Improve performance, increase strength and prevent injuries with this 6 phase training system.
Do you follow a structured training programme? Or are you guilty of entering the gym going straight to the squat rack without any warm up and start lifting heavy? Or you might stroll into the gym and have a go on any machine that’s free. Maybe it’s a couple of sets of lat pull downs, some curls, and a bit of bench. There was no reason or purpose behind your session, you just did whatever you felt like. Or you might go to the gym and honestly not have a clue on what to do. You’re unsure how to use the machines and the weights look intimidating. If this is the case then have a read of my blog which shows you a simple and effective way to train.
I think most people have been guilty of this. At least knowing what you’re going to do in the gym is better than making it up on the spot. Having a structure to your session is the difference between peak performance, new PR’s and injury prevention, to having constant aches, pains and performing like crap.
I’ve followed many structures over the years. My warm up would include some sort of foam rolling, the main session would be a superset or circuit and the cool down would be static stretching. While this has some sort of structure it wasn’t getting me the results I wanted.
It wasn’t until I followed this 6 phase system that my results sky rocketed. I was free from pain, daily discomfort and learnt how I could get the most out of my body and perform at my best every session. This 6 phase system can be applied to everyone, from athlete, to general gym goer and even the elderly. If you’re goal is to build muscle, burn fat, perform better in your sport, or sculpt a better physique then this system works. The template stays the same, but the meat and potatoes changes depending on your goals. (but not that much actually)
OK lets dive into this 6 phase system so you can learn how to get the most out your session.
Phase 1 - Warm up
This is the phase were you prime the body for exercise. The warm up should increase body temperature, mobilise the major joints and activate the muscles that are going to be used in the session.
Increasing core temperature signals the body for exercise. Blood flow increases, muscles become active and the central nervous system starts to excite. This could be something as simple as 5 mins on a treadmill, cross trainer, or a dynamic warm up using bodyweight.
Mobilising lubricates the synovial fluid around the joints. When the joints are moving and sliding freely you are able to move better and put your body into more advantageous positions.
Our body thrives on movement and this part of the warm up is essential, especially if you have been sitting for the majority of the day. The last part of the warm up phase is muscle activation. Muscle activation creates tension and stimulation of the muscles that are going to be used in the main part of the session. If you want to perform optimally, lift heavy and stay clear of injury then don’t skip this part.
An example activation circuit for a full body day could look like this:
- Stability ball hamstring curl 3x15
- Side Plank 3 x 20 sec per side
- Band Pull aparts 3x12
Phase 2 - CNS activation
This phase is the one that’s most overlooked. The central nervous system needs to be excited before you lift heavy or workout intensely. Exciting the CNS puts the body into fight or flight mode. This makes you more explosive, stronger and alert so you are able to train that little bit harder. This also improves muscular contraction and will basically wake your ass up ready to train.
You don’t need to go crazy here, but focus on quality. Each rep must be at 100% effort with 100% focus on being as explosive as possible.
2-3 sets of 3-5 reps is enough. If it’s lower body day then box jumps, vertical jumps, broad jumps or short sprints work great. If it’s upper body day, then med ball slams, pylo push ups, med ball chest passes work well.
Phase 3 - Strength
This is the main part of the session. If your goal is to burn fat, build muscle or become stronger then research shows that lifting heavy gets the bests results. Have a read of my blog 5 reasons to resistance train and why lifting weights is so important.
In this phase you focus on a main compound lift like the deadlift, squat, bench or heavy row. The important part here is progressive overload. This basically means doing more in each session, whether that’s lifting heavier weight, doing more sets, reps, or just getting better at performing the movement pattern.
I recommend tracking your progress. Tracking is really motivating, as it let’s you know if you are actually improving and shows you what areas you need to improve on. Buy a notepad, keep track of your sets, reps, weight and try to get better each week.
An example set/rep scheme for a main lift might be: Barbell Deadlift 2-3 warm up sets, followed by 4x5 working sets.
Phase 4 - Accessory Work
This is the phase where you can optimise results by focusing on movements that will help improve your main lift, build muscle in a lagging body part, or improve your overall aesthetic physique.
These movements can be single leg/arm variations, pulling and pushing movements as well as isolation or core exercises. These can be performed us supersets, or in a circuit which saves time and increases work capacity helping you to burn more body fat.
The rep range can be between 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps. Here is an example of accessory exercises for a full body session.
- Chest supported row 4x12
- Waking lunges 3x10/side
- Single arm DB floor press 3x8/side
- Hanging Leg raises 4x12
Phase 5 - Metabolic finisher
This phase is optional and most of the time not needed. I could ignore this and skip straight into the cool down and recovery phase. But IF you need it, then this phase adds more volume and can be used to burn out certain muscle groups. This can be a HIIT finisher, an ab, shoulder/arms finisher, a strong man finisher, or some high intensity work on a machine. This helps burn more calories, and creates a muscle pump that can improve your physique.
An example HIIT finisher may be a reverse tabata on the assault bike or treadmill. 10 secs of max effort followed by 20 seconds of recovery or easy pace. Continue using these intervals for 4 mins. Or try some of these full body finishers that will be sure to do the job.
Phase 6 - Cool down.
This is the phase where you want to get out of fight or flight, and into the rest and digest system. The quicker you start the recovery process the better chance the body has of finding it’s natural balance, and you’ll be able to train just as hard next time you’re in the gym. If you skip this part then you run the risk of burnout, fatigue, injury, and will feel like crap outside of the gym. Static stretches, light mobilisation, breathing drills and nutrition all play a role here.
Box breathing brings you straight into the rest and digest system and can be used straight after your last set or exercise. Place your feet over the bench, close your eyes and focus on your breath.
A Protein/carb shake signals the body to rest, recover and rebuild. Have a mix of protein powder and a fast acting carb like oats or a carb powder within 20 mins after training. Having this shake isn't mandatory but is recommend if you’re not able to eat in the next few hours.
Static stretch the muscles that were used in the session or all the culprits that usually tight. Such as your chest, quads and hip flexors. A good rule of thumb here is to stretch/mobilise the front of the body or the muscles you can see in the mirror as most people are bound up and tight in these areas.
If you want to perform at your best, stay away from aches and pains while increase your longevity in the gym, then I recommend following this 6 phase system.
This can be individualised even further with exercises, sets/reps and training modalities that are implemented to get you the best results possible. Let me know if are interested and I can design you a programme specifically to your goals.
Don’t make the same mistakes as everyone else. Take the time to train intelligently, take care of your body, track your progress and stay strong and healthy in the gym. As always get hold of me anytime if you have any questions.