Raise your hand if you have ever walked into a gym without a plan – yes, everyone should be raising their hand, even me! While you might feel accomplished when you are done simply because 1. you made it into the gym, 2. you probably burnt some calories, and 3. you feel like you put in some work, but what did you really accomplish? Did you set a PR in the squat rack? Did you set a PR for your two mile? Maybe – but how do you really know what progress you have made?
Ask yourself this, why set goals if you aren’t going to make sure you are reaching them…
I would say 9/10, it comes down to not knowing how to reach them and thought process becomes “doing something is better than doing nothing.” Well, if you are like me, that thought process is wrong. I become more frustrated when the work I am putting in doesn’t get me to where I want to go. This is why I can’t stress the importance of having a plan enough. If your goals are a priority, you will find a way.
- Decrease Body Fat —–> Solid Resistance Training/Weight Lifting program + Some form of Cardio + improved eating habits + sleep/rest = Success
- Increase Muscle Mass & Stay Lean——-> Solid Resistance Training/Weight Lifting program + some form of Cardio + eat a ton of QUALITY FOOD CHOICES + sleep/rest = Success
Competitive Athlete (high school, collegiate, beyond school athletics)
- Become stronger and faster on and off the field/court —–> Solid Resistance Training/Weight Lifting program + Conditioning + practice + eat a ton of QUALITY FOOD CHOICES that aid performance + rest + sleep = Success
Competitive Weightlifter (Olympic lifter, Powerlifter, Weightlifter)
- Set PR’s in all competitive lifts —–> Solid Weight Lifting program + Some form of Cardio/conditioning + QUALITY FOOD CHOICES that aid performance + sleep + rest = Success
Competitive Runner/Sprinter (Marathon, Track & Field events, 5K’s, 10K’s)
- Set PR’s on Race Day—–> Solid running plan that includes various distances and environments + Solid Weight Lifting program + solid eating plan + sleep + rest = Success
Weekend Warrior Competitor (Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, Zombie Run…)
- Set PR’s on Race Day OR complete the race successfully—-> Solid running plan that includes various distances and environments + Solid Weight Lifting program that includes functional movements + solid eating plan + sleep + rest = Success
Do you see a common theme here? A solid program that includes all variables necessary to reach your goals; Resistance/Weight lifting program, cardio/conditioning, quality food choices, sleep, and rest. Of course, many of those variables will become more in depth based on the goals and type of person, but the key is A PLAN OF ACTION! The formula won’t be that simple, but that is why I am here to help.
Let’s start with question # 1: Where do you stand right now?
What is your current 1RM (repetition max – how much weight can you lift for 1 rep, 1 rep being the maximum time that you can lift it) in Bench, Squat, Deadlift, Overhead Press, – lifts that may be used in your weight lifting portion of your program.
If you didn’t notice, also a common theme from all the goals listed above. Why you ask… Because science shows that resistance training/weight lifting provides the following benefits; decrease in body fat %, increase in muscle mass, strength, mobility, power, speed, endurance, stamina… should I keep going? Point being, it is necessary to any fitness goal you can imagine. So let’s start here!
Once these key numbers/variables are decided, the program begins to unfold. Here starts “THE PLAN.” I don’t just walk into the gym and say… Ok today, I’m going to squat 225 for three because I feel like it. NO, each week I have a goal to hit a certain percentage of my 1RM for a certain number of sets and reps. Why? Because by hitting 90% of my 1RM (roughly 3 reps per set) for multiple sets, over time my 1 RM will increase (progressive overload – more on that later), and my single PR for that lift with increase! That is my goal! Why does that matter for a person who wants to decrease body fat through weight lifting? Same reason, progressive overload. It still based off percentages, in this case maybe 65-80% of 1 RM, 5-12 reps depending on daily volume and exercise selection. In order to keep progressing, the variables must change and with that percentages will be adjusted based on your abilities for more progress towards your end goal.
That said, I want to touch base on the importance of testing all together. Whether you are gearing up to run a 10K, complete a spartan race, or want to decrease your body fat % over the next 10 weeks. This can’t be achieved without knowing where you are right now. Figuring out what variables are crucial to your program will tell you what type of testing you need to do. Testing allows you to track your progress from start to finish and even better, it provides incentives to keep going! To know that when I started my powerlifting journey (not when I started lifting/coaching, but 8 weeks ago), my back squat was sitting at 215 and now it is 235, Now that is exciting! Who wouldn’t want to keep going. To wrap this up, I will use the 1 rep maximum as the variable being tested.
Figuring out your 1 RM (Squat example):
- Warm Up # 1 & 2 – 1 set of Air Squats, 1 set with just the bar for 8-10 reps
- Warm up Set # 3 – Complete 1 set of 5 reps at a weight you feel comfortable with – this doesn’t have to be super heavy but should be somewhat challenging, rest for 1-2 minutes.
- Increase the weight by 10 – 20% (could be more for someone experienced).
- Warm up Set # 4 – Complete another set of 3 reps, rest for 3 minutes
- Increase the weight by 10-20% (could be more for someone experienced).
- Max efforts – Complete sets for 1-2 reps. If you can get two, rest and increase weight again until you reached a weight where you could only complete 1 rep. That is your current 1RM. Rest time between sets should be 3-5 minutes at this point.
My Recent Squat Testing (My increases are a bit higher due to how long I have been lifting).
- Warm up – 10 Squats with Bar, 8 Squats @ 95 lbs.
- 1 set X 5 reps @ 135
- 1 set X 3 reps @ 185
- 1 set X 1-2 reps @ 215
- 1 Set X 1-2 reps @ 225
- 1 set X 1 reps @ 235
This same approach can be used for many other lifts and these numbers will help to determine your weekly goals throughout your program. Check out these additional resources that go more in depth with 1RM testing.
You might need to test your 1 mile or 5K time OR simply get someone to provide you with a resource to test your body fat % OR as described above – testing your 1RM because you will be participating in a weight lifting program and you want to track your progress. Either way, testing is what kick starts your program and progress – don’t leave it out!
Next up – Exercise selection! Until then – Happy Lifting, Keep raising the bar.