Priorities

Your number one priority when you engage in strength training is to improve muscular strength through all major muscle groups. This means overtime you should increase strength in the basic exercises.

Chest Press

Pullup, pulldown, or row

Walking lunges or leg press

Calf Raises

These are the basic exercises that engage the major muscle groups of the body safely.

If you are an athlete focus on doubling your strength in these movements over the next six months.

If you double your strength your athletic performance will improve whether that be run faster, jump higher, or throw a ball harder. Of course, assuming you are doing some sport-specific training that includes biomechanical training of technique and form.

In the weight room, your focus must be on getting stronger on these basic exercises.

For athletes, your goal should be to do 20 pullups with your bodyweight and chest press your body weight for at least 10 reps and advanced athletes will need greater strength.

For walking lunges your goal should be to hold your body weight in your hands and complete 6-10 reps per leg. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs you will need to work at holding 75 lb dumbbells in each hand while performing a lunge.

Get to these strength levels and then we can talk about performing other exercises or focusing on other things.

Be intentional when it comes to strength training!

Stay Strong,

MT

My Current Resistance Training Program

Today I wanted to take some time to show you my current resistance training program. Keep in mind I have been strength training regularly for 30 years. My goals are to continue to improve my strength and fitness levels. At this point in my exercise career improving in performance is difficult.

I strength two days per week. I have tried combining the following program into just one day of training but found that program wiped me out. The following program takes me about 15-20 minutes per day to complete. This program balances my work and rest ratios and allows plenty of time for recovery.

Day 1 usually Wednesday

Upper Body

Flat Chest Press 1-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions

Pullups 1-3 sets of as many as possible (usually 15-20 reps)

Dumbbell Lateral Raises 1-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions

Dumbbell Curls, usually seated both arms at the same time 1-3 sets of 6-10 repetitions per set

Bar Dips 1-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions

Day 2 usually Friday

Lower Body

Leg Press or Walking Lunges 1-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions (Leg press) 6-10 reps per leg (lunges)

Back Extensions 2 sets of 10-15 repetitions per set

Standing Calf Raises 1 legged 1-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions per set

Barbell Shrugs 1-3 sets of 6-10 repetitions per set

Sometimes I add in a few sets of crunches

I usually follow the approach of completing 1 set for all exercises for 3 weeks followed by an increase in the number of sets to 2 sets for all exercises for 2-3 weeks, followed by another block of an increase in sets per exercise to 3 sets.

Basically, this looks like:

3 weeks of 1 set per exercise

2-3 weeks of 2 sets per exercise

2-3 weeks of 3 sets per exercise

Then a reduction in volume back to 1 set per exercise for 3 weeks.

None of this is set in stone and I adapt my training to how I feel but I never sacrifice training volume for intensity. Meaning that if I am working less hard per set by completing 3 sets I reduce the number of sets to 1 or 2.

This is what works for me right now and if you are not an advanced trainee you will probably be better served to perform 2-3 sets per exercise.

You may also complete this workout in one day. I have just found that I do better splitting the program in half.

There are times that I complete two total-body sessions per week following the same format and the same exercises.

Understand that I have arrived at this after years of training and experimentation. You can learn from these principles and know that more exercise is probably not the answer but rather a laser-focused approach to strength training with no wasted effort.

Stay Strong,

Michael

Perceived Exertion and Progression

I had a great conversation today with a friend and the topic of perceived exertion came up. I hope everyone has had a chance to read some of the content I wrote the last few weeks on basic resistance exercise. The first step is to follow a resistance training program that is practical and effective. See the following link.

The second step is to train progressively. This means that over time you must either increase the number of repetitions per set with a given load or increase the load. During the initial weeks of commencing a resistance training routine, your focus is to establish a baseline of resistance and repetitions per set. After a few resistance training sessions, you must begin pushing yourself on each set. Each set should be taken to or very close to volitional fatigue. Meaning that you complete the maximum number of repetitions you can per set. Of course, this advice is for an orthopedically sound individual that has no underlying injuries.

