“Hey bro, I found this sick Dwayne Johnson workout on the internet, and I’m about to try it out today - I’m so pumped!” If you’ve heard this in the gym, odds are you’ve stumbled upon someone who doesn't really know what to do with their training plan and is, well, "experimenting".
Which isn't necessarily bad! However, much like anything else, training is precise science and mathematics; you need to understand each variable and factor affecting the end result and create your plan based on that.
And so, if you are over those random celebrity workouts and are ready to get in the best shape of your life, keep reading!
To find out what the best training regimen for you is, you have to first and foremost understand the backend of your workouts. A workout can be measured using 3 main variables:
Essentially, intensity shows how close you are to your maximum strength/speed capabilities - The heavier the weight or faster the movement, the higher the intensity.
Volume measures the total amount of weight lifted in pounds (or kilograms). To calculate volume, you take the working weight and multiply it by the number of sets and reps (100 lb x 10 reps x 2 sets = 2000 lb total volume)
Density measures your volume, relative to the total time needed for its completion including rest times, and is measured in pounds per minute (i.e 2000 lb volume completed for 2 minutes would be a density of 1000 lb/minute)
"Ok I’m Confused, Why Do I Need This?"
Understanding the different training variables presented above is essential for being able to create the correct training stimulus. Let’s have a look at the variables and how you can set them up for certain results.
The level of intensity, or in other words, how close you get to your maximum strength (or speed) capabilities, will determine the recruitment of muscle fibers, as well as the stimulus for certain adaptations. (i.e strength gains, bulk muscle growth)
Intensity (%) - Description (considering strength)
0-35%: This is the warm up zone, you don’t want to be here for too long if you’re trying to grow muscle!
40-65%: Here, more and more muscle fibers get recruited - this is a good zone to go through before your heavier working sets
65-85%: This is the intensity zone where you can do moderate to heavy weight sets for 6-15 repetitions, until failure. Focus on this zone if you want bodybuilder-like muscle growth!
85-100%: In this intensity zone, you can do 1-5 repetitions with a really heavy weight. This is known as the powerlifting zone and mainly results in maximum strength gains.
*If you are training in the bodybuilder intensity zone, do include this powerlifting one every now and then.
One of the interesting things is that in terms of muscle growth, it doesn’t really matter if you will train in the 65-80% intensity range or the 85-100%, as long as volume is equated. However, the 65-80% range allows for greater volume to be put out, more easily, due to its less strenuous nature.
Below is a "volume cheat sheet", which can help you determine the number of sets depending on your training experience.
Training Experience - Volume (per muscle group, per week)
Beginner/novice ~5 Challenging Working Sets
Intermediate ~10 Challenging Working Sets
Advanced ~ 15-20+ Challenging Working Sets
Note that a “challenging working set” implies a working set that is taken close to failure (1-3 reps in reserve).
Though many people pay attention to the weight (intensity) and the number of sets and reps (volume), no one really cares about density. And let us tell you this: Density is important when you are trying to achieve the highest volume of greatest quality possible in your workout, because density is dictated by rest times.
For instance, if you do a set of 5 reps using 100 lb and only rest 1 minute, odds are that you will only get 3-4 reps on the next set. On the other hand, if you take 2-3 minutes of rest between each set, you will be able to sustain sets of 5 and thus, your quality volume will be greater.
Spread out that density, both in your workouts and in your entire training plan! Here’s a "rest times cheat sheet":
Intensity - Rest Times
0-50% - 1 minute
60-80% - 2-3 minutes
85-100% - 4-5 minutes
On the back end of your workouts, are different ratios of the 3 main training variables which we discussed in this article. Now that you have an idea about these training variables and how their different ratios create different end results, let’s hop onto part two of this article series, where we’ll talk about understanding your goals and actually creating the training plan!