice is making my head hurt...
Compound movements will make you stronger and bigger overall, and allow you to train with heavier weights and more volume on direct bicep work.

Movements like squats, bench press, military press and pullups/chinups will add meat to your bicep muscle group, however unless you're a freak you'll need direct bicep work to achieve optimal bicep size. The same expression can be applied to the inverse; unless you're a freak, you'll need compound movements.

One of the principles is:

1. You don't see guys who weight 150lbs with 17" biceps. Therefore, you're going to need to be a big boy if you want 17" biceps, and you won't be a big boy by training biceps. Therefore you need compound movements and proper nutrition.

^ That is one of the reasons why lots of guys say "compound movements build big biceps". It's an indirect answer, and forms part of the reasoning for the following anecdote:

The shortest distance between you and big biceps is not a straight line to the dumbbell rack.

Instead, the shortest distance between you and big biceps is a curve that passes first through a power rack and kitchen, then to the dumbbell rack.

The thing is, you need direct stimulus if you want a muscle to grow, and squats/deadlift/bench press don't provide direct eccentric/concentric stimulus to your biceps.

So, the 'advice' with more clarity is:

Train compound movements to get bigger and stronger overall, which will in turn provide the neuromuscular response necessary to promote optimal bicep growth, and allow you to do direct biceps hypertrophy training with greater loads and intensity than otherwise. Direct eccentric/concentric work is still necessary to stimulate maximal sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

For direct work, take a gander at charlespoliquin.com or his youtube channel.

He understands the principles of time-under-load to achieve hypertrophy, which is one of the underlying premises of high-rep training.

Some paraphrased (and may be distorted) information from him:

1. Each set should be approximately 50-70 seconds in duration, with each rep being approximately 4-6 seconds in duration, with each eccentric motion being approximately 1 second in duration and each concentric motion being approximately 4 seconds in duration.

2. Choose a weight with which you can perform the above comfortably, and apply the principle of progressive loading (add more weight to the DB/bar each week).

3. Choose one bicep exercise and use it for six weeks. Then choose another and do that one for six weeks, etc, etc, etc.

cheers

Thread vaulted.
 

Lifeforce

Master Don Juan
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#7
Thanks guys.

Social leper: Quiksilver said it pretty well. Arms do get hit, tris in pressing movements and bis in pulling movements. The only muscles in your arm that never gets hit is the wrist extensors in the forearm which can lead to imbalance in wrist strength.

A personal anecdote when it comes to arm training. It was a few years back and I read an article called "Squat your way to big arms" or similar. I thought, hey it seems great, lets do that, so I dropped my arm exercises and only did compounds. The result was not what i had expected, arms got stuck at around 15" while the rest of my body grew. I also found that I plateued in different exercises.

Isolation work is necessary for several reasons. We do ab exercises specifically to strengthen parts of the core even though the abs get hit in nearly all heavy exercises, having strong abs help us lift heavier. It's the same way with triceps and biceps. If you want a big bench or overhead press you need strong triceps and if you want strong pulls you need strong biceps. The goal of these exercises is not to give you big arms or to train your arms, in fact most pulling exercises involves using your arms as hooks to take as much strain from biceps as possible.

How to train the smaller muscles can be discussed to great length because it is highly individual. For me it works best to go with 1-2 exercises 3-6 sets total. Shoulders I do even less, I find that overhead presses is enough and all the row movement is enough for the posterior deltoid. Edit: The only exception to training is rotator kuff training; this EVERYONE should do. Shoulder injuries is one of the most common in the gym and keeping a strong rotator kuff will stave off most injuries if you lift with good form. It only takes 10 minutes of looking like a fool for 4-5 sets to save yourself from not being able to lift 100% for weeks or months. (A friend of mine have been plagued by shoulder injuries which crippled his gains until he did rotator kuff exercises, now he lives by them).


Quiksilver: Thanks a lot for the kind words. I check in here from time to time to read a little. It's nice to see you got responsibility as a moderator. A very nice choice for the position imo. :) Ended up as 3 posts, training is suprisingly hard to sum up in a few words, tried to keep it as brief as possible or it'd been 10 posts. I hope it helps someone in some way.

I try to look back to the past as little as possible, nostalgia isn't good for you. Keeping my training for myself nowadays in a private journal instead. Nothing to do with any of the guys here, it's just easier to have no pressure to show improvements and being 100% truthful about every little thing.

Take care m8 and live life.
 

Colossus

Master Don Juan
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#8
I'm going to sticky this for awhile. This is timeless training wisdom that you only learn from years of weight training. Everyone can benefit from this info.
 

Espi

Master Don Juan
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#9
Colossus said:
I'm going to sticky this for awhile. This is timeless training wisdom that you only learn from years of weight training. Everyone can benefit from this info.

I agree.
 

Lifeforce

Master Don Juan
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#10
Thanks a lot colussus. :)

Tytes eyes, I forgot to respond to your response. Of course one should be mindful of doing HIIT since it hits the muscles very hard. Combined with heavy lifting it might be extremely hard to combine several HIIT sessions a week.

I guess listening to the bodys responses is the best way to get a feel about how much one can handle.
 

Hockey Playa

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#11
Lifeforce said:
Avoiding injuries / specifik exercise tips


Deadlift

I've had trouble with the deadlift for ages. Every time I did them I went home with a sore back even though I filmed myself and the form seemed to be good. Nowadays I never get trouble with my back and I'm way past the weight I used to lift which gave me a crooked back.

Doing the plank (ab exercise for internal obliques) you will strengthen up your core. Having strong ab muscles is important for saving your back.

What screwed my back up was that I treated the deadlift as a pull exercise instead of a push exercise. I never really got it when people told me I should push instead of pulling until a guy showed me. Trying to lift the weight by pulling the weight up puts enormous tension on the lower back by pushing you will transfer that tension away from the lower back down to your gluteus and hip musculature.

When you reach about knee level with the bar instead if dragging with your lower back you push your hip forward as hard as you can and squeeze your glutes. The same movement you use when you ****. Imagine thrusting your **** into a really hot woman very hard, that's the movement you should aim for. This technique have managed to save my back from ever hurting again. (hopefully). By thrusting your hip forward you will automatically end up in the finishing position.

You can also make sure you get extra stiffness in the back by pulling the bar towards your legs as you go up. This engages the lats.

This is the best advice i have ever read on the DL. I had perfect form, however i always had lower back pain. I tried this technique out tonight. I felt absolutely no pressure on my lower back, and was lifting alot more. Thanks!
 

Lifeforce

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#12
Hockey Playa said:
This is the best advice i have ever read on the DL. I had perfect form, however i always had lower back pain. I tried this technique out tonight. I felt absolutely no pressure on my lower back, and was lifting alot more. Thanks!
Glad to hear it m8, happy lifting. :)
 

Lifeforce

Master Don Juan
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#14
Hamstrings are really important for the deadlift so it's all good, they might be a weak spot in your posterior chain. Just don't keep your hip too high so you are stiff legging the bar up.
 
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