For an advanced trainee, you may want to stop a set 1-2 repetitions short of failure. I would take more days of recovery if progression does not occur or if you find you cannot exert maximal effort. Ensuring optimal recovery is one reason I suggest resistance training just one or two days per week. Resistance exercise is a high-intensity exercise where progression is the foundation.

Nutrition For Fat Loss

I receive emails weekly about dieting for fat loss. Go to any book store and you will see hundreds of books devoted to some method that is the “magic” diet sure to help you lose 50 lbs with no work. If only those methods were true.

To achieve fat loss you must be in a calorie deficit for a period of time. There is no “diet” that holds the key to your long term fat loss success. The only thing you should be concerned with is consuming fewer calories than you burn daily. Diets that eliminate one of the three macronutrients are an effort to provide a plan to place you in a lower calorie environment. Diets that eliminate fats or carbohydrates are not balanced and I do not recommend them!

So how do you achieve fat loss?

You do the opposite of what you did to gain weight.

You eat less and exercise more!

Keep in mind the message I posted last week about balance. Do not cut your calories too low or exercise too much.

Start tracking all the foods you consume and make specific notes of how many calories you consume daily. I like the use of nutrition apps that allow you to enter foods right from your smartphone. Track everything that you consume for 30 days and you will be well on your way to lasting weight loss.

After a few weeks of nutrition recording work at consuming foods that are lower-calorie and nutrient-dense. Foods such as fruits and vegetables should be prevalent. You may find that certain foods provide more satiety. Start consuming more of those to manage lower calorie intake with hunger. Foods good for satiety are fruits and vegetables and high protein low-fat foods such as chicken breast or other lean proteins.

Do not limit foods that you enjoy but rather consume them in smaller amounts and record everything.

So if one of your goals is to lose bodyfat start recording everything you consume in an app and work at keeping your calories below those suggested. The apps do a nice job of providing you a baseline of calories needed to meet your goals. You may need to adjust slightly up or down as the days and weeks pass but the key is to start journaling.

Stay Strong,

MT

Resistance Training and Weight Management

The potential for resistance training to improve all health outcomes is evident. Resistance exercise improves and or maintains muscle mass as we age.  Without resistance exercise, we lose muscle mass and that results in a slower metabolic rate.  The key to effective weight management is to maintain muscle mass while we lose body fat. If we diet without resistance exercise we lose both muscle and fat resulting in a slower metabolism.  This results in the eventual reacquisition of body fat.  

The solution is a modest exercise program of 1-3 days per week of resistance exercise and 3-5 days of cardiovascular exercise, all sessions at about 30 minutes.  Combine this exercise program with modest reductions in calorie consumption and you are on your way to long-term body composition changes.  Extreme calorie reduction coupled with excessive exercise of several hours per week is not the best approach.  This extreme approach may also result in loss of muscle mass and a reduction in metabolic rate.  

The take-home message here is Balance.  Develop and follow an exercise and nutrition program with the concept of balance at the forefront.  

Stay Strong,

MT

Olympic Lifting: No

Large-scale ballistic exercises such as the Olympic lifts are promoted as advantageous for athletes on all levels. However, in my opinion, these exercises are very dangerous and expose multiple joints to risk. This risk is just not necessary for traditional young athletes interested in improving sports performance or general populations that seek to improve body composition.  Some research has been conducted to determine injury occurrence from Olympic and at minimum reported an injury risk (Feito et al., 2014; Johasson et al. 2011; Kulund et al., 1978; Raske & Norlin, 2002). More research is needed and we must keep in mind the limitations of research that requires accurate reporting of injuries.  

Following my time training clients, I can say unequivocally that I would absolutely never prescribe the snatch and clean and jerk for any of our clients.  

