Some Strength Training Guidelines for Guys

Post by Mark Ehnis

“Go workout 3 times per week, for 3 months then come talk to me. I don’t care what you do, just go to the weight room and do something for an hour.”
This was my response to people back in college when they would ask me to write them a workout. I developed this automated response from past experiences. One of my mentors in college also put this idea of consistency in my mind. I’d take the time to write a well-thought out, FREE program for the individual only to find out they gave up after a week. Despite the fact that this was a waste of my time, I still didn’t learn. I guess it helped me practice programming now that I think about it…

I kept writing free programs for friends all the way until I officially opened the gym. I wanted to help; especially if they were people I knew would follow through and follow my direction. Now with the gym and running a training business I can’t justify writing programs for free when I have loyal clients who pay me for my services- having the time is also an issue as it takes awhile to write out a complete, individualized (I’d take into account their schedule, training history, any injuries, current training state, and what equipment was available to them) program that gets results.  Besides the coaching, the program is ultimately what my clients pay for, as there are many cookie-cutter programs out there on the Internet.
I understand how frustrating it can be putting in the effort without the results. You must be smart in the weight room; this means- choosing the right exercises to perform, the proper volume and intensity for your goals, and have a plan. I still want to help out everyone out there training on their own who take their training seriously- seriously enough to be reading this blog right now anyway. Follow the guidelines below, be consistent, bust ass in the gym, and you’ll be one bad dude.
It’s important to know what you’re purpose for training actually is. Always try to have a goal in mind. This is the difference between just ‘working out’ and training. The undedicated creampuffs who constantly check themselves out in the mirror “work out”. Real men train. So…. why are you training? Why do you go to the gym? What is it all for? To get stronger. To add muscle. To stop getting bullied and demand respect.  To just feel better. To become a better athlete. To prove someone wrong who said you couldn’t do it. For stress relief. To help attract the females. One, or a combination, of these can be your main purpose to consistently train and beat yourself up in the gym. 
Even Ron is consistent with his training
So you have a purpose for training. Now what? Go TRAIN! Seriously, just go to the gym and do something. Learn for yourself what it’s like to go balls out with the weights for an hour. You’ll make mistakes but you’ll gain experience. The experience is much more valuable down the road. Use this writing as a guide and eventually you’ll start to develop your own program based on your real “under the bar” experience.
Check out the list below of training guidelines to keep in mind as you develop your relationship with the iron.
The real reason to lift– We already touched on this above (set your goal) but I just wanted to clear one thing up. 98% of guys lift weights to get bigger. They want to add muscle. If a guy tells you he wants to lift weights to just “tone” or “get cut” then I give you my permission to ridicule him. No real man says that. Getting big and strong, looking the part, and then being able to back it up is why guys lift weights. No you don’t want to become a fat slob just to get bigger. You want to get jacked- big, strong, and shredded! Guys lift weights so they actually look like they workout and are able to do manly things. Think about the guys you think of when you have to move a heavy couch, push a car out of mud or snow, or the guys you want around when the shit hits the fan- all big, strong dudes I bet.
I bet Brock could help in a time of physical crisis…
Train for strength-This doesn’t mean you have to become powerlifter and try to bench 500lbs-although that is a pretty awesome. What this means is that you should always be trying to set a PR (personal record). This is the only way to constantly get stronger- and it’s more motivating to set a strength goal rather than just try to “get bigger”. Go for more reps, add 5-10lbs to the bar every week, or limit the rest intervals and do more work in less time. You should constantly be trying to beat what you did last week. You body and muscles were beaten down by last week’s workout and have been built back up stronger and have adapted to that same beating. Now you must offer a greater stimulus than last week to make sure you muscles get broken down so they can adapt again- this adaptation process is the only way to build muscle and strength.
Training for strength will also add mass to your frame and allow you to have some “show” with your “go.”  I’ve always thought that there is no point to appear big and strong and not be able to back it up. I’ve come across tons of guys who look big but can’t back it up- in the gym, on the athletic field, or in a bar fight. This is true for a variety of reasons that would need another blog post to describe (if you’re curious- research the difference between myofibril hypertrophy vs. sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and the benefits of training the nervous system to lift heavy weights). Training for strength will build your foundation. Before you can add mass you need to have a foundation. The way you build muscle is to lift a heavy weight many times. Without a foundation of strength built that heavy weight won’t be lifted as nearly as many times as it needs to be to add mass.
