Atlas Health, Fitness, and Nutrition’s
10 Pillars of Training
1. As far as exercising goes, doing something is better than doing nothing, but strength training is better than everything.
You can do zumba, P90x, Insanity, jog, jump rope, walk, or strength train hard, they are all better than sitting on the couch or behind a desk. If you are looking to make changes in your body composition and long term health then strength training is unrivaled provided you are medically capable of doing it. There will be much more to come in the future on the benefits of strength training as compared to other methods.
2. Training vs. Working Out
You may not be training for a powerlifting meet, strongman competition, bodybuilding show, marathon, or track & field championship, but you are training for something, better health and being in better shape. Training is a mindset, working out makes it seem like a leisurely hobby or even worse a chore. When you are training dedicate yourself to that session and don’t let distractions like your cell phone or conversations with other people at the gym distract you from your training purpose.
Cardio is either praised or vilified depending on your point of view. Cardio like all methods of training is a tool. To some it may be the only type of training they are able to do and in that case Pillar 1 holds true and its better than doing nothing. However for those looking for the maximum benefit of their training cardio should take a back seat to strength training as cardio, particularly of the endurance type has the propensity to mess with hormone levels and add inflammation to the body creating havoc inside. Smart cardio done in conjunction with a strength training program is the most effective use of cardio and a good way to maximize your strength training with active restoration.
4. Machines vs. Free Weights
This is an interesting debate though one sided as it is. Free weights are superior in nearly every aspect to machines as they allow the body to move in natural movement patterns, allow for less muscular imbalances, are better for progressive overload, and are a truer gauge of strength and stability. Machines however do provide some positives and can be valuable tools if mixed in with a free weight based program. Machines are also a tool to be used with the very inexperienced lifters to allow them to train and strengthen movement patterns that they lack the coordination to perform with free weights. By building up from the bottom with machines leading to free weights the extreme beginners can see sky rocketing progress
5. Check Your Ego at the Door
Unless you’re training for a powerlifting, strongman, or Olympic lifting competition don’t worry about what you’re lifting. I’ve seen it a million times, someone who cannot handle a certain weight forcing himself to do bicep curls with 100 lbs trying to show off for his buddies. No good can come of that. When lifting work with the weights you can handle, and build from the ground up. If you have to start with just the bar when squatting then do that, in fact it’s recommended for an absolute beginner squatter. Weights that you’re lifting should be noted in your training log so you can refer to it during your next training session and strive to beat it, but don’t bite off more than you can chew.
6. Lift With Proper Form
This one ties in to Pillar 5 as trying to use too much weight often leads to improper form on lifts. Not learning the lift before you attempt it is another reason why people may lift with improper form. Improper form can lead to serious injuries, wasted training, and the learning of bad habits. Proper form is imperative in all lifts, especially the core lifts such as the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, etc. These lifts take years to master and that time and respect should be devoted to them.
7. Core Lifts
Your training should be based around the big multi-joint multi-muscle lifts such as the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, and row. These free weight lifts are proven to help build strength better than anything else. They work multiple muscles and muscle groups and follow natural body movement patterns. The lifts can be done using the greatest amount of weight compared with isolation exercises such as cable crossovers, leading to greater gains in strength and muscle building. As mentioned in Pillar 6 they do take time to master and should be done building from the ground up building in weight, sets, and reps as you progress with them.
While the core lifts should make up the bulk of your program it’s important to incorporate a variety of exercises in order to maximize your training. Lifts known as assistance exercises are used to build upon the core lifts and strengthen the muscles used leading to greater strength and muscle building. The lifts you can employ here cover a wide range of tools and are only limited to your imagination. These exercises should be done for less weight and different set and rep schemes than your main lifts. The variety helps to prevent boredom that could come with following the same core lift routine.
9. Personal Trainer?
This is a controversial one, should you get a personal trainer or not? Some people will get a trainer because they need motivation or because they are inexperienced and want and need to learn what to do. These are fine reasons for getting a trainer; the problem comes with personal trainers themselves. There is no governing body for personal trainers and there are hundreds of personal trainer certifications out there. Someone can read a few short books over a weekend, take a test and become a personal trainer, having never even set foot in a gym in their life! I’ve seen it many times, the 19 year old kid with a Mohawk who looks like he’s never set foot in a weight room in his life walking around with a Personal Trainer shirt having his clients do things that are worthless and will get them hurt. Personally I never used a trainer, I learned by watching experienced lifters at my gym and learning from watching the top trainers on youtube. If you do want a trainer because you need motivation or need to learn, then please interview the trainer. Find out how long he has been training, what his training philosophy is, how he trains himself, and the real results of some of his clients.
10. Have Fun!
Training should be fun, not a tedious chore. If you look at training as a chore then you will not be in the right mindset o train. Hit the gym with your goals in mind. Picture yourself nailing the 315 lb squat that has eluded you for a few weeks. Picture your bodyfat % hitting the level you’ve been striving for. Picture your doctor smiling as he tells you how much your health has improved. Compete with yourself at the gym to keep it fun and entertaining. Beat what you did last time; this ironically is the basis behind progressive overload, the best strategy for strength and muscle gains. Squatting is fun, deadlifting is fun, the clean & press is fun, to me it’s all fun, and that’s among the reasons why I train.