There is a general assumption that when someone wants to “get in shape” that they must orientate themselves towards a single training strategy or style. So we see well-meaning individuals twisting their bodies into sweaty pretzels during Bikram yoga, pounding the pavement or just lifting lots of heavy stuff to get the body they desire. Whilst any of these pursuits might be perfectly fine in themselves, relying on one basic training modality or philosophy is sub-optimal when seeking peak health, athleticism and favourable body composition.
With the exception of event specific skill work, this is the approach that all world-class coaches adopt for their athletes. Whether you’re an Olympian, weekend warrior or budding physique model being aware of these components will help you achieve your goals as efficiently as possible. Now if you are happy just doing your yoga, going for a run or ripping heavy weights off the ground don’t let me discourage you. I understand that many people engage in these activities for reasons other than physical progress. However, if your goals are a little more ambitious you may want to read on.
By way of general illustration let me use myself as an example. I’m in the invidious position of having recently injured my knee; love to say it was a heroic sporting injury but actually natural and unusual clumsiness. I’ve subsequently contracted a minor virus and have business commitments that contribute to my general stress levels. Not asking you to cry me a river, just pointing out there are some considerations to take into account. On the plus side, I’m quite experienced in the gym, have well above average baseline conditioning and routinely maintain low body fat percentage.
My current goals are to gain around 4-5kg lean-mass in the next few months whilst maintaining similar body fat levels. In order to realise this goal the strength and recovery aspects of my training are going to have to be the main priorities. However, in order to keep body fat in check and allow me to consume more food I’ll need to maintain some energy-system work (conditioning). Additionally maintaining a regular mobility practise will off set potential injury concerns and help me maintain structural balance as I gain mass.
Without going into specifics a general overview of the next three-week micro cycle will look like this:
Westside physique program
Day 1 – Upper body max effort
Day 2 – Lower body quad dominant
Day 3 – Upper body repetition
Day 4 – Lower Body hip dominant
Day 5 – week point training/additional conditioning/additional mobility
1 x metabolic core (15 minutes)
1 x sled push (15 minutes)
3 x 30 minutes fast paced walking
1. Sleep 8 hours nightly
2. Hydration 3l filtered water daily
3. Daily meditation 20 minutes
4. *20% above maintenance calories from carbohydrates around strength training
*2.2g protein per kg bodyweight – rotating protein sources
*rotational fat sources
*high alkaline food consumption
5. One per week Epsom bath
Foam roll and mobility circuit twice daily
One yoga session per week
Bowen or other fascial therapy if necessary
This is a very basic overview and I can guarantee it will get tweaked week-by-week depending on a list of criteria. For instance if recovery is sub-par I may need to revaluate nutrition, supplementation or training volume. Equally I may need monitor my sleep more closely.
On paper it can look quite time consuming but in reality it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Strength training takes up around 60 minutes per session and my conditioning sessions are hard but brief in duration. Most mobility work is done prior to training and any additional stuff can be first up in the morning or if I’m winding down at night. I’ve got my own basic routine that takes the best part of 10 minutes if I’m really taking my time and could probably be done in 5 if needed. For meditation, I refer you to the Zen proverb: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” Food prep and sleep, well you’ve got to do that anyway
It should also be stated that there is a natural cross over between these different areas. For instance, foam rolling and mobility contributes to recovery as does low intensity energy system work. By the same token some aspects of my strength work contributes to anaerobic conditioning.
Is this an appropriate schedule for you? Unless you are me with my goals and background, probably not. A client interested only in rapid fat loss will primarily need to focus on dialing in nutrition alongside managing their conditioning. That said strength and hypertrophy should remain a mainstay if they actually want to look lean and athletic. Stress and sleep need to be judiciously monitored due to the relationship between cortisol, insulin sensitivity and fat loss. In fact poor quality sleep can be one of the biggest and sneakiest hindrances to fat loss.
The basic point of this post is to look closely at your goals in a holistic sense and match them against these four components of fitness. If you have glaring deficiencies or areas of neglect, prioritize them. It’s all well and good to be able to put you feet behind your head but if you have a physique like Mr. Bean (I do apologise Rowan Atkinson), maybe its time to expose that bendy body to some resistance training. Similarly, if you’re strong as an ox but have the aerobic capacity of an octogenarian asthmatic and struggle to touch your toes do you really need to be told some intelligent conditioning and mobility work would make you a more complete athlete.
Bottom line, if you want truly exceptional results in your health and physique balance your strength training, conditioning, mobility and recovery. If you would like to find out how you can get better results by mixing up your training email me on firstname.lastname@example.org