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Strength Training Anatomy Workout

These are my notes on the "20 Steps to Developing Your Program" from "The Strength Training Anatomy Workout" by Frederic Delavier and Michael Gundill

For more detailed information, buy the book :)
Also, you may want to look at the second volume to this series (I have not read this one)
Amazon - Strength Training Anatomy Workout II

Some prerequisites
Rest days are just as important as training days.
If you stop making progress, you may not be getting enough recovery time.
This means volume of work is excessive compared to ability to recover.

The very first step - Clearly Define Your Objectives
  • Develop Muscles
  • Slim down
  • Improve Performance
  • Maintain Health
  • Often a combination of these, write it down, and review before each training session
Quantify Your Objectives
  • If you can, put your objectives in the form of "Gain 10 pounds of muscle in X months"
  • Must constantly change program as a function of your muscle growth
20 Steps to Developing Your Program

1) How many times per week should you train?

  • Depends on your schedule
  • one day is better than none
  • two days makes a good minimum especially for athletes doing other workouts
  • For others, 3 times a week is ideal
  • No more than 4 sessions based on overtraining being more damaging than undertraining
    If you are a beginner than your starting enthusiasm and energy may turn into disillusionment and fatigue if you overtrain

2) Which days should you train? 

  • Ideally one day of workout followed by at least one day of rest
  • Otherwise, whenever it fits into your schedule

3) How many times per week should you work each muscle?

  • If an athlete, one time per week could suffice
  • Otherwise do each muscle 2 to 3 times per week

4) Should you exercise once or twice per day?

  • Depends on your schedule and level of fitness
  • If lifting only once or twice per week, then twice a day may be best option

5) What time of day should you workout?

  • Majority of athletes are strongest around 6 to 7 pm
  • A good rule is to always workout at the same time each day

6) How many muscles should you work during a training session?

    Body is made up of six muscle groups
  1. Arms (biceps, triceps, forearms)
  2. Shoulders
  3. Chest
  4. Back
  5. Abdomen
  6. Legs (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves)
  • Depends on the number of times you workout per week
  • If 1, 2, or 3 workouts per week, then workout every muscle group in one session
  • Else you can split the muscle groups into manageable sessions

7) In what order should you work the muscles?

    Good order for working muscles depends on
  1. Simple rules to follow
  2. The priority you have assigned to each muscle group
  3. Your weak areas
  4. The principle of rotation
    Simple Rules
  • Don't work arms before chest, shoulders, or back
  • Don't work calves before thighs
  • Work the upper body before the lower body
  • Do not go upper, lower, upper, lower muscle group exercises unless for a specific sport.  Stick to muscles close together for muscle mass
  • These rules do not apply to circuit training
    Workout the highest priority muscle group first
    Weak Areas
    Always emphasize your weak areas
    Principle of rotation
  • Alternate the muscles that you work first during a session
  • Can also rotate muscle groups that you wish to emphasize
  • Not as important for people who train one muscle group per session

8) How many sets should you do for each muscle?

Must always do one or two light sets as a warm up

Work for each muscle determined by
  1. Number of sets per exercise
  2. Number of exercises per muscle
  • Not doing easy sets to reach a magic number
  • You should have difficulty finishing your sets
  • When abrupt loss of strength occurs you know you have done too many sets
  • Multiple sets is almost always best, but rare people can so one max set

9) How many exercises should you do for each muscle?

  • Unless advanced, no more than 3 exercises for a large muscle group
  • No more than 2 for a small muscle group
  • Should not change your exercises too quickly
    When starting a new exercise, a muscle cannot give all its effort until it learns to mobilize all its strength for that movement.  This is why you shouldn't change exercises too quickly.

10) How many repetitions should you do in each set?

  • Intensity of muscle contraction is most important for results
  • If you can do 15 reps when you are supposed to do 12, then do them, but increase weight for next set
General rules for reps
  • 1 to 4 reps, gain strength as top priority
  • At least 20 reps, Endurance
  • Typically move in a pyramid 20, 12, 8, 6, 4 or 20, 12, 8, 6, 15, 20

11) How quickly should you perform the repetitions?

  • When in doubt lift slowly rather than quickly
  • Take one or 2 seconds to lift the weight
  • Hold the contracted position for 1 sec while contracting the muscle as strongly as possible
  • Slowly release and lower the weight over 2 seconds
That is for mastery of basic technique
Fine line between explosive and losing control
Explosive is for athletes looking to improve performance rather than developing muscle mass
Does not apply to plyometric training

12) How long should a workout last?

