Every man wants to look perfect, that is, low level of body fat, lots of well-defined muscles and good proportions. Every lady wants to have shapely buttocks, slender legs and impressive abdomen. Unfortunately, it often turns out that between "want" and "have" there is a very big difference. Some see their inability to gain a better figure in the absence of pharmacological aid, others blame bad genetics, lack of time, poor diet etc. I've heard all of these excuses. And what does your practical strength training look like? Unfortunately, there is a high probability that your weight training is far from perfect.
Symptom # 1: no progress
Take a meticulous summary of the last 3, 6, 12 or 24 months spent on training. At what stage are you? If you can not judge this, well, then your progress is probably minimal.
To accurately determine the changes, you should note:
- waist girth,
- chest and/or shoulders girth,
- neck girth and the arm (biceps, triceps)
- thigh girth and additionally: calf girth.
On top of that, you can get photo documentation (the same pose, the same light, the same conditions, eg. no after-workout "pumped" look), you should take your weight (on an empty stomach). Measurements of body fat also can be invaluable if you have for example a body fat caliper. BIA weights method do not represent real results for athletes (you should include at least 3-5% error in estimating body fat level).
If within a few months of regular training sessions you haven't noticed:
- growth of key body parts' girth,
- increase in body mass (FFM - fat free mass),
- growth of strength in basic exercises (squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, push press, bench press, barbell rowing),
- higher dynamics, speed, power (training profiled in a particular discipline),
your training can prove to be ineffective.
Usually, though, the problem is not in the training but in the diet. If you have completely excluded the dietary issues (adequate caloric intake, correct proportion of protein, fat and carbohydrates), concentrate on the training plan.
The plan should include:
- mainly complex exercises, and not isolated,
- exercises of the back and the legs, not only the upper body,
- largely free weights, no machines,
- progression method, do not repeat the same weight (or chaotic "jumping")
- varied exercises and varied number of repetitions in sets.
Complex exercises include for instance: squats, deadlifts, bench press, shoulder press, pull-ups. Isolated exercises include: biceps concetration curl, seated cable row, dumbbell latteral curs, preacher curl, triceps push down.
If you "torture" only your chest but you canot go beyond certain barriers, the problem would usually lie in the technique and the lack of additional exercises (triceps, shoulders, back). Perhaps a more holistic approach might be worthwhile?
Symptom # 2: supplement-eater
Before training: carbohydrates (eg. Carbo, Vitargo®), BCAA, glutamine, creatine. During: BCAA, carbohydrates. After: BCAA, glutamine, WPC, creatine, carbohydrates. Apart from that: essential vitamins and minerals, gainers, many types of protein, herbs, burners, enzymes, boosters (eg. caffeine), pre-workout preparations for joints, poteny, blood pressure, testosterone... Yes, basic nutrients and diet supplements are useful, but most of the commercially available preparations are doubtfully useful for beginners or even intermediate sportsmen. If you are a high performance athlete sponsored by a nutrients/supplements producer, take even a dozen different products. But instead of spending money on a miraculous powders and capsules, invest in your diet. Contrary to appearances, good food costs considerable money. Conduct a 3-4 month experiment: forget about the whole "arsenal of boosters" and leave only protein (eg. WPC) and creatine. If you notice significant differences, for example in the quality of your training, increments or regeneration, you will be the exception to the rule. If there is no difference, is it really worth to overpay for placebo? Often research (sponsored ones) are prepared in artificial conditions, where the offered product is tested under favourable conditions. Many of the experiments that where conducted on animals and have shown phenomenal properties, such as products enhancing protein assimilation, did not show effective in humans. Other products produce good results but... in the sick and/or in the course of rehabilitation (eg. glutamine), in beginners (eg. HMB), in specific disciplines (eg. beta-alanine), with substantial deficiencies of zinc and magnesium (eg. ZMA). In each case you must carefully consider the purpose and meaning of supplementation.