Archive for Education

How do I Know How Much Weight to Use in the Gym?

How do I Know How Much Weight to Use in the Gym?IMG_0151

This is probably one of the most common questions I get from clients and friends alike. It makes sense, as everyone comes from a different level of strength and there isn’t really a “guide” that will tell you what weights you should be using. (Side note: Comparing yourself to other people is NOT the way to determine this.)

We are used to looking at a chart to let us know where we fall within a category.

  • If we are a certain height and weight, we should ideally be within a certain body fat range for optimal performance.
  • If we look at our height, weight, and activity level, we can determine approximately how many calories we should be eating on a daily basis.
  • If your heart rate is at a certain level, a chart at the gym will tell you what “zone” you’re in (I have an entire post on this topic coming in the next few weeks as well)

But when it comes to the weight room, no such chart exists. It leaves people doing the same weights with the same rep ranges for YEARS and wondering why they don’t see changes. It is a factor that pushes people to “confuse their muscles” because their current program is “broken”. So let’s break this down once and for all so you can start seeing results in the gym and feel confident that you’re using the correct weights for YOU (remember, everyone is different, ESPECIALLY when it comes to strength).

A Simple Way to Determine What Weights you Should be Using and How to Progress Each Week

1. It’s important to start out by having a plan when you walk into the gym. Whether that is a program that you got from a coach, a plan you printed off from the internet, or just a workout that you or a friend jotted down onto a sticky note, always walk into the gym with an idea of what you’ll be doing.

2. Buy a journal or notebook so that you can track your weights and reps. I know many people that will say “oh it’s ok, I remember all my numbers!”. I’m sure you do….until you don’t and you end up looking like a lost puppy in the gym. Just don’t be stubborn and write your damn workouts down. 🙂

3. Be sure that at the very least, there is a number of sets and a rep range for you to follow. You could also get more technical with predetermined rest periods and tempos, but for simplicity, we’ll leave that out for now.

4. You’ll also want to make sure you can perform the prescribed movement with a full range of motion with bodyweight before you start adding weights. For example, if your workout has you doing back squats for 3 sets of 10,  but you can’t do 1 barbell back squat with a full range of motion, you’d be better off backing down to either a bodyweight squat, box squat, or goblet squat to start.

5. Once you know you can perform each exercise with a full range of motion, you can start to begin adding weight. 

Alright COOL. So you’ve got your handy dandy notebook in one hand, your workout program in another hand, and your coolest workout outfit on (these are the important things people). You’re ready to go!

Using our previous example, your workout program says to do Back Squats for 3 sets of 10 reps. Those are your working sets and typically do not include any warm-up sets. You’ll want to warm up for a few sets prior to starting your working sets (more on that below). Ideally, you’ll also perform some dynamic movements before starting your workout as well.

Someone who knows approximately what weights they’ll be using for their working sets will know when they crossover from warm-up set to working set. Because of this, they will also likely keep their warm up sets shorter (less reps) in order to preserve energy for their working sets. You’ll get to that point in no time, but for now, our warm-up sets will be the same rep range as our working sets so that you can determine what your working sets will be without over/under shooting.

Let’s say you put the barbell on your back (45 lbs) and do 10 reps. It’s no problem and you feel like you could definitely do more, so you rest for a minute or 2 and then add 10lbs on each side (65lbs). You perform a set of 10 reps here and while it’s slightly harder, you still feel that you could go heavier. You add another 10lbs on each side (85lbs) and perform your set. This time, you struggle with the last 2-3 reps. While you could probably go heavier, this is where I’d recommend starting. Remember, you’re not trying to be a hero on Day 1. You’ll have plenty of time to go for PR’s later on, but determining a manageable starting point will set you up for success.

Since you’ve determined that 85 lbs is a good working set for you, you’d perform 2 more sets at 85 lbs and move on to the next exercise.

The next time that back squats are prescribed at 3 sets of 10 reps, you now know that you did 85lbs for 3 sets of 10 last time (because it’s written down in your AWESOME notebook that you’re still carrying around even though you spilled coffee on it this morning, right?!)

This week, you’ll want to try to add slightly more weight. Here’s what you’ll want to do now:

1st Warm up set: 5-7 reps at 45lbs

2nd Warm Up set: 3-5 reps at 65 lbs

3rd Warm Up set: 1-3 reps at 80 lbs

1st Working Set: 90lbs for 10 reps

From here you will decide where to go:

  • If you couldn’t finish all 10 reps at 90lbs, you’d go back down to 85 lbs.
  • If you completed all 10 reps and it was pretty hard (last few reps were a struggle), then you’d stay here for the remaining 2 sets.
  • If this felt pretty easy to you or you felt that you could do more, you may try for 95 lbs on the next set.
  • You can also increase the amount of reps that you did without increasing the weight used. For example, if you couldn’t complete 90lbs for 10 reps, but you could do 85lbs for 12 reps, that is still an increase in what you did the week before.

These strategies can be applied towards virtually any exercise. The big take away here is to try to increase either the amount of weight used or the reps completed each week. I say TRY because it won’t always happen. Some weeks the weight will go up smoothly and other weeks you will easily convince yourself that all of your muscles must have been abducted by aliens. And hey, maybe that is what happens. I’m no xenoarchaeologist.

While there are about 100 different ways you can determine what weights to start with and how to progress in the weight room, this is a very simple way to do it. You can continue to apply these principles each week to your workouts and over time, you’ll get stronger.

Be aware that at some point, the weights won’t go up as easily. Strength is not linear AND has diminishing returns. This means that a new lifter will likely see quick gains in a short period of time. Someone who has been lifting for many years sees much smaller gains over time. This doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong, it is just how the body works. It’s part of what keeps it fun.