-Train/Eat for your goals– If you’re trying to build muscle and gain weight, you’re going to have to relax on the conditioning. Likewise, if you’re trying to drop some body fat and are conditioning 3-5 times per week, you’ll have to back off with the weights. Doing too much all at once won’t get you anywhere in the long run and will most likely leave you feeling like crap or injured. Some general advice would be to lift 3 times per week with 1-3 conditioning sessions per week depending on your schedule, current training state, and goals.
Again, what you eat has to coincide with your goals. The biggest thing I come across are guys not eating enough- even though they swear they eat a “ton.” If you aren’t adding muscle or gaining weight- you aren’t eating enough, or aren’t eating the right types of foods. Great strength athlete and coach Jim Wendler always says, “add weight to the bar and food to your plate.” This is simple and true. If you’re trying to drop body fat then I’d suggest cleaning up your diet slowly. Don’t change it all at once but cut out whatever it is you know is bad for you. I’d then recommend you be more active and add 1-2 conditioning sessions per week. Coming from someone who enjoys food as a hobby- being more active and moving more is always my first option rather than a strict diet of cutting out all the foods that bring be sincere joy and happiness.
-Train like an athlete– This excludes distance athletes. Athletes that perform short, intense bouts of activity are on to something. They’re jacked- plenty of muscle with little fat. Look at a sprinter compared to a marathon runner- who would you want to look like the most? And that goes for the females as well. I like to keep this simple, as athlete programs can get fairly complicated. Just make sure you sprint, jump, and lift heavy weights. Pretty easy right? These three things will not only make you more athletic and better suited to handle any physical task, but it will also jack up your metabolism and get you the results you want. And by heavy I mean what’s heavy for you- remember, try to break a record each day and add 5 pounds to the bar.
Who do you think lifts heavy weights?
Ditch the body-part splits– Chest and triceps one day, biceps and back, shoulders and abs, maybe a leg day…these bodybuilding routines won’t get fast, lasting results for 95% of guys out there. They are for, you guessed it, bodybuilders- who have fully committed to the sport of bodybuilding. Most of the guys reading this aren’t interested in standing on stage with a speedo and a rubbed-on tan. Instead, do upper body and lower body splits. Hit your entire upper body one day, then a leg day, then another upper body day. If you want to add a 4th day make it another lower body or conditioning day. This will allow your muscles to get hit with more frequency and is easier to recover from than totally hammering each body part with 12-15 sets. Keep your workouts to under an hour- any longer than that and you’re wasting your time.
-Train to feel good– Once you add some weight to the bar and see improvement in yourself, your mood will change. Confidence will follow because you’re working towards something and achieving it. Emotionally, it will feel good. Physically, you want/need to stay feeling good by doing the little things. Performing a full, dynamic warm-up 3-4 times a week (preferably before you train) and taking the time to work up on your main exercises (if you’re benching 205×5 that day, don’t just put 205 on the bar and go for it) will prepare your body and mind to train- but also keeping you healthy in the long run. Nobody likes nagging injuries that make you cringe on regular day-to-day activities. Flexibility also falls under this category. Try to stretch outside of the gym for 10 minutes a day. It’s not fun but it will go a long ways.
-Use bodyweight exercises– These have almost been forgotten about in gyms, yet they produce great results. Squats, lunges, jumps, chin-ups, push-ups, bodyweight rows, crawls and all their variations should be used. Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of these. I recommend doing at least 1-2 bodyweight exercises per workout and sometimes even taking an entire week off from the weights and only do bodyweight stuff. The right combo of bodyweight movements and weighted movements will make you lethal! And let’s be real guys- if you can’t do a bare minimum of 30 strict push-ups- start doing more push-ups.
Do cool, challenging stuff– Once you have built a solid foundation in the weight room you can implement some different exercises- and yes, some of these exercises are way cooler than the basics but the basics work and always will. However, once in a while it’s nice to try something different. Finding a gym with this cool equipment is pretty hard but if you find one make sure to utilize it. Strongman exercises would fall into this category. It’s fun to make up your own version of the Worlds Strongest Man Competition and see what you got. Tires flips, sledgehammer swings, sled drags, farmers walks, zercher walks, atlas stones/rock carries, etc. are all different movements that will bust you up if you aren’t used to them and challenge your manhood. You could also attempt various grip exercises, rope climbs, battling ropes, or sandbag complexes. Find some guys to compete with and go at it- only the strong survive!
How are your Strongman skills compared to Mariusz Pudzianowski’s 
Remember, all the advice above won’t mean jack if you aren’t consistent with your training.  Choose a goal and attack it for at least 10-12 weeks on the same program before you decide to mix it up (the longer you train and get to know your body the easier it is to tweak the program along the way). Be consistent and train your ass off. Keep me updated on your progress!
Oh, and if you’re in the Grand Rapids area- you know where to find me…