Basics are Best
The process of building muscle is actually pretty simple but people are often determined to make it more complicated than it has to be. This is especially evident when you take a look around any gym and watch how people train. Some of the exercises I’ve seen being performed make me scratch my head and wonder what exactly they are trying to accomplish.
I don’t fault these people because it is how they have been taught and it is all part of the misinformation that is perpetuated in the gyms around the world. In fact, I overheard a trainer the other weekend explaining to a new member that if he used higher reps and isolation exercises, he would tone up a lot faster. Hmm, I wonder where the trainer heard that one.
I was not immune to poor exercise selection and in my early days I did some of the same mistakes I see people doing all the time. Again, it is all a part of the misinformation you have to sift through until you finally understand what is really going on in the gym and what you are really trying to accomplish with weight training.
Weight training is about stimulating muscle growth, plain and simple. It is not about shaping the muscle, toning the muscle or spot reducing any fat. With that in mind, your workouts should always be designed to stimulate maximum muscle growth and physiology tells us that is best accomplished by overloading the muscle.
This all started to make sense to me in college during exercise physiology class. That is when I first started to understand the importance of overload and started to question some of the methods I had used in the past such as higher rep training as I got ready for contests.
One day after class I had a talk with my Exercise Physiology professor and academic advisor, Dr. Darr. We were discussing overload and how it’s the best stimulus for growth. During that conversation I started asking myself and Dr. Darr, why would a bodybuilder or anyone trying to gain muscle want to do high rep training and the answer we both settled on was you wouldn’t. From that point forward I ceased any high rep training.
Like I said earlier, weight training is about building muscle and increasing strength so why would you approach your workouts in any way that is less than optimal for causing the desired training effects? There should always be a component of overload in your weight training program and you should select the exercises that best allow you to achieve overload.
The overload principle refers the observation that a tissue or system must be subjected to levels of exercise beyond what it is accustomed to in order for a training effect to occur. It’s also noted that muscles increase their strength by systematic overload of being forced to contract at tensions near their maximum. (1)
That will sound pretty familiar to those of you who’ve read through the Max-OT course. Max-OT is based on the overload principle and stresses high intensity and progressive overload in each workout so it’s no mystery why Max-OT is the most effective approach for increasing strength and packing on muscle. There are no secrets here just basic physiology in action.
When I came across the Max-OT program for the first time it was an easy transition for me to make because there were so many similarities with the Max-OT principles and what I had learned in exercise physiology, plus I had already been training in a similar fashion. It all made perfect sense and I’ve been training 100% Max-OT style ever since and achieving outstanding results.
You need to remember what you are trying to accomplish with the weight training aspect of your plan. Your focus in the gym should be on maximum muscle stimulation. You’re not toning, shaping or spot reducing fat. You are in the gym to build muscle and increase strength so approach your workouts in a manner that will best accomplish those training effects.
There is no need to start adding or substituting exercises just for the sake of doing different movements and there is no need to mess with different set and rep schemes. Choose compound free weight exercises and progressively overload the muscle in a 4-6 rep range.
Don’t make the process of building muscle more complicated than it really is. I think the simplicity of Max-OT workouts when you look at them on paper and their inclusion of basic exercises scares some people because of their need to feel like they are doing some advanced, high tech workout with specially designed exercises to “shock” their muscles into new growth. Don’t succumb to that way of thinking or the gobs of training misinformation that is floating around because physiology and real world results tell us basics are best.