IN THIS INSTALLMENT OF OUR SERIES ON TRAINING FOR AESTHETICS, I WILL BE DISCUSSING EXERCISE AND EQUIPMENT SELECTION.
Exercises and the types of equipment you choose to use are generally interchangeable, and can be used in conjunction with any of the rep ranges discussed in our previous column. When it comes to developing your physique there is no form of training that is technically a waste of time (unless your effort and intensity are lacking). However, there is a way to derive maximum benefit from the session, to reach your goal, when selecting certain exercises.
As previously discussed, the optimal rep range for gaining size is 4-6 reps. With this in mind, the goal is to fatigue the targeted muscle with low rep sets using the heaviest weight possible.
Where many people miss the mark as far as this concept goes is that they often only lift heavy weights for specific exercises, and dont aim to lift the heaviest possible weights across all exercises. As an example, if someone is able to bench press 145kg for six reps they may only be able to dumbbell press 55kg in each hand for the same number of reps. This means that, per rep, you’re moving a combined weight of 11 Okg when using dumbbells, compared to the 145kg with an Olympic bar.
Why is this? Well, exercises performed with the bar use fewer stabilising muscles than dumbbells.This makes it the idealpiece of equipment to maximise strength and size gains as youre able to lift more weight per rep. This is generally the case for every exercise, with the possible exception of leg presses as opposed to squats.
The mid rep range of 10-12 reps is where most guys work to develop the ultimate physique. In this rep range dumbbells are the key to maximising muscular development. You can use bars in this rep range too, but dumbbells stress the accessory and stabiliser muscles that support the primary movers. For this reason, my second exercise selection in any workout will usually
move to dumbbells, unless I’m training legs (in this instance my second exercise would be a squat).
HIGH REP TRAINING
High rep training, in the 20-25 rep range, requires the use of lighter weights, which enables you to select a wider variety of equipment and exercises, as the risk of injury is so much lower than during heavy weight training.
It is also beneficial to use other tools that can help to sculpt your physique when working in this rep range.The constant tension of cables, for instance, offers the ideal stimulus to develop a more defined and’chiselled’look to muscles.
By maintaining tension on the muscle throughout the eccentric and concentric phases of a cable exercise you promote greater blood flow to the targeted muscle, which helps to boost pumps, and aids recovery and the removal of exercise-induced metabolites. The ability to ‘squeeze and hold the peak contractions of reps also promotes the development of more defined muscles, without adding much size.
Bodyweight exercises are another form of training that is ideal for this rep range. Most bodyweight exercises are functional, which means they incorporate a number of muscle groups. This makes them an ideal means to cross train for increased fitness and muscle endurance when used in conjunction with the higher rep ranges.
While this is a pretty broad, generalised overview, it gives you a better idea of the types of exercises you should be selecting to achieve specific aesthetic goals. This should be enough to form a solid foundation in terms of exercise prescription, and equipment selection in your quest for the ultimate physique.
As a parting thought, I would like to share the following words of motivation, especially if your New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside this early in the year. Results are a product of consistency, not isolated effort. Its probably the least talked about aspect of health and fitness, and achieving the body you’ve always dreamed of, but consistency in your approach is ultimately the key to lasting success. As we move into the month of March bear in mind that it often takes three months, in general, before you start noticing visible results in the mirror, not just a shift in the numbers on the scale. So dont give up just yet!