Training Efficiency

If you’re looking to get the most out of your weight training, whether it be maximal strength or hypertrophy (muscular gains), it would be wise to setup your training in an efficient manner. This means training towards your goal from a sets/reps/load standpoint, but also an exercise selection standpoint, in a way that is most productive.

For strength focused progression you want to spend most of your time on the bigger lifts that utilise more muscles which also allows for greater weight to be moved. Training intensity is an important factor and cycling through phases of training upwards of 80-95% of your 1RM will be effective to push for maximal strength. Strength focused training isn’t going to be based around dumbbell curls and glute kickbacks. Leg extensions will never be the driver of maximal strength.

For hypertrophy focused progression total training volume plays a large role. Again, incorporating the bigger more demanding lifts will mean more weight will be moved and therefore (with sufficient reps/sets) more volume will be completed. Hypertrophy focused training isn’t going to be based around doing 5 sets of 5 reps or 3 sets of 3 reps at 80-95% of your 1RM. It is going to require higher total reps to be completed to push for gains. If you’re lifting super heavy this requires doing way more total sets and more recovery time to make up for the low reps. However, doing dumbbell curls, glute kickbacks, or leg extensions for sets of 20 with a light weight and limited rest periods to “feel the burn” isn’t going to be the driver of maximal hypertrophy either if it lacks total volume and intensity compared to using a moderately heavy weight and resting sufficiently.

Confused? The next time you go to the gym simply ask yourself: am I actually progressing in strength or muscular size? Am I training towards a goal? Am I lifting the same weight I did months or years ago, at the same intensity, for the same total reps and sets? Do I even look like I lift?

Strength Focused – am I basing my training around compound movements, heavier loads, and rep/set schemes considering my 1RM for the major movements. Spending most of my time in the 1-6 rep range.

Hypertrophy Focused – am I basing my training around total volume progression, realising that compound movements will allow for more weight to be used, and doing endless reps/sets with light weights will more than likely be lower in total volume than spending most of my time in the 6-12 rep range with heavier loads.

Note that increased strength and hypertrophy can be achieved concurrently, so it is not always a “pick one” situation. Just stop doing the ineffective stuff like 20 reps for everything for months on end, or “I want a huge chest so I’m going to try to hit my 1 rep max every week”.

Training efficiency considered, don’t waste more time in each training session than you need to. if your goal is maximal strength doing 6-10 exercises per training session or getting a pump probably isn’t useful. If your goal is maximal hypertrophy constantly testing your 1RM, doing 3-5 reps for endless sets to try to make up for the volume, or lifting feathers and focusing on the squeeze probably isn’t going to be the most efficient use of your time.

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