Olympic lifting is designed for Olympic competition, not for basketball, baseball, football, or hockey player’s who need to improve strength, power, and muscle mass throughout all the major muscle groups.  Simply if an athlete becomes 100% stronger throughout all major muscle groups they will move faster, jump higher, or throw a ball harder.  Further, Olympic lifting for Olympic athletes takes years to perfect the form necessary to safely perform those exercises.  Athletes of typical sports simply do not have the months and years necessary to perfect the form required nor does the risk-benefit ratio match the goals of the athlete. The benefits of Olympic lifting does not exceed that of basic resistance exercise and presents an extreme risk of musculoskeletal injury.  

Stay Strong,

MT

References

Feito, Y., & Paul, A. (2014). Prevalence of injury among CrossFit® participants. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46, 762. https://doi.org/10.1249/01.mss.0000495783.20863.86

Jonasson, P., Halldin, K., Karlsson, J., Thoreson, O., Hvannberg, J., Swärd, L., & Baranto, A. (2011). Prevalence of joint-related pain in the extremities and spine in five groups of top athletes. Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy, 19(9), 1540–1546. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00167-011-1539-4

Kulund, D. N., Dewey, J. B., Brubaker, C. E., & Roberts, J. R. (1978). Olympic Weight-Lifting Injuries. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 6(11), 111–119. https://doi.org/10.1080/00913847.1978.11783743

Raske, Å., & Norlin, R. (2002). Injury incidence and prevalence among elite weight and power lifters. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 30(2), 248–256. https://doi.org/10.1177/03635465020300021701

Exercise Selection and Routine

As I mentioned yesterday exercise selection is the most important component of exercise prescription.  I published two studies one in 2016 and one in 2019 and both of those studies demonstrated improvements in lean tissue mass (muscle mass) and strength from a handful of basic exercises (Thomas & Burns, 2016; Thomas et al., 2019).  These exercises were chosen because they are exercises I had implemented in my practice of fitness consulting, safe for most trainees, recruit a lot of muscle mass, and the learning curve is low.  

Exercises

Flat Chest Press (machine, dumbbell, or barbell)

Pulldowns, Pullups, or Rows

Walking Lunges or Leg Press

Standing Calf Raises

Bicep Curl

Tricep Extension, Parallel Bar Dips, or Close Grip Presses

Set up your exercise program by completing 1-5 sets of 8-15 repetitions per exercise 1-5 days per week. I realize this exercise prescription provides a large range of possibilities.  Perhaps the best approach to perform this program 1-2 days per week and after a few months, reassess if or when training frequency/volume should be increased.  

Tips:

Record all training data including weight and repetitions completed per set.  

Record data in a notebook or software such as google sheets that you can access from anywhere.

Over time your training should be progressive.

Stay Strong,

MT

References

Thomas, M.H., Burns, S.P., Ferguson, R.H., & Allen, N.B. (2018).  Early timeline of lean tissue mass and strength improvements in trained men following a high volume/frequency resistance training program. International Journal of Exercise Science, 12(4), 1094-1109. 

Thomas, M. H., & Burns, S. P. (2016). Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A comparison of high-frequency strength training to lower frequency strength training. International Journal of Exercise Science, 9(2), 159-167.

Experience

Experience

I have spent over 30 years being a student of resistance training and applying knowledge within the laboratory of my own body.  I have altered every training variable possible to improve strength, muscle mass, and health.  

After all of this research, I have found that what worked early in my exercise career is just about the same advice I would give today.  The only difference is today I have greater confidence in my recommendations that experience brings.  Training programs recommended here are backed by my own experiences, the 30 years of training of clients, and support from research.

Just about every training study that assesses outcomes such as muscle mass, strength, and power results in similar improvements in those outcomes as a result of the program. The phrase you will see in the literature is, “these results demonstrate no significant difference between groups” for whatever variable researchers are examining.  One might say we can perform any exercise routine and achieve benefits and that is true to an extent.  Perhaps researchers are asking the wrong questions. Finding a safe, practical approach to exercise is a more appropriate question. The approach we should implement is one that maximizes the benefits of resistance training while limiting injury potential.

