AMERICAN PARTISAN WORKOUT FUNDAMENTALS, PART 3
Greetings, Partisans! By now, we’ve gotten deep into the weeds of putting together a high-quality, fitness-boosting workout program, and we’ve covered:
A lot of important theory has been covered so far, but there are still several more elements to grasp to round out the fitness skill-building, so we’ll get to two more Fundamentals today:
American Partisan Workout Fundamentals, Concept #5: Exercise Circuits
American Partisan Workout Fundamentals, Concept #6: Progressive Overload
In any case, I’m glad to still have those American Partisans who are hanging in there as I roll out the Fundamentals! Once again, this series on the American Partisan Workout Fundamentals is not about instant gratification, and requires some thought and consideration to get the most out of it – no “workouts to go” here just yet. Rest assured that your patience will be rewarded as you stay with the series and grow your knowledge.
AMERICAN PARTISAN WORKOUT FUNDAMENTALS, CONCEPT #5:
**** EXERCISE CIRCUITS ****
A logical and understandable question the new (or returning) APO trainee may have, especially after considering Concept #3: The Integrated Workout Formula and Concept #4: Proper Selection of Quality Strength Training Exercises, is “how the heck am I going to squeeze all that into PART of a 1-hour workout…that has other parts too??” It’s definitely a legitimate question! Unlike our fellow “Americans” who choose not to work, but receive “entitlements” (nice word there, eh?) and have all kinds of free time… I’d wager that the average APO is a REAL American that has to work for a living, and doesn’t have all kinds of time to hang around and workout. This is where Exercise Circuits come in – they are your friend!
One of my strongest internal drives is to aim for maximum efficiency in whatever I’m doing, so I’m always seeking to get the best efficiency I can with my time, my movement, the way I drive somewhere, the processes I am engaged in… pretty much anything; it’s automatic. When it comes to exercising, then, time and movement efficiency can best be realized by working out in Circuit fashion. At this point in my workout career, I exercise almost exclusively in Circuit fashion – there’s no going back once you realize the time and movement efficiency of an Exercise Circuit.
Exercise Circuits are simple: execute an Exercise Circuit by selecting high-quality exercises that don’t conflict with each other, and perform them in a pre-arranged sequence for the desired number of sets and time until finished. You’ll be moving from one exercise to the next with or without a set rest period between the Exercise Circuit’s different movements, depending on what pathway of exercise you’re in.
Here are some example Strength Training Circuits that satisfy the requirements stated above:
Strength Training Exercise Circuit Example 1: Barbell Back Squats (Legs – Front); rest for 90 seconds –> Flat Barbell Bench Press (Horizontal Push); go immediately to next exercise –> Chin-Ups (Vertical Pull); wait 30 seconds –> Front Neck Bridge for 60 seconds (Neck); rest for 2.5 minutes, and repeat the Strength Training Exercise Circuit three more times, starting with the Barbell Back Squats
Strength Training Exercise Circuit Example 2: Standing Dumbbell Overhead Press (Vertical Push); rest for 90 seconds –> Bent-Over Barbell Row (Horizontal Pull); go immediately to next exercise –> Sit-Ups (Core – abdominals); rest for 60 seconds –> Back Neck Bridge for Reps (Neck); rest for 2 minutes, and repeat the Strength Training Exercise Circuit three more times, starting with the Standing Dumbbell Overhead Press
Here are some examples of Conditioning Training Circuits that satisfy the requirements stated above:
Conditioning Training Exercise Circuit Example 1: Side Straddle Hops (aka Jumping Jacks) for 60 seconds; go immediately to next exercise –> Push-Ups for 60 seconds; go immediately to next exercise –> Alternating Toe Touches; go immediately to next exercise –> Light Barbell Curls for 60 seconds; rest for 1 minute, and repeat Conditioning Training Exercise Circuit two more times, starting with Side Straddle Hops for 60 seconds
Conditioning Training Exercise Circuit Example 2: Run 1/4 Mile (on treadmill or track); go immediately to next exercise –> Lying Knee Raises for 90 seconds; go immediately to next exercise –> Handstand Against Wall for 60 seconds; go immediately to next exercise –> Chin-Ups for 60 seconds; go immediately to next exercise –> Dumbbell Side Bends for 60 seconds; rest for 2 minutes, and repeat Conditioning Training Exercise Circuit two more times, starting with a 1/4-Mile Run
We’ll get a bit more into Rest Period theory (a Workout Fundamental of its own) in an upcoming post – rest is a critical matter! For now, please take particular note of HOW these Exercise Circuits are arranged: sequentially, and in non-conflicting form. The elegance of focusing on each of the Primary Movement categories is that Pushes don’t conflict with Pulls, and Legs conflict with neither; this way, you can often get at least three exercises into a Strength Training Exercise Circuit seamlessly! On the other hand, for example, combining Incline Barbell Bench Press (“Push”) with Push-Ups (“Push”) is going to lead to a “Push Overlap”, such that execution of these two related exercises together will lead to a loss of performance even within the first Circuit containing them. I’ve seen quite a bit of these types of conflicting combinations over the years in which a lifter will pair two (or more) movements closely related to each other, and this practice always left me scratching my head because of the inefficiency of it. Therefore, for each circuit, choose ONE exercise from each Primary Movement category to populate your efficient circuit.