  • Goal is to stimulate muscles to the max in the shortest time possible
  • Favor a workout's intensity rather than length
  • Your schedule and availability are the key factors
  • Can be done in 15 to 20 minutes, but prefer at least 30 min
  • Ideal is 45 to 60 min
  • Warm-up does not count as workout time
Exercising over an hour is an indicator that you may be
  • Working too many muscles per session
  • Do too many exercises
  • Do too many sets
  • Take too much rest time between sets

13) What is the optimal rest time between two sets?

  • Can be between 5 sec to 2 min
  • More rest for difficult exercises and heavy weights
  • Less rest for isolation exercises and lighter weights

Your goals determine rest time
  • To build muscle mass 1 min is good average
  • To gain pure strength, as much time as needed to fully recover, up to 2 min
  • Increase strength and endurance, brief rest periods, try to decrease rest periods
  • Increase endurance, circuit training or training without rest times is ideal
add another set when
  • You are breathing normally
  • Enthusiasm is overcoming fatigue
  • Ensure you are focused
  • Know your target reps
  • Know reason for doing set (Add 1cm to arms in 2 months)
Be wary of abrupt decrease in strength, can mean too many sets or lack of rest time

14) How do you determine the most appropriate weight for each movement?

Three broad weight zones
  1. Zone 1 - Weight seems light and does not require much effort to lift
  2. Zone 2 - Weight allows you to feel your muscles work and perform exercise perfectly
  3. Zone 3 - Weight requires you to cheat to lift them and does not allow you to feel your muscles working
Typical workout should have
  • Warm-up sets in Zone 1 and upper zone 1
  • Bulk of sets in lower zone 2 and upper zone 2
  • 1 or 2 sets in lower zone 3 to prepare your mind for training to come

15) When should you increase the weight?

1) Number of repetitions
  • when you reach target reps, 12 for muscle mass, 20 for endurance
2) Ability to handle weight easily
  • To reach target number has your form deteriorated?
Do not increase weight too fast!!

1) Have you have artificially reached your target number?
  • Don't increase, work on form
2) Do you feel at ease with a weight that seems too light?
  • Increase weight in proportion to how far you exceeded target reps

16) Should you rest between working two muscle groups?

Use same amount of time as between sets, but not necessary to take a break.

17) How do you pick the exercises that will work the best for you?

  • Eliminate exercises that do not work well with your anatomy
For example, squats for people with long thighs could cause back injury
  • Learn the advantages and disadvantages of a particular workout
If advantages meet your needs and disadvantages do not contradict your goals then do it

Weight Training Exercises can be divided into two large groups

1) Multijoint exercises
  • More natural and effective than isolation
  • Stimulate max numbers of muscle groups in min time
  • Manipulate heavy weights
  • Physically difficult to perform
  • May not be targeting specific muscle you want to develop
2) Isolation Exercises
  • Affect only one joint
  • Use less strength and energy
  • Targets muscle better
  • Can't use heavy weight
  • Less effective at increasing size and strength

18) When should you change your training program?

  • Do you like to stick with what works?
  • or Do you like to constantly try something new?
1)  Plateau or regression in strength
  • Progression stops over at least a 2 week period
2)  Boredom - When you have lost your enthusiasm

    Severe boredom or total lack of interest
  • Possibly overtraining, take a break, reduce volume, or completely restructure entire workout
    Lack of interest for a given workout day
  • Is lack of interest due to the muscle group, the exercise, or the intensity?
  • On days you are motivated, why?
  • Can you transfer this motivation over?
    Lack of interest in working a given muscle
  • Change the exercise for that muscle
    Lack of interest in an exercise
  • Change the exercise

  • There is no set rule for when to change your program
  • As long as you are making gains, why change it?
  • Your body will let you know when it is time to change by lack of results
  • Difference between beginner and advanced is the ability to perceive these signals

19) What is the role of periodizing training?

  • Applies mostly to athletes
  • Physical preparation must vary in relation to competition dates
  • An athlete's performance must be at its peak during competitive phase
Off-season strategies
  1. Reduce volume of work so you can recover
  2. Intensify weight training program to boost performance
  3. Choose not to periodize training
Must consider your capacity to recover, your goals, and state of joints, tendons, and muscles

For gaining muscle

    1) Completely Periodized Training
  • Stop training periodically, e.g. take one week's rest after three months of work
  • Good for muscle recovery, and mental relaxation
  • Bad if you never come off the break or gain too much fat during break
    2)  Targeted Breaks
  • Shift focus on one or two large muscle groups, let others relax
  • Typically default program for an injury
    3) No Breaks
  • Must be smart in how you pace yourself
  • Joints do not have time to recover
Bottom Line: Personal decision, do what works for you

20) Should you take a vacation?

  • For long term progress, it may be best to take a few weeks vacation
  • Allows your joints and tendons to recover