Exercise Selection and Volume

Many exercise programs consist of way too much training volume along with dangerous exercise selection. These two issues are so rampant in the exercise world today that both the general population and exercise professionals are confused at best. My goal here is to educate you on effective exercise prescription providing you with a laser-focused program that mitigates your chance of injury and overuse.  All routines I will write about are routines I have followed.  Of course, you should use your own judgment before following any program, and certainly, you need to be medically cleared to exercise. I will cover the importance of appropriate exercise selection more in upcoming blog posts. This topic is the most important element to consider regarding exercise prescription.

Youth Exercise

The thoughts of the beginning of my resistance training journey lead me to a current state of thinking about the purpose of this writing. I have three boys and two of them are involved in sports. Most coaches are encouraging young athletes to engage in a conditioning program and rightfully so. However, safe, prudent strength exercise programming information is in limited supply. I can think of no other population that I want to serve than our youth. Therefore, the main purpose here is to distribute evidence-based, practical, and safe strength training information appropriate for youth.  If only I had been able to find a mentor or resource to form the basis of my training. Such a mentor would have shortened my time to success and reduced my chance of injury. Yes, I have experienced some major injuries over my 35 years of resistance training and some of what I will share will be information related to what I would have done differently.

Be Careful Who You Listen To

I have observed coaches recommending exercises that offer minimum benefits but expose athletes to extreme risk of musculoskeletal injury. The thing about some musculoskeletal injuries is that they are permanent, affecting a youngster long after their athletic career.  Resistance training should improve performance and be designed with the concept of individual differences at the forefront. Strength and conditioning programs are often written with ego and “routine” as the driving force. For example, the dogma that all athletes must perform barbell squats, deadlifts, and power cleans regardless of orthopedic status or biomechanical traits is a recipe for injury. Young athletes report pain and discomfort only to feel the pressure from coaches or a tribe to continue with such a risky exercise. Resistance training exercise should not cause pain within joints but rather stress the muscles surrounding a joint. Frankly, some exercises are just not suitable for certain body types based mainly on the biomechanics and or physiological makeup of the individual. I will dive deeper into these topics in future posts. Until then…

Stay strong,

MT

The Beginning

Hi Everyone.

Thank you for visiting my website.

This year I will be sharing a great deal of content here on practical approaches for resistance training. But before I do that I want to spend a bit of time sharing my story.

How It All Began

I started lifting weights to improve my sports performance. During middle school and early high school, I focused on learning all I could about resistance exercise. I began researching the benefits of resistance training and grew frustrated with the lack of scientific research for or against resistance training to improve baseball throwing velocity.

Even considering the inferiority of my early resistance training program compared to what I know now I felt an almost immediate performance improvement.  My lean physique seemed to change rapidly. I noticed a dramatic difference in how I felt and looked.  I was 15 years old and during one winter following a few months of resistance training, I could dunk a basketball.  At the time, I was probably about 5 foot 8 inches tall.  I have no doubt my improvement in jumping ability was directly related to my strength improvements specifically lower body strength. 

Confidence

Another benefit of resistance training is the improvement in confidence and self-esteem that carried over into all areas of my life. Even today I find the feeling of accomplishment following a strength training session to be exhilarating. The feeling of stressed muscles that results in a bit of soreness feels great in a sort of odd way. Knowing that my exercise program is resulting in greater strength and muscle mass and that those two variables will decrease without such an intervention is empowering. I am almost 50 years old and despite having some aches and pains I am stronger than I have ever been.    

So, I began my strength training journey to become a better baseball pitcher. Little did I know those beginning months of resistance training would lead to a lifelong journey to discover the most effective methods to resistance train.  There are days I wonder why I ever chose this path and it certainly has not proven to be profitable.  However, the knowledge and experience I have gained have hopefully made a difference in the lives of those I have served. Therefore, the purpose of my writing is to provide practical resistance exercise information.

Stay Strong,

MT