Secondary Movements can and should also be inserted into a Strength Training Exercise Circuit, so long as they don’t conflict with other movements in the Exercise Circuit. So, for example, you wouldn’t want to put a Grip-building exercise in the same circuit as a Pull Exercise, because your gripping ability for the Primary Movement will likely suffer and then reduce your performance in both (= not a good idea). In another example, performing a Plank (which uses the front of the shoulder) together with your Overhead Press or Handstand may or may not cause a conflict, depending on the person (see what works for you). And so, while you definitely want to cover Secondary Movements in your Circuits, you need to make sure they are included in a way that doesn’t interfere with the flow of action; you may have to perform Secondary Movements in smaller circuits or use different movement category combinations, to be done after the Primary Movements are all completed. There are enough possibilities and exercises to permit for thorough coverage of both Primary and Secondary Movement requirements.
Importantly, I’d like to distinctly point out that, generally speaking, Core Exercises for the abdominals (like Sit-Ups and Leg Lifts) and even a lot of Neck work can be smoothly included in most Primary Movement-based circuits. Therefore, in many cases, a good Exercise Circuit can cover PUSH-PULL-LEGS-ABDOMINALS (CORE)-NECK movement categories without any movement within the Circuit conflicting with another. At the same time, take note that I specified the “abdominals” form of Core work; the lower back is also part of the Core “system”, but working the lower back may potentially conflict with the leg portion of the Exercise Circuit if the exercise selected for lower back is of a higher intensity. Give due consideration to these details when deciding which exercises to use in your Exercise Circuits.
AMERICAN PARTISAN WORKOUT FUNDAMENTALS, CONCEPT #6:
**** PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD ****
These days, even legitimate and relevant use of the word “progressive” brings a snarl of anti-Marxist loathing to the American Partisan’s lips – sorry about that, fellow Partisans. But putting Marxist word games aside for a second, one of the most vital fundamental workout concepts the APO absolutely must understand and embrace is the concept of Progressive Overload, which is as much a mindset as it is a Fundamental Workout Concept.
Technically speaking, “Progressive Overload” means you should constantly be trying to either add weight to the load lifted, to add repetitions to your set when using a particular load; or to add time to the position you’re holding yourself in. That’s pretty much the textbook definition of Progressive Overload – nice and simple. In the strict and simplest sense, staying faithful to the Progressive Overload Fundamental absolutely assures gains, because if you go from being able to Bench Press 200 x 5 reps to a Bench Press of 225 x 5 reps, for example, you will be stronger and bigger; nothing else is possible! But to that, I want to add my own non-technical angle: Progressive Overload means that there must ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS be a “Spirit of Progress” to your workouts, in that you should be trying to increase your exercise output by some amount, even if the increase is a small one, over the performance of the previous workout. End of story.
It never ceases to amaze me how I’ll see even young trainees lift the same weight each time I see them in the gym…even years later! Like damn, bro… didn’t you even TRY to improve at all? Guess not. But then, regular people content themselves with very low levels of achievement, often because they don’t really have any sense of purpose in the gym other than the meaningless “goal” of “trimming down and toning up” – which they don’t do a good job of either! But again, that’s for regular people who are not looking to fight effectively in the woods (or wherever); our needs as American Partisan Operators demand that we achieve peak performance for our circumstances. That means that the APO must be seeking ways to improve physical performance in every workout, and will always be deliberately getting outside his comfort zone and reaching for the next level each and every time he does a working set. Period. Sorry for all the bold text and emphasis, but this is a sacred exercise law, and needs to be given proper appreciation.
