Welcome to Hygieia Strength & Conditioning!
To our new clients, hello and welcome! This article will summarise what you’ll be doing in the first few months of training with us, along with what you might experience during that process.
If you’re considering joining us, you’ll find out more about our training methodology principles and what to expect when you join us. And as always, if you have any questions, you can always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do we do?
We specialise in strength training. Specifically, barbell strength training. Now, what exactly is that? Let’s break it down.
Strength is the most important physical/fitness attribute that you can acquire for very practical reasons. It is the ability to exert a force against an external resistance. When you are stronger, it’s easier for you to interact with your environment, and it’s also easier for you to achieve your other fitness goal (losing/gaining weight, sports performance, or just performing activities of daily living). My colleague, Shaun, has written articles about strength training and sports performance and why going to the gym only to train for appearances is a bad idea.
Training is a series of structured and calculated physical efforts performed to achieve your goal. Let’s differentiate it from exercising. Exercising can make you feel tired, sweaty, and happy that you have burnt a few calories. Still, it’s just a standalone activity done for its own sake – no structure or plan to achieve a certain outcome at the end. Your goals will not be achieved with exercise. If you’ve got a goal in mind that you’d like to achieve, you’ve got to train. As such, your training consistency matters because what you do in the gym today has an impact on your end goal. To impart sufficient and continuous training stress so as to achieve your goal, 2-3 training sessions per week is recommended.
How we do it?
As a complex biological organism, we respond better with loaded natural movements instead of training individual body parts. Thus, we selected a few exercises that use the most amount of muscle mass in the most extended effective range of motion so as to be able to exert the most amount of force. These exercises are the squat, deadlift, overhead press, bench press, and (maybe) power clean sometimes along the way.
These exercises are performed with a barbell. Out of the infinite number of training equipment available, we like barbells because it’s ergonomic and infinitely scalable. Ergonomic in the sense that it’s easy to load natural movements. You can even move it from the floor to overhead quite efficiently with proper technique. Scalable in the sense that you can start as low as a few kilograms (a very light barbell) to more than 501kgs (the current world record deadlift). Weight increments can be as little as 0.5kgs. You can’t get these using dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, machines, stones, or anything else.
In short, barbell strength training is a structured, methodical way for you to get stronger utilising barbells.
Your first day of training
You will learn all 4 lifts during the first one to two days of training. Each lift will be broken down into series of instructions for you to follow. We understand that each person learns differently – some learn well from listening to verbal cues; some are more visual, and some are just difficult to teach (ha!). We have experience teaching all three – from the very athletically gifted lifter to people who has always tried to avoid physical activities.
While you learn the technique for each lift, we’ll find a suitable weight to start your training with for each exercise. Everyone has different starting points depending on your current strength level and your ability to perform the movement according to our lifting model. Some will start their squat with just their bodyweight. Others start at 100kgs. It doesn’t matter what you did on the first day; it’s just the beginning.
After the first training day – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
Some lifters might experience mild soreness between 24-48 hours after their first training session. The soreness is most commonly felt on their legs and shoulders. The more untrained you are, the more likely you will experience soreness. This is also true for lifters with training experience but with a very different technique. If you experience this, it’s normal! The soreness is caused by being exposed to a training stress that you’re not adapted to. The soreness will dissipate in a few days (most commonly 2-3 days). The soreness will gradually get less over the subsequent sessions.
Your first program – The Novice Linear Progression
Press Bench Press
The Novice Linear Progression – the simplest and fastest way that we know for you to get stronger. It’s a 3-day a week program and consists of 2 workouts (workout A and workout B). The workouts are to be alternated and done with at least 48-72 hours of rest in between. For example, Monday(workout A), Wednesday (workout B), Friday (workout A), Monday (workout B) and so forth.
Every time you train, you’ll add a little more weight on the bar from the previous session (provided if your technique is sound). We like the Linear Progression because it’s simple and very effective. Your progress is also quantifiable – if you’re able to lift more weights, you’re stronger.
Your technique will continue to be refined while the concepts behind the movements will be explained (if you’re keen to know more). During each lift, you will get cues/reminders for you to focus on what needs to be done to perform the lift better.
“It’s too easy, isn’t it, coach?”
The first few weeks of training wouldn’t be very challenging. Some wonder why they don’t feel that tired at all after the workout. Again, not feeling tired during/after training is irrelevant. What you should care about is that you are making progress. Let’s suppose the weights on your squats increases by 2.5kg per session. If you train thrice a week as per the program, you’ll be adding roughly 30kgs to your squat in a month. In 3 months, you’ll be adding 90kgs. It’ll be heavy before you know it; trust the process.
“I can do it now!”
When the weights are light, lifters often ask if they can proceed to their next set very quickly. 30 seconds after their previous set, they say “Coach, I think I am ready” or “My heart rate is already very low. Let’s go for the next set.” At this stage, I’ll recommend resting 2-3 minutes between each set. As you progress to heavier weights, you’ll need more than 3 minutes. There’s an article on the Starting Strength website that discusses more on resting between sets.
Do I need to do anything else at home? Can I do my cardio? Can I do extra training?
Well, this would vary depending on your current activity. If you are generally active, you can still do most of your activities. If you don’t normally do much outside the gym, you don’t need to add anything else for now.
You will build up strength and working capacity gradually over time, and thus, your training stress will increase along the way. We believe in a simplistic approach to your training to give you the “minimum effective dose” for you to see results. It’s not efficient for you to do a whole bunch of unnecessary stuff for you to see results.
Doing too much too early might hinder your progress on the Novice Linear Progression. If this happens, we’ll discuss the countermeasures together.
It’s getting hard! I don’t know whether I can do it 🙁
Congratulations, you’re much stronger now and have arrived at a stage whereby the weights are getting heavy and everything feels hard. For some lifters, completing the prescribed weight might be the most strenuous physical effort they have ever experienced in their lives. As soon as the bar feels heavy or hard to lift, some might stop trying and give up pushing against the bar. This happens occasionally and I have written an article regarding the 5-second rule, which talks about what to do when the bar feels really heavy and not moving no matter how hard you try.
Another thing that you can do is to be better prepared for your training. There are two main recovery factors – sleep, and food. Be sure to get sufficient sleep (in general and especially the night before training) and eat (especially some carbs) enough to recover.
How long does the Linear Progression last?
It’s impossible to predict how long it’ll last for you. In general, it’ll last for between 1-3 months. This phase is going to be the best time of your training life whereby you’ll make the most amount of gains. It’s awesome to be able to able to add weight to the bar every 2-3 days so enjoy it while it lasts.
What’s beyond the Linear Progression?
In the beginning, you’ll be able to make progress and add weight to the bar every session. However, as you get stronger, the program will not provide sufficient time to recover nor have enough training stress to get you stronger.
As you get stronger and the weights get heavier, your programming will gradually change so that you’re still able to make continued progress, albeit over a slightly longer time frame. Some accessory exercises or conditioning specific to your goal will gradually be added in. The programming will be slightly more complex, individualised and catered to your needs. If you’d like to learn new lifts or have a new goal in mind, we can discuss it and come out with a plan together as to the best way to achieve it.
If you have any other questions not covered here, please feel free to contact us via email or our social media pages! See you in the gym!