Self-Audit Your Workouts For Maximum Muscle And Strength Gains
© Doug Champigny, http://flirtingwithfitness.com
All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Everyone knows that each body differs, in small or large ways, from other people’s bodies. So why do so many believe that any one workout is best for building muscles and maximizing strength gains for everyone?
Your body is unique to you… No one else has the exact same strength, muscle-to-fat ratio, cardiovascular fitness levels and medical conditions. No one else has the same stressors in their life, has eaten what you ate this month or slept the same number of hours with the same Alpha, Beta and Delta waves ratio or the same amount of REM sleep.
Yet all of these factors affect your physical body and, as such, your physical fitness capabilities. And that’s before you factor in your mindset, training history or current fitness level.
So unless you’re just starting to work out with weights, how could you expect that any weightlifting routine, right out of the box, would give you the greatest results for building muscles or getting stronger? Millions of weightlifters around the world do just that, however.
That’s not to say that the routine that built muscles for Cindy won’t do the same for you, or the workout that helped John lose weight won’t help you burn fat too, just that their routines won’t necessarily give YOU optimal success. And let’s be honest here – should you settle for anything less from all the time and effort you put in working out at home or the expense of training in a commercial gym?
Fortunately there is a fairly simple way to do a self-audit of your exercise program. First, make sure you’re getting enough sleep and eating right for maximal effort and recovery – but you should already be doing that anyway. More muscle building and strength improvement gains are sabotaged by poor nutrition and insufficient rest & recuperation than any other cause.
Increasing Your Exercise Workload Each Week
Assuming you’re ok there, do your preferred workout this week as you normally would. Then next week keep your weights and reps the same, but add in one more exercise per bodypart. If you can, make it a compound exercise since that does the most good, but if you don’t know of another compound exercise to add, don’t skip it – use an isolation exercise instead.
Assuming all went well, the third week add another set to each isolation exercise in your routine. If you were doing 4×10 or 5×5 at the same weight for each set, switch them to 5×10 or 6×5, respectively. If you were doing 12, 10, 8 with progressively heavier weights, add a 4th set with a bit more weight for 6 reps.
By the 4th week of using the same weights you’ll know on which exercises you can safely add more weight to your final set. Add just enough to increase your workload without sacrificing proper form – it does you no good to add too much weight and get sloppy in your execution of the set, so why add to your risk of injury?
Every week your muscles are being forced to work harder, either from lifting heavier weights or from the increased sets and reps. As such, there’s no need to switch up the exercises you’re doing to keep them responding – in fact, by now you should be seeing noticeable gains in strength and size from the increased workload.
If everything is still going well for you, continue to add JUST ONE of these intensity-raising changes to your workout each week. Keep your nutrition and recovery optimal, and make sure you’re still maintaining strict form on every rep of every set.
Monitoring Your Workout Results
Obviously you won’t be able to keep up this escalating workouts routine forever, or even long-term, so you need to monitor your results as you go along. You’ll know you’ve reached your effective limit when any of these conditions occur:
* You don’t have the energy or strength to finish most workouts;
* You haven’t fully recovered before training that same muscle group again – i.e. still sore from the last workout;
* You’re no longer able to add weight, sets or exercises to your routine; or
* You no longer look forward to working out and start to miss workouts or perform your workout listlessly.
At that point you’re crossing into over-training, and need to dial it back to the workout you were doing a week or two earlier. Now you know what your body is capable of RIGHT NOW. Moving forward you can change up your workout any way you like, switch to other exercises, use a different rep scheme, shorten your time between sets, etc. – just be sure your workout involves the same amount of work for your muscles as your workout self-audit showed was maximal for your current fitness and strength levels.
Most people will find it takes 4-8 weeks to find their maximal levels, so that’s a good cycle. Change up your routine every 4 to 8 weeks for the balance of the year to continue building lean muscle mass and getting stronger. You now know what your body can do, so no matter what routine or training principles you’re following through the balance of the year you know whether to dial the intensity up or down when trying a new workout.
When the new year dawns, use the self-audit system for a cycle once again to incorporate your new strength and endurance gains, then use the results as your workout yardstick for the coming year. By repeating it once each year you’ll be secure in the knowledge that you’re building muscles and maximizing strength gains as optimally as your body currently can.