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The 8 Essential Rules of Lifting

rules of lifting
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Rules of Lifting

Admit it; there have been some drawbacks to the recent “fitness craze”; such as the unfortunate pressure both men and women are placed under to look a certain way.

It’s not just the superficial aspect of fitness though – training in general has been made to be overly complicated. We see insane training plans so complicated that we basically need a calculus book to figure out what weight to lift and exercises so obscure we basically look like novice contortionists attempting Cirque du Soleil.

Training need not be complicated – in fact, it can be pretty simple if you just follow the rules. I’ve outlined the most basic principles to follow to ensure you make safe, steady progress without the need for a maths book!

Before I begin, keep in mind that principles 1-3 will of course vary between individuals based on their level and requirements but the remainder are valid across the board.

1) Frequency

The most basic yet most important aspect of anybody’s training: frequency. It means exactly what it says on the tin (does that phrase work here…?); how often an athlete needs to train in order to progress.

For example, if you are a powerlifter, you would need to train about 4-5 days a week focusing on the squat, bench and deadlift. Bodybuilders often aim to train each muscle group 2 times a week split over 5 days or so; here the frequency is more “muscle based” but the same principle applies.

For more sport-specific athletes like sprinters, boxers etc. I recommend chatting with your coach and finding out the best routine that works for you but in general; frequency is key.

Nobody got strong overnight, and dipping in and out of training when you “feel like it” will not suffice. Success is not an accident – it’s a result of dedication.

2) Time

On average, a training session should last at least an hour. Most athletes will train for at least 1 hour per session, and often above, but an hour is most common. My training sessions in the gym last about 70 minutes and my kickboxing training about 90 minutes, but it’s normal for a beginner to train less than this and for an advanced athlete to spend hours a day training. It depends on your level of fitness and of course what is actually feasible because we all have laundry to do, too!

3) Specificity

An athlete’s training needs to be specific to their sport of choice and further their progress with respect to their goals and sport. Sprinters are powerful athletes and so would train to increase their power output by implementing things like plyometrics and Olympic lifts (or ask Rebecca Campsall!).

I kickbox, so my training is geared towards speed, strength and agility, and I do this by lifting heavy weights, performing HIIT based training to increase my fitness and bodyweight training to be more self-aware and responsive.

Think about your sport and your goals before you set out your training plan. What does your sport require of you? How will you train to get there? How can you improve?

Ask yourself these questions and I promise you you’re training will be far less complicated and far more beneficial.

4) Progressive Overload

Over time your body begins to adapt to the stress that is being put on it during your training sessions; stress such as lifting a weight or running a certain distance. In order for you to progress and “force” your body to change (whether it be by growing more muscle, getting stronger or by increasing your cardiovascular abilities) you should implement some form of progressive overload. Basically, make your training sessions a little bit harder week by week.

For example, a powerlifter might lift 5×5 at 70% of his 1RM on week 1 of his training block. On week 2 he would lift 75% of his 1RM. This is progressively overloading the muscle tissue, thereby forcing it to change and become stronger. Similarly, a bodybuilder may increase the weight she is lifting or the number of reps performed.

No matter what way you choose to do it – progressive overload and sufficiently challenging your body and forcing it to change is crucial in improving athletic performance.

5) Individuality

A CRUCIAL point to keep in mind when you inevitably compare your training plan to the random Joe in the gym; individuality. You need to tailor your training to your own specific needs and requirements.

If you suffer from an injury or disability, your training will be need to be altered to work around that. Similarly, if you are a beginner you probably shouldn’t train more than 4 times a week, but those who are advanced might consider 6 days a week. Training will always vary between individuals, but it ensures you are safely reaching your maximum potential at that point in time.

6) Variation

I’m hesitant to write about this one as it wouldn’t be a necessity as such and more-so to do with human nature and the fact training the same way all of the time can be… boring. Sometimes we need to spice it up a bit!

Adding variation in to your training – things like new exercises, varying intensity and even new gyms – can give your training that boost it needs when you’re feeling bored and lacking motivation. This doesn’t mean you need to set new goals or neglect your original training strategy – it just means you’ll enjoy your training that bit more again when you’ve hit a plateau.

I like to throw elements of CrossFit into my training sometimes – just for the added OOMPH. Kind of like the paprika to my training. Just not all CrossFit though…

That’s a spice I cannot handle.

7) Reversibility

Okay so we want to avoid this – but it can happen and not always intentionally. This basically means if you STOP training your muscles will eventually get smaller or weaker and many movement patterns you have learned may be “forgotten”.

It’s important to keep in mind though if you ever wish to take a break because your body will most likely not be as strong or powerful as it was so… don’t jump straight into the deep end.

Muscles have a memory and it will all come back but don’t break your back in the process.

8) Rest and Recovery

Raise your hand if you’re horrific at taking rest days! *Raises hand*

Seriously though – they are an absolute requirement and without them your progress will come to a complete halt. Recovery is the time when your muscles grow, adapt and repair themselves for the next session. Without rest there is no recovery and without recovery there is no progress.

Netflix anyone?

Take Home Message

Lifting doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective. Simply follow these rules, do what you love, treat your body well (this includes feeding it ice cream, FYI) and maybe leave the contortion to the acrobats.

About the Author

Michelle is a scientist, an athlete and a writer and she’s proud to have faced her demons head on and she’s beating them. In weight lifting she found an outlet to help change her life – and she’s loving it! Follow her journey with BULK POWDERS®.

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