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Planning Your Workouts

Posted Jan 23 2009 3:56pm
We are now three full weeks into the New Year and with 15 workouts under my belt, I wanted to check in with Catapult Fitness Blog readers on my pull-up progress.

As I mentioned in December, my short-term goal is to be able to complete 3 consecutive pull-ups by March 31, 2009. In case you're wondering, I still cannot complete an un -assisted pull-up, but that's OK. This is why we set goals for ourselves and lay out a plan for accomplishing those goals.

At this point in my training I feel as if I'm beginning to hit a plateau. In order to break that plateau I am turning to supersets focusing on antagonistic muscles.

For those of you not familiar with supersets, they are essentially two exercises performed back to back with little or no rest between reps and only a minimal rest between sets.

Supersets typically focus on training agonist and antagonist muscles together. To better understand this concept we simply need to turn to Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion which states:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

So, for every muscle or group of muscles that brings about movement of a certain part of the body, there is another muscle or group of muscles which bring about an opposite movement.

For example, when flexing the arm at the elbow during a bicep curl, the bicep is considered the agonist muscle - the muscle doing the work. The triceps is considered the antagonist muscle because the triceps resist the flexing of the arm and works to perform the opposite motion.

Examples of agonist - antagonist supersets include
  • Biceps + Triceps
  • Chest + Back
  • Quadriceps + Hamstrings
Sounds simple enough but being that this is January and every Tom, Harry, and Jane are in the gym trying to stay on top of their New Year's resolutions, getting to use a particular piece of equipment when I need it has become challenging, to say the least.

This is where you really need to have a game plan in order to effectively complete your supersets in a timely fashion. Flexibility in regards to exercise selection is of key importance.

This is where Craig Ballantyne's expertise has helped me tremendously. Craig has developed a list of alternative exercises that I have found extremely useful. Examples include:

Chest (when I can't get on a bench to complete chest presses)
  • Push-ups
  • Close-grip push-ups
  • Off-set push-ups
  • Push-ups using a stability ball
  • Elevated push-ups
  • Decline push-ups
Legs (when I can't get near the squat rack, which is fairly typical these days)
  • Deadlifts
  • Lying hip extensions
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Deep step-ups
  • Reaching lunges
Back (My gym needs to get a second cable-row machine, seriously )
  • Smith machine inverted rows
  • Smith machine under-hand inverted rows
  • Smith machine inverted rows holding the ends of a towel hung over the bar
You get the idea.

Don't head into the gym and end up standing around waiting for a piece of equipment. There are dozens of alternative exercises you can use per body-part. Have a plan that includes listing alternate exercises so that you can complete your workout efficiently and effectively.

Train hard; stay strong.



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