Here are some examples of Progressive Overload and the APO “Spirit of Progress” in action:
Progressive Overload: Strength Training Example – Barbell Front Squats
After many weeks of diligent work, you finally just managed to get 5 sets of 5 repetitions (“reps”) on the Barbell Front Squat using 300 lbs. Time to move on to 305 lbs. in the next workout, and get a total of 25 repetitions once again!
In the next workout, your first set of Barbell Front Squats at 305 gets 5 repetitions, but your 2nd and 3rd sets get you 4 reps, and the 4th and 5th sets get you 3 and then 2 reps, respectively; total: 305 x 18 Reps
Having fallen short of 25 total reps with 305 lbs. in the workout, you strive for a better performance for the following workout – even if merely adding 1 – 2 total reps to the 5 sets of 5 reps goal
A week later your work on the Barbell Front Squat again. With the Progressive Overload “Spirit of Progress” in your mind and heart, you get that 305 lb. barbell across your collarbone, and manage to bust out five reps in your first TWO sets, and then manage to get 4 repetitions in sets 3 through 5, thus adding 4 reps to the 5 set effort; total: 305 x 22 Reps: great progress indeed! You’re fired up, and decide that in the next workout, you’re doing all 25.
A week after the 22 Rep success and a good night of sleep (a key, but elusive ingredient of any good workout for the productive APO), you absolutely CRUSH the 305 lb. Barbell Front Squat by achieving all reps in the 5 sets of 5 repetitions (aka, 5×5 in lifter lingo)! Time to repeat the process with 310 lbs., for as long as it takes to achieve it.
Progressive Overload: Conditioning Training Example – Conditioning Training Exercise Circuit 1
Using the example Conditioning Training Exercise Circuit 1 presented above, let’s say that, in attempting the Circuit for the first time, by the time you got Exercise 2 of the Circuit (Push-Ups for 60 seconds), you were only able to do 12 Push-Ups in 60 seconds and had to peel yourself off the floor, followed by totally running out of breath by the time you reached Exercise 4 of the Circuit (Light Barbell Curls for 60 Seconds), and you even had to take lengthy pauses to catch your breath (= no work being done) for the remaining sets of the Circuit
A week later, with the Progressive Overload “Spirit of Progress” in your mind and your heart, you choose to overcome and push past the breathlessness to get more repetitions than the first time. In the end, you are able to rip out 17 Push-Ups and finish out the entire 60 second segment of Light Barbell Curls without long pauses to catch your breath in the first round, like an APO boss! You were also able to finish out the workout with shorter pauses to catch your breath. Good progress, but more improvement is possible!
A week after your improved output of 17 Push-Ups and dispensing with the breathlessness-induced pause in your Light Barbell Curls, you achieve 23 Push-Ups in 60 seconds, and even increase the load on your Light Barbell Curls by 5 lbs, and still manage to finish out the 60 second time without pausing, and repeat the Circuits with gusto and good performance.
The above are just hypothetical examples, but you get the picture: HAVE A SPIRIT OF PROGRESS EACH TIME YOU HAVE A WORKOUT! And progress isn’t some touchy-feely abstract nonsense (“Oh! That was a tough workout!” Really? Was it?); progress is ALWAYS mathematically and objectively measurable. That’s one of the things I particularly love about working out seriously – you just can’t fake results here, and the math and numbers bare out this truth. Obviously, documenting results is paramount to assess your progress; therefore, you need to have a workout notebook, and diligently keep track of your workout results so that you can properly track your progress (or lack of progress). Some people like to note their results during the workout as they go; however, I sweat a lot when I work out, and so I always prefer to write out my workout results immediately after the workout, when the workout results are still fresh in my mind.
Just remember: if you’re not progressing in a mathematically verifiable way, then nothing is happening and you are probably wasting your time. You need to assess what’s wrong, and fix it! But the great thing here is that the fitness-seasoned APO who made his own workout program can also troubleshoot and correct any deficiencies he discovers, in order to assure constant progress. Hopefully, you’re starting to see the incredible power of having the knowledge to be able to do your own fitness programming – no waiting for some “expert” to help you along, because you don’t need it!
That’s all for today’s post. More American Partisan Workout Fundamentals coming soon!
Previous Post: American Partisan Workout Fundamentals, Part 2