It can be really confusing for the regular Joe. I mean what are you supposed to do? Dedicate all of your free time to workout strategies?
Maybe if you read some of my secrets as a fit pro, it will make more sense. Be aware that in this article, I am approaching the subject as though I am talking to professional trainers, not people who frequent the gym. But I am quite certain it will hit home to you all the same.
So,starting from the beginning, let's ask the question again. How can one be the most efficient and effective in the gym? It depends on the individual and what level they are at. So let's make three catagories of fitness participants:
Then break apart each workout into the following three phases:
A. Flow : 20 to 30 minutes
B. Learn : 10 minutes
C. Core and Floor : 20 to 30 minutes
A. Flow phase: The Main Phase. Warm up, Main workout, This phase should be done so the participant can "flow" thru the workout. It should be easy enough to follow but challenging enough for growth. And should never ever be stale! There is simply no excuse for a boring workout. The bottom line is that...whether you are a trainer or client, feeling bored is a sure sign you need more experience and skills. Period. The end. Either get some more skills then come back or read a book. Leaders are readers. Grow or die.
B. Learning phase: This is the new movement phase. The individual should be worked out enough by now to have the patience and calm to learn something about his or her body and to be continued into the next session. The activity or activities they learn here should be added to the start of the next workout. This will start the workouts fresh and with a bang. Thus, dropping off and replacing the easier skills they have already mastered. This phase prevents burnout, individualizes the workout, and most importantly promotes growth. Do not do this phase first. Also, the added endorphins from the workout will increase their learning capacity, often without them even knowing it. Another benefit by doing this phase after the Flow phase is you just had a fresh look at your client and can easily assess them to see what skill they are able to learn that day at the right moment.
C. Core and Floor phase: Core work, Cool Down. Teach or learn one new floor exercise or stretch each session.
Now we are going to group these levels and phases with the following techniques:
2. Free Weights
3. Functional Movement with no resistance
4. Functional Movement with resistance
I like to combine them as follows:
Beginner: First three to six weeks:
~Combination A1: Flow phase and Machines, the main part of the workout(the flow part) should be done primarily with machines.
~Combination B2 - Combine the Learning phase with more technical machines and free weights.
~C - Beginning floor work:
Segway into beginner to intermediate by combining the following:
~Combination A12: Flow phase with free weights then machines. Doing both machines and free weights during the flow phase.
~Followed by combination B3- Learning functional movement without resistance.
~C - Intermediate Core and floor
~Combination A231: Now that their stabilizers are stronger they can do more free weights and functional movement. Thus, the Flow phase should be a combination of free weights and functional movement followed by machines for the "tired or worked sets" as their stabilizers get too worked for free weights and functional movement at the end of the workout. This is great because it give you the ability to push the primary muscle to the extreme even when they are tired.
~B4 - Learning phase with functional movement WITH resistance AND more technical moves like incorporating squat presses or heavy bag hitting, or plyometrics, etc...
~C - Core and Floor getting more advanced.
~Combination A4321: A.-Flow phase starting with advanced functional movement with resistance and free weights. Then the machines to properly set the "tired stablizers". Now that the client has a bigger exercise vocabulary, you can really start being creative and start with more advanced moves. The functional movements with resistance and without resistance can be combined with free weights and then machines at the end for the same reason mentioned above.
~B. - The Learning phase dedicated to more advanced things like complicated kicks or heavy bag hitting, different kinds of squats, different rep tempos or things like working the negatives with the weights for the next workout.:
~C: Hard core and floor followed by more advanced stretching ( passive and active stretching, myofascial release, straps, blocks, rollers, etc...for more advanced recovery.
Now allow me to explain further repeating the following choices of movement:
2. Free Weights
3. Functional movement with no resistance
4. Functional movement with resistance.
So, here are further reasons to combine the above at the top of the article:
Beginners starting with machines will benefit as they are not kinesthetically aware or their supporting muscles ( stablizers ) are not developed enough yet for free weights. So generally a good way to go would be Machines first, followed by free wieghts for the learning phase. THEN adding on functional movement with no resistance.
The more advanced you get, the more functional movement with free weights you are able to do.
For advanced people free weights and functional movement with resistance combined are better because you have a lot more ways to perform a routine. You are working on stabilizing one set of muscles while primarily working on another set of muscles. So you are working with relative resistance as well as outside resistance during the workout. There are also a lot more choices in a free weight workout with an easier transition from one exercise to another then with just working out with machines. I also love the fact that you can keep your heart rate elevated during strength training. If you or your trainer knows what they are doing, you could have a much more efficient workout with free weights.
Free weights are better the you joints in the long term aspect of this. You see, you can then move as your body was intended to move as you are not locked in a set pattern of movement. This lowers the incidents of wear and tear on the joints. Although you do need to know how to align yourself up properly. With free weights, it is a little more involved.
But there are advantages to machines. Machines only make your muscles work in one or two dimensions, which decreases the activation of your stabilizer muscles. While this is typically thought of as a negative, this property of machines can actually be used to help us build more muscle.
Stabilizers are often times the first ones to go in free weight work. By adding on the machines at the end of the workout, we can take the tired stabilizers out of the picture and target the primary movers.
With that said, I firmly believe that machine exercises should play a much smaller role than free weight exercises for the more advanced person and machines should for beginners. That goes for any muscle building program.
But keep in mind that simply throwing a bunch of free weight exercises together and calling it a fast muscle building program won't bring you consistant results. There are a lot of variables to consider when designing a training program, and exercise selection is only one of them. You can more ideas on fitness strategies by reading more articles.
There is a lot out there. And it feels so powerful to get great results in less time. There is something very freeing about getting in control of your time.
Until next time, live with energy.