I love to keep in touch with people and am happy to answer any other questions you have. Feel free to leave a comment below OR email me at fitlizzio@gmail.com. Even if it’s just to say HEY.

Happy lifting!

-Lizzio

 

Recap: The Fitness Summit 2016

An incredible weekend of learning and shenanigans has come to a close and I can’t wait until I have the energy to start processing it all (because I think I slept a combined 7 hours in 3 days -_-).

Thursday night, my friend and I flew out to Kansas City to attend The Fitness Summit. I’d never been before, but have heard great things about it. I have been craving some new learning experiences and since this meant I also got to travel to another city, this seemed like the perfect event.

Some of the presenters I was very familiar with and some were brand new. I walked away with a new perspective, tons of new information that I can apply to training my own clients, and new friends. Here are some of the recaps:

Tony Gentilcore

…went over the Deadlift. This was one of the presentations I was most looking forward to, since deadlifts are one of my favorite exercises. He not only went over technique and deciphering the type of deadlift that a client should perform based on where they are at physically, but also showed us some really awesome practical modifications to get clients to reign in their form and get their bodies to learn the proper patterns of the deadlift. I easily have 5-7 new deadlift modifications in my toolbox and I can’t wait to use them with my clients.

This article highlights most of the “hip hinge badassery” as Tony calls it.

TonyGentilcoreHipHinge copy

Source: Tony Gentilcore

Why this was so helpful: The deadlift is such a great movement because of the recruitment of so many muscle groups. Because of this, many people have a hard time following all of the cues and maintaining proper form such as pulling the hips back, engaging your glutes/hamstrings/lats, keeping your chest out, neutral spine, and the list goes on. I personally have 2-3 clients that have an extremely hard time with this and it limits our training a bit. I am 99.9% sure that with some of the exercises Tony went over, I’ll have these clients deadlifting with proper form very soon.

Nick Tumminello

…discussed single leg movements and this was a pretty interesting topic. We practiced several of the movements that he went over and while the actual movements weren’t necessarily new to me, some of the positioning was different. It was interesting to perform these single-leg movements (such as reverse lunges and step-ups) in different positions to recruit more of the glutes or to put a higher load on the actual working leg based on the rest of your body positioning. I also added some new-to-me single leg exercises that I can add to my arsenal.

This article goes over some of those movements.

nicktumminello1

Source: Nick Tumminello

Why this was so helpful: As a trainer, the basics will always be the majority of what I’ll focus on with my clients. However, depending on the type of client (and especially the athletes), there are some single leg exercises that just do a better job at certain things. The more tools in my tool box, the better equipped I’ll be with my clients and their needs.

Bret Contreras

…talked about squats, deadlifts, and hip thrusts. While I’m pretty familiar with Bret’s style and have a slight bias considering I’ve learned a good portion of what I know from him, it was still a good refresher and I always learn something new from him. I think the biggest take away from this particular presentation was not being afraid to adapt. We’d all like to have optimal squat and deadlift form, but that isn’t always possible. We have to be able to adapt to what works best for the individual, even if it is outside of the “normal” technical recommendations. The main focus should be safety and as long as a client isn’t being injured, it’s okay to be less-than-perfect.

bret

Source: Bret Contreras

Why this was so helpful: I think as trainers, we get it in our heads that everything needs to be perfect at all times or else it is to be avoided. While I think striving for that perfect form is where we all should be thinking, accepting that that isn’t always plausible is also really crucial and making adjustments that will get the job done without injury is an option.

Last but not least,

Alan Aragon.

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, then you saw that he is my new #braincrush. Not only is he a brilliant guy, his delivery of information is incredibly sound. He gives real-world advice and leaves out the fluffy bullshit. I think I speak for most people at the conference when I say that he left all of us inspired and ready to take on the world. His tips and tools for pursuing your own career in the fitness business were really insightful and I think he touched on all of the “fear” aspects that many (if not all) of us have.

alanaragon

Source: Alan Aragon

Why this was so helpful: I’m often crippled by fear and have often felt like the only one. Alan’s advice was to find the things you love in the industry and build your business around them. Not only that, but he provided some tools to figure out what those areas might be for people like me who aren’t 100% sure what that “dream job” looks like. Fear is present in almost every single entrepreneur’s venture at some point, but his best advice to move past that is to just DO IT ANYWAYS. You da man Alan.

(Also, he’s really freaking smart, so you should go look through his articles too.)

There were several other speakers that gave really great presentations and I think it’s safe to say that there was really something for everyone there. From the fitness enthusiast to the personal trainer to the nutritionist to the fitness business tycoon, there was plenty of good information in all realms of the fitness industry. I will definitely be back next year!

The Location

It’d be a tragedy if I also didn’t mention the amazing gym that the conference was held at, Impact Elite Gym in Kansas City. This gym had everything you could ever need/want (except a hip thruster) and had tons of space to do it. The “feel” of the gym was hardcore/oldschool and the bar at the front desk where they made protein shakes, pancakes (!!!!), and had all kinds of drinks and snacks was bar none.

As busy as we were, I obviously couldn’t leave without getting a workout in.

Here’s what I did:

-Good Mornings + Squats: 45×10, 75×10, 95×5

-Back Squats: 145x10T (got all 10 reps in 1 set)

10 min. AMRAP

-RDL’s: 145×10

-Squat Jumps: bwx10

I did 6 rounds in 9:36 and called it. It’s barely 24 hours later as I’m writing this and my glutes and hamstrings are already sore.

-Leg Press: 140×10, 180×10, 230×10, 270×10, 320×10, 320×15, 320×5

EMOM – 10 min.

-Kettle Bell Swings: 70×6

This workout kicked my ass and I ended up having to go back to the hotel to shower afterwards. Totally worth it though!

Time to go read, write, learn and GSD(get shit done)!!!