I am an advanced Strongman athlete and a strength coach, I've coached so many people and helped them get bigger, stronger, and Injury Free.
Breathing and Bracing
Breathing and bracing, for me is something that I consider the most important thing a new lifter should know about and master, it's the fundamental key to lifting any kind of object, even on regular basis without injuring your lower back, yet I still see probably 90% of lifters who have no idea about it or how it's done, so why it is this important? to explain this I would like to divide the Torso into 2 parts, the upper part which is stabilized by the rib cage, and the muscles attached to it, and the lower part which has only the core muscles as stabilizers that are abs, obliques, and lumbar erectors, in order to keep your lower back straight during the lift and injury-free you have to make the core muscles tight and rigid as much as possible, and that's what Breathing & Bracing is about, so I will explain how it's done in 3 steps which are
- Natural Posture and Spine position
Setting a natural Posture and Spine position
The first thing you have to do before thinking about Breathing & bracing is setting your tank (core) that you're gonna fill with air, because Breathing & Bracing, in the end, is about creating some kind of an inner pressure that will make the core area rigid, so setting up that area correctly is so critical, Basically, all you have to do is keeping the rib cage down, straight back and natural Posture so please make sure you avoid having some kind of a pelvic tilt, you can avoid it by squeezing your glutes (butt cheeks), the Image below shows the difference between the correct setup of a natural Posture and Spine position which is the first one on the left and the other examples which have different mistakes such as keeping chest up or having an anterior pelvic tilt.
when we mention Breathing before executing a lift you hear a lot of lifter calling it belly-breathing but in fact, it's not, it's just a good way to cue beginners, so what is Breathing to execute a lift ??
now after you set up your posture and natural spine, its time to fill out your core with air, you can see how I said your CORE and not your belly, so basically what you have to do is think about it like filling a balloon, the air should fill out your whole core in a 360-degree pattern which includes your sides (obliques), your belly (abs), and your lower back, and not just your belly, one of the best Powerlifters to ever explain how Breathing and bracing work is Chris Duffin, Please check the link below where he demonstrates how Breathing and Bracing work, to understand how it's practically done.
now comes the final step which is Bracing, so after you filled your core with air, you have to create that intra-abdominal-pressure using the core muscles as an outer sheath, and it needs to become rigid and resist and then we push against it with that air we took in the Breathing step and the forces should be equal all the way around, it's like you're getting ready to take a punch on your stomach, and if you're using a belt its a good cue to think about it like you're pushing against the belt all the way around.
I know a lot of lifters and even myself when I first started going to the gym that wants to make good gains but has no idea about how to workout, what exercises should I do, how many sets and reps, how much weight, etc..., they just know that they have to workout, so in this case, it's either you hire a coach or do your researches and build knowledge and know at least the basic knowledge that you need if you wanna move forward with it, so let's get to our question, which is what type of programming should I follow?
There are 3 types of training programs to gain muscle mass, which are
Hypertrophy training is what most bodybuilders follow which is a mix of exercises with a high number of sets and reps. The rep range is from 15 to 20 reps while keeping low intensity, with light, or medium weights, and a short resting period from 30 to 90 sec, it doesn't include tracking or adding weight on, you simply pick a good weight for you, and you focus on completing the number of sets and reps that you have, this type of training program meant to target the endurance fibers of the muscle.
you can also add what's called Drop sets, where you pick a certain weight you do 5 reps, then you drop the weight, and you do another 5 reps consecutively and you keep dropping the weight for like 5 times so the total amount of reps is 5x5 equal 25 reps per Drop set
there is also what's called Supersets, where you combine 2 different exercises for the same muscle group, so simply you do a set of the first exercise and then consecutively you do a set of the second exercise and the 2 sets combined, called a superset.
Hypertrophy training is something I really recommend for beginners, it's pretty simple and as I mentioned you can add variations such as the Drop sets and the Supersets for a better result, variations helps a lot for growth and better results
Volume training is my favorite type of training, which I highly recommend because it includes progressive overload (adding weights), the rep range of the sets is between 8 to 12 reps, so how does it work?
Basically, you pick a weight to start with, it should be kinda light, you do a set of 12 reps then you add weight, and you do a set of 10, then you move to what we call working sets which are 3 sets of 8 reps with slightly heavy weights, the weight should be your 10 rep max (which means you can only hit 10 reps with that weight) and you push through to hit 3 sets of 8 reps, and then you add weights to your working sets from week to week so, for example, let's say this week the weight of your working set on the squat was 220 lbs (100 kg), next week you add from 5 to 11 lbs (2.5 to 5 kg) to the total weight and that's how basically progressive overload works and it's my favorite because it's not limited, whenever you feel like you body got used to a certain weights, you add on more weight and that what keeps your body growing, just avoid adding to much weight weekly, you should complete 3 sets of 8 reps without grinding before you can add more weights on.
Strength training I highly don't recommend for beginner because it includes heavy weights, such as your 1, 3, and 5 rep max with low Volume, so basically, low rep range from 1 to 6 reps per set, while increasing the weight each set till your reach the working set which is the heaviest set on that session, the resting period between sets are from 3 to 5 min, it meant to target the strength fibers of the muscle, this type of training is not meant for beginners, you have to build a good base first and get familiar with the compound lifts, and have a strong and correct technique and form so that you don't end up facing injuries that may slow or stop your progress.