Here is one of the biggest questions around physical activity that pops up every now and then: should you stick to compound exercises or isolation exercises as a part of your training schedule? Is one better than the other? If compound lifts are so good – how come there are so many gyms that offer a huge variety of expensive machines targeting specific muscles?
The truth is – both methods can be used to improve strength. Both methods can be used to build a better body. But there are scenarios where one would work better than the other.
Instead of taking sides, in this article we will explore advantages and disadvantages of both compound and isolation exercise and then try to boil everything down to a simple routine that utilizes the best elements from both camps.
We have previously seen how unsubstantiated fears kept most women away from weights for many decades because someone, somewhere took a liberty of defining women as overly fragile, helpless beings that were unable (and unwilling) to ever lift more than the weight of their purses. (Of course, producers of 0.5lb barbells missed the fact that just to be prepared for the challenges of everyday life, women would need to lift, push, squat and carry much higher weights – like their own babies).
In any case, hopefully, you realize by now that when we compare males and females – there are more similarities than differences in metabolic pathways, muscular function and useful methods to achieve athletic and health goals. So this limiting belief does females a great disservice.
But a similar ill advice and unsubstantiated fears are now defining our attitudes towards weight training for kids. Most parents still have many reservations when it comes to weight training for kids – because they have heard, at some point, that lifting weights stunts growth (and that lifting free weights causes injuries, generally speaking).
How much of it is true? Does weight lifting stunt grown in children, as many people believe? Are there benefits of weight training as a part of structured exercise early in life? And, if you are a parent – what should you know about your child’s training protocols?
Let’s try to take a closer look.
In this article, we will explore the 5/3/1 training program.
Strength training is almost an art. Sure, you can pick up heavy weight in any shape or form and move it around – and (because moving any weight requires muscle power and repetitive heavy weight training leads to adaptation that makes any muscle stronger) you will, no doubt, get some results. Those results may be especially impressive if you are just starting out – at that point you may not even care much about how structured your exercise is.
But, remember – we are not after just any gains at any cost. We are after the best possible gains we can get using the least amount of effort and time in the safest way possible. Inevitably, then, after most people settle on which specific exercises to do – they start wondering how exactly to structure their training sessions. The number of sets, reps and weight increments are all very important variables that serve a specific purpose. They are somewhat interdependent, but finding the right equilibrium for your specific goals is key to making sure you keep improving.
This is why you might want to follow tried and true protocols created by people who understand how tweaking each of the variables influences your results. You, on the other hand, do not necessarily need to understand why or how they work – you just need to find an effective protocol and apply it to your training.
As a gym-goer, you may worry about many things – what to wear to the gym, whether it’s easier to exercise at home, how to stay motivated. etc. But if one of your dilemmas is what to bring to the gym – with our list of 10 gym bag essentials below you can now have one less thing to worry about.
With so many gyms offering so much equipment and additional services – why would you ever bring anything other than a change of clothes? Well, the items listed below – despite their affordability and usefulness – are typically not offered widely at commercial gyms, although there may be some exceptions. Some personal trainers may have and use a few of these with their clients, but if you do not have a personal trainer – you may be out of luck. Most of the time any of these 10 gym bag essentials – because they are small, personal items – have to be purchased by you. The good thing is that they are easy to get from your local sporting goods store or online – and relatively inexpensive.
These 10 gym bag essentials are not absolutely crucial for getting results. You can go your entire life without them and still progress notably. If you ask me, however, rather than worry about color-coordinated trendy clothes or some latest fitness shoes (most of the time these are useless for serious lifting anyway), or worse – what expensive wireless headphones you show off while you exercise – I would rather worry about these basics, as they can significantly improve your experience and give you that slight edge.
Keep these items in your gym bag all the time – and you will always be ready for the best workout.
Why arm workouts are so popular
No matter what objectives you have with your training, arm workouts consistently remain a popular topic for weight lifters, bodybuilders or competitive team athletes.
