Being goofy in the gym! It’s how I roll……but anyway.
No matter who you are, if you workout, you expect to get results. Sure, some of us have unrealistic expectations and still others underestimate themselves, but one thing is true and that is we all want to improve when we put forth an effort. This article outlines a number of the most effective exercise principles that when incorporated into your training schedule are sure to yield the results you are working for.
1. Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand (SAID) Principle
The is the main principle that governs all others. The concept is rather simple, but it will absolutely play a part in every workout and dietary instance you ever have if your goal is to improve. The SAID Principle basically says that in order to produce a specific type of result, you must apply a certain type of demand upon the body. Results are nothing more than adaptations your body undergoes in order to accommodate some type of demand that is being applied to it. So no matter what type of fitness, exercise or nutrition results you want to attain, make sure you know what needs to be done each and every day to provide you with the desired result.
Keep in mind that the SAID Principle does not necessarily means you must do “more” of something. In some cases you may do less. For example with nutrition. You may find that the best way to get leaner and see those abs is to systematically lower your calories each week over the course of a month or two while allowing yourself one or two meals a week to have higher calories. In this instance, the imposed demand would be a caloric reduction that is leading to the specific adaptation of a leaner body.
So often a person’s desired result and their program do not match. For example:
People want to reduce body fat so they eat almost nothing and do tons of exercise – not a recipe for success.
Guys want to gain overall body strength so they perform isolation exercises and feel the burn of high rep sets – again, not the ideal demand for the desired result.
You get the picture. The key to results is incorporating the SAID Principle and the key to incorporating the SAID Principle properly is education. Get to know how your body responds to different types of exercise, foods, rest and hydration and you’ll begin to gain an understanding of what will provide you with the results you want.
2. Rest-Pause Principle
I love this training principle! In fact, this is probably my favorite principle for training not only myself but clients as well. It’s simple. You select a number of reps you want to achieve in a set. Then you select a weight that is too heavy to complete all of the reps at once. Begin the exercise and push yourself as far as you can go then put down the weight and rest for a count of about 5-20 seconds and resume your lift until you complete the assigned number of reps. This is the simplest way I’ve found to incorporate this principle into a training program. There are a number of other ways it can be used, but this one is the most basic, the most logical and the most measurable. Give this a shot, you’ll quickly find your workouts taking on a much more intense energy and you’ll blast through plateaus that have been keeping you from gaining the results you’re working for.
3. Peak Contraction Principle
Like most training principles, this one if highly mental. It’s all about focus. Essentially, all you do is ensure a really hard, long squeeze at the top of each repetition. So for example on a barbell curl, you lift the weight up and at the top really squeeze your arm biceps for 2-5 seconds or so and then lower the weight for another rep. This principle coupled with the rest-pause principle makes for a beast of a workout and forces your body to respond in positive ways.
4. Gradual Progressive Overload (GPO) Principle
Within the SAID Principle comes the GPO Principle that basically says you must continually apply a systematically increased demand on the body in order to achieve results. Or to keep it simple, you must gradually progress the overload you place on your body. Doing this over time guarantees results. Keep in mind that an “overload” can be anything. It can be more weight, more reps, more sets, more speed, more incline on a treadmill, a higher plyometric box and even more food.
5. Forced Repetition Principle
This principle is as simple as they come. You push as far as you can into a set of a given exercise and your workout partner (spotter) forces you to continue working even harder by slightly assisting your efforts when you fatigue too much to do it alone. Essentially, they are taking up the slack you are creating by going to exhaustion. This principle adds a lot of quality and intensity to any workout and is highly dependent on a well trained spotter in order to maximize its effectiveness.
6. Continuous Tension Principle
Many times when we lift weights we rest at the top or bottom of the rep, allowing our body to rest momentarily. The classic example is the squat. At the top of the movement, we often lock our knees out and take a few deep breaths before performing the next rep. Not with this principle. This is a quality principle that dictates that you never allow the muscles being worked to rest until the set is completed. I love this principle. It does take a strong mindset and an iron will to perform optimally, but for the person looking to tone, build and shape their body in a hurry, this one is a must.
7. Drop Set Principle
I like this principle a lot although it is often misused. All you do here is perform a set until you can no longer perform the set with the current load (weight), then quickly reduce the load and continue on with the set. I actually prefer the rest-pause principle to the drop set principle, but this one has its place. It’s really nice to use when you’re in a bit of a rush to get your workout completed and you still want to get a quality workout. Dropping weight does not give you a ticket to use poor form however. As people fatigue, they often get lazy on form and start compensating in ways they wouldn’t if they were fresh. Discipline is the key to all fitness results and the drop set principle requires this as well. Use good lifting technique and when you fatigue, drop weight slightly so that you can continue. If you really want to shake it up, use the rest-pause, continuous tension and peak contraction principles together, then when you’re too fatigued to lift the same weight any longer, begin the drop set principle and wrap up your set in style! Ouch!
8. Giant Set Principle
To keep this simple and old school, a giant set is 3 or more exercises working the same body part performed back-to-back with little or no rest. You rest once the last exercise is completed. The key here is that the exercises all train the same body part. If you are using exercises working different body parts, you’re circuit training. The giant set principle is essentially a small circuit of exercises focusing on only one body part.
For example, the following columns all illustrate various giant sets if you were to perform each exercise back-to-back with little or no rest.
|LEGS||CHEST ||BACK ||BICEPS |
|Leg Press||Incline Bench Press||Pull-up||Hammer Curl|
|Leg Extension||Pec Deck||Seated Cable Row||Cable Curl|
|Squat||Flat Bench Cable Fly||1-Arm Row||Preacher Curl|
|——||Decline Dumbbell Press||——||Incline Curl|
I used 3 exercises for some of the muscle groups and 4 for others just to illustrate that this is a typical giant set application and that the number of exercises tends to range from about 3-5 with the most common number of exercises being 3.
9. Pre-Exhaustion Principle
This is a great principle that everyone can benefit from. It essentially works by using a “near isolation” exercise to fatigue your muscles so that you have to work harder to perform you multi-joint or compound movements. An isolation or near isolation exercise is one that targets a very limited area, typically just one muscle group specifically.
For example, the following are all instances where a near isolation movement comes before more fundamental movements in order to increase the workout’s demand. Notice that I use some of the same muscle groups and exercises that were used for the giant set principle. The real exception is that the pre-exhaustion principle isn’t typically done in a circuit manner and the isolation exercises always come first. The giant set may have isolation exercises first sometimes too, but the exercises are done using a circuit-like system instead of “straight set” system where you complete all sets of a given exercise before moving on to the next exercise. The pre-exhaustion principle in its purest form requires you to complete your isolation movement(s) prior to moving on to the rest of the exercises in the workout.
|LEGS||CHEST ||SHOULDERS ||BICEPS |
|Leg Extension||Pec Deck||Dumbbell Lateral||Concentration Curl|
|Squat||Incline Bench Press||Arnold Press||Barbell Curl|
|Leg Press||Decline Dumbbell Press||Upright Row||Twisting Dumbbell Curl|
What a list! You could spend a lifetime using these 9 training principles and never do the same workout twice. These principles, when properly applied will challenge your body (and mind) and will create opportunities for improvement each and every time to workout. Give them a try.
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