How often have you gone to the gym with no direction and just kind of hopped around to whatever machine is open? Is it a frequent habit? If so then this post will help you a TON with understanding the importance of acute training variables and creating a plan of attack for your next session.
Acute training variables.. catchy title, right? Now let's dive into what this means for your workout session. Simply put, acute training variables are things that we can control within a training session, and we can manipulate just about everything to shift towards whatever goal you have, whether it's weight loss, weight gain, improve muscular power, etc.
There are 7 variables that I consider to mention that make up a training session, although you'll find other articles that might have less/more. Generally speaking, these are all accepted to consider mentioning.
- This relates to the frequency of training a specific muscle or muscle group. This is essential for creating a training split to follow for a set number of weeks which will help establish a routine. A good rule of thumb is to consider training a muscle group 1-3x per week, depending on how much volume (see #2) is applied to the muscle group.
- Volume is a sum of the total sets and reps for a training session. An important consideration with volume is to first determine the training goal. If the training goal is to increase strength, there should be higher sets (~15-20) with lower reps (<6) per set in a total session. If the goal is muscle growth, total sets should equate to ~10-20 with a moderate range of reps (8-15) in a total session. If muscle endurance is the goal, the same sets roughly as growth (~10-20) but an increased number of reps (>15) per set in a total session.
3) Exercise Selection
- Selecting the exercises relative to the muscle groups that you want to target for the training session and avoiding ones that don't target them as much. On a pulling day, it's best to have a combination of pulldown, rowing, and hip hinge exercises. Stick to a plan of the muscle group you want to target and execute.
4) Exercise Order
- Once you've selected the exercises, the order of execution is now the next step. Generally speaking in a session, you want to complete the heaviest weighted/multi-joint exercises, followed by the less intense/single-joint exercises. For example, on a chest day, it would look something like this
- A1) BB incline chest press
- A2) Bench superset movement
- B1) Dip
- B2) Heavy tricep movement
- C1) Cable fly - low to high
- C2) Lighter tricep movement
- C3) Bodyweight chest exercise
- Rest periods are in the top 3 of the most important training variables. We want to keep it consistent, not allow too much/little, and planned according to our training goal. Here are some guidelines for training goals regarding rest periods
- Strength/Power: 90-300 seconds (keep the nervous system from burning out)
- Hypertrophy (muscle building): 45-120 seconds
- Endurance: 10-60s
- Tempo is important again for determining what type of muscle response we want in a training session. If we are building strength/size, we want to incorporate plenty of eccentrics and isometrics. If our goal is power, we want absolutely nothing but a max effort in as little time as possible.
7) Muscle Action
- Eccentric, Isometric, Concentric. Do you want to focus more on one or a blend of everything? My answer, a blend.
Here's my hierarchy of training variables. Please message me if you have questions and would like to discuss why I have them listed in this particular order.. there's never one right answer to training and I'm always open for constructive conversations! :)