by Matt D’Aquino
In sports like judo, wrestling, boxing and even ballet and other forms of dancing you want to be as strong as you can but still staying as light as possible. Many people believe that doing weights will give you big muscles and slow you down. But this is not entirely true as long as you are doing the RIGHT type of weight training.
It all comes own to 3 aspects of training.
–What exercises you are doing
A brief outline of your muscle. You are born with a certain number of muscle fibres. Despite popular beliefs you can NOT gain extra muscle fibres, when weight training your muscle fibres increase in cross sectional size and thickness but NOT in number.
The all or none theory
Some people also believe that the more weight you lift the more muscle fibres are activated, but this is not true at all. The all or none theory states what it means — all muscle fibres are activated or they arenÕt and donÕt work at all.
For example, when you bicep curl 50kgs ALL of your muscle fibres have been activated and are used in lifting the weight. When you bicep curl 500grams ALL of your muscle fibres are used, but the key is how much force is generated by each individual muscle fibre. This is what I’ll be discussing next.
In summary, according to the all or none theory you can lift 1000kg or 500grams and the same amount of muscle fibres have been activated. So it comes down to how much force each fibre is generating in order to lift the weight.
Have you ever seen a big body builder who wasnÕt that strong but has really big muscles? This is because, although he has big muscles, he canÕt lift heavy weights because his motor neurons can’t activate the force out of every muscle fibre. He may only be able to get out 50% due to the type of training he does (typical bodybuilding of 7-15 reps.).
So if you want to be strong, you must train your muscle to get as much force out of each fibre. This is how some really small skinny people can lift heavy weights; itÕs because even though they donÕt have much muscle, they know how to activate a massive percentage out of every fibre resulting in a lot more force being generated.
How can I get 100% out of each fibre?
It all depends on how you train. Choice of exercise, sets and repetitions and recovery time is very, very important.
What exercises to do?
Full body compound movements, no isolation exercises. No chest days, no back and bicep days only full body workout days.
Squats, deadlifts, bench press, push press; power cleans, bent over rows, t bar rows, dips, heavy chin-ups, heavy abdominal exercises, hack squats, thrusters, and complexes. All of these exercises are compound (using more than one muscle, usually full body.)
How many sessions a week?
You will probably only be able to do 3 sessions a week, maximum. You may be quite shocked to think that 3 sessions a week is not that much, but it is very confusing so let me explain it to you.
We are only going to do 3 sessions a week because all of the above exercises are harder and more demanding on your body than a basic isolation exercise like a bicep curl or tricep pushdown. These are FULL BODY exercises so your whole body will be working.
How many repetitions?
No more than 5 repetitions. You may be shocked again no more than 5. Why?
Body builders do between 7-15 repetitions for hypertrophy (muscle building), but remember we donÕt want muscle building we just want to get as strong as can be without putting on muscle. When you do 7+ reps you are using your muscle to lift muscle fibre as the weight, we want to be using our Ôstrength neuronsÕ to push to use our muscle.
Here is a good example to help you understand. When you do 20 reps on the bench press after you finish you can feel the pump in your chest. This is because that was all muscle lifting the weight.
But think about when you do a 1 rep maximum on the bench press, itÕs hard and you may or may not lift the weight. But afterwards do you have a muscle pump? It was hard yes, but does your muscle feel like it has been worked, is it pumped? No. Why Not? We were using our chest werenÕt we?
This is because your Ôstrength neuronsÕ were working in overdrive to activate as much force out of each of muscle fibre as possible to lift the weight. This is what we want to work. We want to train our body to produce as much force as we can out of all our muscle fibres.
How many sets?
On a heavy week, I believe in doing 5 sets of 5 reps, with a 1,2,or 3 rep max done once every 2 weeks. Not EVERY weekend, like our muscles our motor neurons need rest and recovery as well.
On the light week, 3 sets of 5 reps.
How heavy to lift?
In order to get the most out of our muscles we must lift heavy. As heavy as you can. For example, if you do 4 reps and fail on 5 its too heavy; if you can just manage 5 thatÕs the right weight; 6 reps then weight is too light. We want to be pushing our neurons through the roof each set.
Studies suggest that after 3 minutes you have recovered approx 90% and recovery after this is is minimal, so I believe in 3-4 minutes recovery between sets.
Once again if you do this you may feel like your muscles arenÕt working because you donÕt have a ÔpumpÕ, but if you are doing 5 reps at 90% Max, your strength neurons are working in overdrive and in the end, thatÕs what we want.
I have experimented with this type of training and, yes, it works guaranteed. Some things I have noticed is due to the long rest periods you get cold so always have a pair of pants and jumper lying around.
Because you are lifting heavy all the time, you may experience sore wrists and elbows just use wrist wraps with your pressing movements and make sure you donÕt lock your elbows. Also take some glucosamine every morning and every night that may help the aching joints.
You may get quite bored with the long breaks so maybe con a friend to come along with you, also you need a spotter for most exercises so a friend will definitely come in handy.
Sample Max Strength Gym Program