Imagine you’re a traveler heading into the wilderness. Your intentions and goals for this journey will directly influence not only the path you take, but the way you dress and prepare to make your trek. If you’re going mountain climbing, then you’ll be dressed for the cold and altitude, ready to conquer whatever the world throws at you as you scale giant rocks and the air grows thinner. If it’s a deep sea dive that you desire, then your wet suit and snorkel will be the first items you don before engaging whatever body of water lies ahead of you. Trekking the beach on a beautiful day, however, would most likely involve the use of flip-flops, sunscreen, and perhaps a beach chair. You decide upon your goals, and then you utilize radically different plans and materials to make that dream come true. Lifting weights is no different!
It’s a numbers game. You’re all about moving more weight than you did the last time you trained, plain and simple! You lift, train, and take supplements each week with the expressed goal of moving more weight on deadlifts, bench press, and squats in your next powerlifting competition, or just against yourself. Your training is based upon the use of body leverage and power to move more weight, and appearance is a distant second or third in your goals. You train with low repetitions, lots of sets, and plenty of heavy weights. You eat foods which give you explosive power. You sleep to grow stronger. You take supplements which boost your training intensity. Everything you do inside and outside of the gym involves moving just a fraction of a pound more each week, until those fractions add up to dozens of pounds. Keep these factors in mind when designing your power training and nutritional program.
Moving heavy weights is somewhat important in bodybuilding, but the way you LOOK is the name of the game here. The goal of the bodybuilder is to achieve a physique with symmetry, thickness, and vascularity. You want to be big, lean, and proportionate, and doing so involves a careful mix of heavy training, intelligent eating, and proper supplementation. The training you use will involve many of the same movements used by powerlifters, although you’ll be using a different repetition range. While they often train with sets of 3 to 5 repetitions in order to achieve the greatest possible one-repetition maximum, as a bodybuilder, you are training to stimulate as many of the muscle fibers of the individual muscle groups as possible. You will want to hit your muscle groups with both heavy compound movements (the squats, deadlifts, and bench presses) as well as isolation movements to etch detail into the muscle group (such as biceps curls, triceps pressdowns, and leg extensions). Train in the 8 to 12 repetition range so that you are able to saturate each muscle group with as much blood as possible. Your diet should provide you with energy to train (potatoes, beans, rice) and protein for recovery (lean beef, chicken, eggs, turkey, fish, whey protein). However, you’ll want to remain fairly lean, unlike your powerlifting buddies. Train for balance, eat for lean muscle, and use the mirror, not the scale, to measure your improvement and progress.
Training for the beauty realm can force the athlete to walk a very tricky tightrope. Adding too much muscle to your frame can actually cause you to be penalized by the judges. The mirror is your best friend in this process, like the bodybuilder, but your goal often involves more lean athleticism from cardiovascular training and light toning training, than you’d see from a heavy metal weight lifting programs. You’ll use some of the same movements, but you will be training in the 10 to 18 repetition range to avoid adding too much bulk to your frame. Diet will involve lean foods, in lower amounts, than would be consumed by your bodybuilder friends. Eat lean chicken, egg whites, rice, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Train for symmetry, balance and appearance, while maintaining a strong base of fitness and strength.
This area involves sport-specific training and nutrition, which includes plenty of weight lifting and wise eating, among other factors. You’ll train with many of the same exercises for strength and power (such as bench press, deadlifts, and squats) but you’ll also include drilling, scrimmage and sparring from the actual sport in which you want to excel. A football player’s off-season training and nutrition look a great deal like that of a powerlifter. A basketball player’s offseason training program often mirrors that of a fitness athlete. Yet they both known how to turn off the training for overall body performance and strength, and turn on the skill and expertise needed for their specific sport. Nutrition is perhaps more important than ever when it comes to sports-specific training, as is recovery. Take care of your body in order to maximize the sports window your body will allow you!
Often, trainers in the gym will want to integrate some tenets from each of these disciplines into a unique training protocol, designed just for them. Build a training program around bench press, deadlifts, and squats, because every lifter needs those. Run to build endurance, and also because you love to spend time in your neighborhood. Keep the diet lean, but toss in some junk food you enjoy from time to time. Add in some basketball drilling because you just like mixing it up on the playground from time to time. Training and eating in this manner never gets boring because you are chasing several goals at once, and always furthering your goal of physical improvement at the same time.
No single shoe will fit all. No single workout will be ideal for everyone. Even within any of the aforementioned arenas, a huge variance can exist in terms of training, nutrition, supplementation and more. However, by sticking to some basic tenets or foundations of fitness, we can better plan our workouts and execute our plans to meet our goals in a more effective and efficient manner. Good luck!