In [a previous] issue of Vegan Health and Fitness I wrote about the myths regarding women and lifting, and how beneficial weight training actually is for everyone, especially women. People ask me all the time about my lifting program and how long it has taken me to get where I am today. For 16 years I have consistently lifted weights. In this article I will discuss in detail how I train.
First, I separate my cardio and weight training. I usually lift weights in the morning and then do some type of cardio during the day or evening on most days. During one week, I do at least five cardio sessions. My favorite types of cardio are boxing, sprinting, and skipping rope. Even though I do the same types of cardio each week, I always mix up which ones I do to challenge myself.
Now, let’s talk weight lifting. My current training program consists of focusing on one body part per day. For example, I will train chest on Monday and then I won’t train chest again until six days later. I spend one-to-two hours on one body part, really blasting the muscle, then I give it six days of rest. If I feel like a muscle group is lacking, then I will hit that muscle twice in one week. Lately, I feel like my back needs more work so I have been spending two hard days during the week on just my back.
Typically I will start my workout with a compound/multi joint exercise (the use of more than one major muscle group at a time), and then I focus on isolated movements later on in the workout. During the course of my workout I will go super heavy, for one-to-five reps, medium weight for 6-to-15 reps and lighter weight for 25-to-50 reps. However, I focus mostly on the 6-to-15 rep range because my aim is to gain as much muscle mass as possible. I’ve found though, including a high rep range can also aid hypertrophy. It’s important to me to have muscle endurance as well, which is why I incorporate a high-rep range.
Over my years of training I swear by adding high reps into my everyday routine. By following this, my strength has increased tremendously. Remember, muscle endurance will increase muscle mass as well. At the end of a workout I will do 50-to-100 reps of just one exercise to burn out. The whole idea behind how I train is to hit all the muscle fibers, fast and slow twitch. When I’m training, my goal is to work and recruit as many muscle fibers as possible. Targeting more muscle fibers means greater gains in strength and muscle mass.
During my workout I always include a burnout set at the end of an exercise. For example, on my last set of chest I will strip the weight to about half of my max and rep out as many as possible. Another type of burnout that I incorporate is single arm isolation. For example, with the dumbbell chest press exercise, I will press one arm at a time. The other arm is up in the air being engaged the entire time. Then, I switch arms.
Also, I include negative movements, supersets and unilateral movements in my workouts. Sometimes I will end a set with negatives or maybe even my entire workout with negatives. Negatives means going extra slow on the eccentric (on the way down) movement. This puts a ton of added stress on the muscle fibers and makes me extremely sore, so I don’t do this type of workout every day.
The last technique I add into my workouts is working my limbs unilaterally, (working one arm or leg at a time.) When we squat, bench press, or military press it is common that one limb is working harder than the other, even though you feel like you’re pressing evenly. I will add a unilateral movement at the end of each set or complete a whole workout just doing unilateral movements. It’s important that both your arms and legs are equal in strength. An imbalance in strength can cause issues later in life, such as back or knee problems.
On the days that I don’t have a ton of time, I will do an entire bodyweight workout at home or at the gym.
For example, I will do 1,000 pushups, with several different variations. I hit every muscle in my arms. This usually takes 45 minutes.
For legs, I will complete 1,000 bodyweight squats and lunges of different variations. Finally for my back, l do 500 pull ups of different variations.
I love to be outdoors, so sometimes I will go to the local park and do pull ups and muscle ups on the monkey bars. You don’t need fancy expensive equipment to get a great workout. These bodyweight workouts are some of my favorites because they are super challenging and I’m completely fatigued when I’m done.