This is because having muscular and strong arms is both aesthetically pleasing and functionally beneficial. Not only are large arm muscles pretty much synonymous with strength and masculinity (one of the first things an amateur gym enthusiast does is start doing biceps curls to look better in a T-shirt), but well-developed and strong arm muscles assist and provide stability in larger compound lifts and help in various sports.
Understandably, arm workouts are very popular among athletes of various degrees of experience. How do these fit into the philosophy of big lifts and mostly compound body exercises?
Although you cannot change your chronological age, you can control, to a large degree, your biological age – which reflects how well you feel, how well your body functions, how resilient you are to common ailments and the overall quality of your life, including continued ability to participate in the activities you participated in when you were 19. The best way you can do that is to work on building muscle after 40.
In Part I, we saw how detrimental muscle loss can be. But how do you prevent it? Should you just accept this and slowly wait for your physical (and mental) demise justifying it by “normal process of aging”?
Not at all – sarcopenia may be a common symptom, but common doesn’t mean “natural”. And although you may not be able to completely eliminate it, you can – and should – have a big impact on its rate by building up (and maintaining, as much as possible) sufficient reserves of functional and strong muscles.
Even though some evidence suggests that loss of muscle mass may affect even active adults, when you have more muscle mass and better muscular strength to start with –you are in a much better position, because you could, technically, afford to lose more without it affecting your day-to-day function (that’s not to say that you should). A person like Arnold Schwarzenegger – even with 60% loss of muscle mass accumulated before late 20s – will still be much further ahead than an average adult.
So how do you keep (or even start) building muscle after 40? Let’s look at a few contributing factors individually.
So you want to know how to gain muscle mass fast.
That’s fair – whether you are a gal or a dude, growing lean muscle often means vastly improved health markers and overall quality of life – and although your gender will ultimately determine the end result ( it is all but impossible for a woman to easily morph into a massive mountain of muscles, unless she has equally massive help from steroids) , the path to the end goal is the same.
We have previously discussed the benefits of bigger muscles multiple times, so the assumption is that at this stage you don’t need convincing and are just looking for the answer to “how”, rather than “why”.
There are two ways you can go about accelerating muscle growth. You can spend a lot of time drooling over different “new and improved” tips on how to gain muscle mass in a wide variety of glossy magazines featuring ripped bodies on their cover and constantly switch between different workout routines and new super-potent miracle supplements in search of something extraordinary.
For those who follow a carb-restricted diet (low-carb, cyclical ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, etc.), introducing a cheat day is not only a way to bring sanity into your meal plans – it is almost a requirement of sorts from a metabolic perspective to ensure that the progress with fat loss does not slow down.
It is a bit hard for some people to understand how they can eat whatever they want and still get leaner – so let’s look into how and why it works.
What is a cheat day?
What exactly is a “cheat day”? Popularized by The 4 Hour Body book, it’s essentially cyclical strategic refeeding. You pick a day in a week (during which you would otherwise follow a restricted diet) where you allow yourself to consume copious amounts of absolutely anything you want, to your heart’s content.
Today, once again, we are going to talk about strength training. For women the benefit of lifting weights for weight loss don’t seem to be apparent. After all, many generations of females have been conditioned to resort to aerobic exercise any time they had a goal of trimming off body fat. Strength training for women isn’t really a mainstream approach, because lifting weights has traditionally been perceived as a masculine activity and reserved for men.
But if you are a woman and consciously avoid free weights – you are missing out on a LOT of benefits. Burning body fat is just one of them. This is the best kept secret of the fitness industry that we are going to explore.
Military press is a perfect exercise to complete our list of best whole-body compound exercises. We have already discussed squats, deadlifts and bench presses in detail in previous articles and barbell military press is your only missing link in ensuring that you achieve balanced muscle development, super strength and aesthetically pleasing proportions – once again, regardless of whether you are a gal or a guy. With military press, most men would quickly fill their sleeves and ladies would get rid of flabby arms and get them toned and looking beautiful – but the effect of this exercise spans far wider, affecting many different muscle groups.