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Are you a 4 Sets, 10 Reps kinda guy or gal?

This post is for those of you that go to the gym just to be fit and healthy and may not have a complete understanding of what your doing or why your doing it. 

It's a simple one on why if you do 4 sets of 10 on every exercise you probably stopped 'feeling the burn' after about 2-4 weeks which for some, may have been a few years ago. 

Let's say your benching 50kgs, you do ten reps of just bouncing the bar up and down, you rest for a couple minutes, have a chat or watch the girl in front 'jog' to nowhere but fat storage on the treadmill and you repeat this cycle four times. If on your fourth set you bounce that same 50kgs ten times off your chest, where is the adaptation? 

You see even for the basics, you still need a structure and a little bit of education on how to choose the weight, how many sets, reps, the tempo and what's your rest time. 

Let's take 40 year old Joe who goes to the gym and think he's doing well with his 4 sets of 10 and we'll use the dumbbell bench press as an example. So you drop the weight towards your chest and drive up ten times which takes about 12-15 seconds. You sit up, get some water, select a new song, have a look around and two and a half minutes later you go again. So after eight and a half minutes your chest muscles have been under tension for a total of 48 seconds to one minute and on top of that your form was probably muck cause the weight you have is too heavy to lift correctly. 

So if I met Joe in the gym I'd probably give him the following advice. Take about 50% off your normal Bench Press weight. Now I want you to control the lower (Eccentric Phase) for 3 seconds. Now hold the weight at the chest (Isometric) for one second, Drive the weight back to the start position (Concentric) and pause at the top for 1 second before lowering it again. See what we've done? One single rep now holds the chest muscles under tension for five seconds. This is known as the tempo and will look like 31X1.

'Now Joe I want you to select a weight that you think you can lift eight times but would probably struggle to lift for twelve using our 31X1 tempo'. Joes picks up 10kg dumbbells and loses his form on the 11th rep. Remember, failure does not mean not being able to lift the weight but failure to lift the weight correctly. We're going to be strict on Joes rest and give him 75 seconds. 

On the second set he hits 10 reps and 8 reps on the third. So we want Joe hitting from 8-12reps on his fourth set but judging by his last I don't think he'll get it. So do we give him longer rest? No, we lighten the load. He drops to 9kg dumbbells and hits 9 reps with it. 

Remember the idea is to strain the muscle fibres. So beforehand Joes chest muscles were under tension for less than one minute over an eight and a half minute period. Now when Joe benches they're under tension for up to four minutes in under a nine minute period. That's a lot more strain on the muscle fibres and for it his body will have to adapt. Once you nutrition is right it will adapt by becoming bigger and stronger. Is your nutrition right? Have a look at a previous blog post HERE.

So remember to follow this structure:

1) Select a weight you should be able to lift eight times but struggle by twelve with correct form.

2) Use the tempo 31X1.

3) Be strict with your 75 seconds rest.

4) Implement this with whatever programme you've been given. It will even bring back to life the original one you were given when you first joined. If you don't have a program then get one of the instructors to give you one and change it around every 4-6 weeks. 

5) This can even be used with machines but the only thing I'd add is never lower the weights that they're rested on the stack. 

I hope you'll find this useful and any questions or comments, I'm always available.

Until next week,

Love and happiness,

John T.

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