Before we start, this is not a jab at other training methods and gyms, we are merely voicing our opinion on what we believe works when it comes to strength training. Furthermore, we are always keeping up to date with the current literature so what may work now, may not work in the near future.
A little bit of background information, originally we first opened our doors as a CrossFit gym aka there was a lot of burpees, snatches and high intensity workouts. Personally for me, I loved it, I was 22 years old and I had all the time in the world to train and recover. Nowadays, we have transitioned into a health and performance centre offering a variety of strength and conditioning options.
Moving on, one of my goals was to differentiate myself as a coach, therefore I began to invest in various courses such as CrossFit Gymnastics, Strongman, Sports Specific and the level 2 coaches course. However, it was the CrossFit Sports Specific course that intrigued me the most, primarily because the trainers did not use any of the crossfit methodology i.e. high intensity, functional movement and constantly varied, but they focused more on strength and conditioning principles such as overload, specificity, individualisation, recovery, variety and reversibility. For me, this was new mainly because I spent my last few years focused on one training modality. So, I further invested more time into developing myself as a coach with the goal of learning more about training and the human body. I completed the level 1 Functional Movement Screen, Level 1 and 2 Strength and Conditioning Course and the level 1 and 2 Weightlifting/Sports Power Coach course. Through these courses, I met a lot of smart and professional coaches who have been in the industry for over 20 years and who have their own beliefs and opinions about training. Although, I wasn’t done, I wanted to learn more, thus I enrolled into my Bachelors of Exercise and Sport Sciences with the hope of understanding more about training and the human body.
However, as I come to the end of my degree, I have come to realise that I will never know all there is to know about training and the human body because there will always be new research and methods of training. Sands et al (2014) states, no one can possibly learn all there is to know about strength and conditioning. Rather, focus on three key areas which are increasing safety awareness, develop a coaches eye and understand essential information to be an effective coach in your field.
Anyway, moving on, at Premier Conditioning, we are actually old fashioned when it comes to training and writing programs. For example, we like to push and pull/split training aka bench press and pull ups or a squat and deadlift. We also follow the principles of training which are overload, specificity, individualisation, variety, recovery and reversibility. Which in fact actually originated by a German sports scientist, Dietrach Harre in the 70s and 80s (Kernan, 1999).
Furthermore, we also like to implement various types of strength training such as maximal strength, power, speed, hypertrophy, stability and strength endurance. As well as anaerobic sprints, lactic efforts and aerobic efforts when it comes to our energy system days. Although, current research has recently shown that these methods maybe out dated, thus the principle of individualisation comes into play.
Prior to the lockdown in March earlier this year, a majority of our training was set to a time. For example – every 3min – Back squats x 5 reps or every 2min – Shoulder press x 10 reps and a workout to finish. The reason why we did this was for class structure and you need rest between sets when it comes to strength training, but rest depends on the style of strength training you are doing. If we were in a hypertrophy program then we will need to rest for 30 – 60s between each set. However, most gyms want to increase strength for their members but you at least need 3 to 5 minutes, sometimes more between each set. Unfortunately in a class this is not possible because there are so many different individuals with various fitness levels, experience and there is only so much time in a class. Therefore, we introduced auto-regulation. We have discussed this in a Facebook post, but essentially, everyone is different. A marathon runner can recover quicker than a power lifter or a beginner athlete. Which means the style of every 2min x 5 sets or 5 sets of 5 reps can either be too little or too much volume for any individual. This is why we now program with “rest as needed or 60 – 120s”
Another problem we saw was that not everyone wants to increase strength or lift heavy weights. So, when we re-opened in June this year post lockdown, we began to give the option of either general strength/hypertrophy training aka 6 to 12 reps and heavy weights aka less than 6 reps at a higher intensity. This can now be seen as our Health or Performance option. Health and performance are on two completely different ends of the fitness spectrum and we will discuss this in another blog.
Lastly, lifting weights is a skill and we know not everyone is perfect, particularly if you have had a big day, stressed, tired or fatigued in general. A recent mentor of mine told me that when he programs strength he likes to focus on 3 aspects which are the main lift, an accessory lift that compliments the main lift and an injury prevention movement. For example, someone’s knees maybe caving in whilst completing a 5 x 5 back squat session, totalling 25 reps. If this doesn’t get addressed over the upcoming weeks or months, then the client has only made the movement worse and has completed over 100 reps with her knees caving in. Therefore, we would add a glute assistance exercise after her back squats to help her with knees caving in.
Below is an example on how we program a strength session for a group class at Premier Conditioning.
15min Quality AMRAP
A1 – Health – Bench Press x 6 to 8 reps
A1 – Performance – Bench Press x Build to 3RM
A2 – Barbell Rows x 8 (Assistance Exercise)
A3 – DB Cuban Press x 12 (Injury Prevention)
Rest as needed or 60 – 120s*
First we cap it at 15min (time constraint), then members have the option to either complete 6 to 8 reps (general strength/health) or build to a heavy 3 rep max (performance). After completing the first set, you will then proceed to a barbell row which will help assist the bench press by building a stronger base of support. Additionally, a classic push/pull combo. Finally, you will finish the set with light dumbbell cuban presses. This exercise is great to help strengthen and stablise the shoulder joint, and most importantly prevent injury in that area. Especially if you are doing a lot of shoulder volume or heavy lifting. Then finally, rest as needed or 60 to 120s. As we said earlier, this is up to the individual. For experienced or endurance based individuals, we would recommend a shorter rest period. However, for a beginner or a heavy lifter, we would recommend a longer rest period.
There you have it, a brief history and explanation on how we program, particularly when it comes to strength training for our group classes. We also take a different or similar approach to personal training, but it depends on the individual’s experience and their personal goals.
In short, strength training needs to be specific to the individual, it needs to be overloaded correctly, it needs to be controlled (not performed fast because that is a whole a different stimulus), and we believe it should include an assistance and injury prevention piece because we want you to train for the rest of your life, not 12 weeks or 6 months.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand there are hundreds of different ways to train and there is no right or wrong answer. I am very thankful for what I have learnt from my experience and training and from other coaches all around the world that I have met over the years.
Thank you for reading my very first blog!