I am not a scientist. I do not study biology or chemistry at college. I’m an English Major. However, I do have a fairly detailed laymen’s knowledge of the biological paradigms and processes that go into building muscle for either strength, size, or “tone”. I know what exercises to do for conditioning, for strength, and for hypertrophy. I am not trying to boast, I still have a lot to learn. The reason I know these things is because I take a very research-heavy approach to creating my own workout, and focus that research to fulfil whatever goals I am trying to achieve.
Currently, I am working towards a complex goal: being as strong as possible, while maintaining a lean look, being fast and explosive, and having a reasonable amount of endurance. When I’m done, I want to be a lot stronger than I would look while wearing the clothes I normally would around school. This is my problem. My hypothesis is that this is possible. I have come to this hypothesis, while seeing something similar in some of the leaner powerlifters, and some of the stronger crossfitters out there, so I’m not just shooting the breeze, here.
To achieve this, I have devised an experiment, which is manifested in my own routine. I combine powerlifting, for strength and explosiveness, with high-intensity interval training (HIIT), endurance cardio, and conditioning body-weight exercises. This sounds as complex as my goal, but, cardio aside, I do less than ten exercises through-out the week, maybe four in one day. I designed these exercises, knowing what they do, and trying to never train the same muscle group twice. I wanted to keep it as simple as possible.
Currently, I am experimenting to see if this particular training program is going to achieve the goal I want. During this phase, I am keeping very careful track of what I do on a daily basis. I keep track of what I eat, I write down every exercise I do, the weights I used, the reps and sets I did; if I’m doing cardio I keep track of for how long, how far, highest speed, and average speed. This is so I can see how close I am getting to my goals, or, if it’s not working at all, if I need to throw out the whole system and start from scratch.
Results are pending.
What I just described was the scientific method, the same one we all learned in high school: problem, research, hypothesis, experiment, result. This is important, if not necessary, to working out effectively, and the best thing about it is you don’t have to be a scientist to use it or understand it. You do, however, have to have an interest in taking a methodical approach to exercise, or, I think, whatever else it is that you want to excel at. However, for the purposes of this article, I’m going to stick to exercise as my example.
The most important thing about being scientific is research. Proper research and planning is the difference between getting the results you want in a year, versus taking several years and lots of wasted training time developing a program that works for you (though even that is not necessarily a bad thing: trial and error have been the hallmarks of scientific progress through the generations, but to do that effectively still requires you to have a good record of what your doing, and the ability to know what to keep and what to toss away.) Even more important, specifically to exercise, is proper research can prevent you from seriously hurting yourself. At my gym there are loads of people who do simple exercises like the bench press incorrectly.
I read an article recently in Flex magazine where Kai Greene talks about using feel and taking advantage of the mind-muscle connection to know which exercises to use, reps, sets, and so on. This is good for him, but someone new to exercising, even someone only at the intermediate level should really keep track of his exercises and have the particular exercises he’s going to do in mind before he gets to the gym. What the article fails to mention is that Kai is an extremely developed strength athlete who’s been exercising for the better part of 20 years. What it also fails to mention is the very ill-defined strength goals associated with professional bodybuilding, especially at that level.
Bodybuilding, essentially, concerned with stimulating sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, getting blood and sarcoplasmic fluid flowing to the muscle, without being concerned with a correlating strength gain. This is what causes the “pump” many bodybuilders seek. However, strength athletes like powerlifters and weightlifters are more concerned with stimulating myofibrillar hypertrophy, which stimulates the production of actin and myosin proteins in the muscle, and increases strength without a correlating increase in muscular size. The type of exercise that stimulates myofibrillar hypertrophy also stimulates your central nervous system, so that you are able to lift more and more weight without gaining huge amounts of mass. This is why there are powerlifters who only weigh 180 pounds but can squat well over 500.
This puts the article about Kai’s training program in a different light. If Kai greene is a person who 1: knows his body very well, because he has been training it for over 2 decades, and 2: isn’t primarily concerned with gains in either strength, speed, or endurance, just muscle size, then this way of training isn’t viable for either the athlete trying to become stronger or faster, or for a beginning, or even an intermediate level bodybuilder. Records, trial and error, and research, are all necessary for the most effective growth.
If the nitty-gritty detail of this doesn’t interest you, then you can hire a trainer. They are invaluable in this respect. They can do all of this for you, and they have the knowledge base to make sure you’re doing the exercise correctly, and that you’re doing the right exercises to accomplish your goals. This is what you pay them to do. If you can’t afford a trainer, then be prepared for a long slog, especially if you’re looking to achieve a major body transformation. These types of things take time, and the research and experiments you do will be the catalyst towards cutting that time short.