As Purposeful Primitives we understand the need practice two distinct types of training: progressive resistance for the external musculature and cardiovascular training for the internal plumbing. In addition, training need be coordinated with a distinct eating regimen that amplifies instead of retards results. We know and accept these ultra-basic premises but then what?
Physiologically we understand that the optimal time to perform cardiovascular exercise is first thing in the morning while glycogen (emulsified carbs) stores are low in order to force the body to mobilize and oxidize stored body fat. We also understand that early morning cardio is sometimes not possible and cardio during the day is preferable to no cardio at all. Okay, so as Thomas Merton told the Dali Lama in 1965 while discussing the subtleties of purposefully thoughtless contemplation, “So Dali, tell me something I don’t know.” In the world of progressive resistance training it’s important to not continually play to your strengths. After you’ve been weight training for awhile biases for and against certain exercises emerge. “I love to bench press…I hate to squat…I love curls…overhead presses suck.” The problem is that by allowing these prejudices to take root and become institutionalized physical imbalances occur and down the long road this becomes problematic. Muscle imbalances set the stage for conditional injuries. Too much quad strength in relation to hamstring strength eventually results in problems. Muscles that lie on opposite sides of a limb need to be worked in roughly equal proportion and ignoring one or the other makes the individual far more susceptible to injury than if they’d never taken up weight training at all.
We can show you how to develop phenomenal strength and power in any muscle. Increase the strength of a muscle dramatically and a concurrent increase in muscle size occurs as a direct result. This is the undeniable physiological cause-and-effect between increased muscle strength and increased muscle size. We all have our likes and dislikes and there is nothing wrong with preferring bench presses over barbell rowing – as long as you do both and do both equally. The problems occur when you double up on bench pressing and drop lat work altogether, or do so little lat work (with a half-ass attitude) that gigantic strength and size imbalances occur. Okay, so in the interest of time let’s assume you’re convinced by the irrefutable logic of my argument – what constitutes progressive resistance training balance? My advice is to apportion available training time according to body mass. It makes no sense for trainees to spend 70% of their time in the gym training two muscles (pecs and biceps) that account for perhaps 15% of overall body mass. Yet this biased training approach is more common then not: walk into any commercial facility and the young bucks are spending 85% of their time training the infamous ‘beach muscles’ – pecs, shoulders, biceps, triceps and abs. Why train the back when you can’t see it in the mirror? Leg training is a joke – a few sets of leg extensions and lying leg curls. Maybe a few sets of seated calf raises. Back training is sissified to the max: a few sets of wide grip lat pulldowns or sub-maximal seated rows with poundage my 14-year old cheerleader daughter could handle. The back (erectors, traps, rear delts, rhomboids, teres, upper and lower lats) and legs (quads, hams, calves) account for approximately 70% of total body mass
About The Author
Marty Gallagher is a former fitness columnist for washingtonpost.com. Marty’s articles have been featured in Muscle Media, Muscle