Different training phases give us the opportunity to maximize the benefits of our training and minimize plateaus along the way. You may have heard of, “cutting,” for the summer or, “bulking,” in the winter, but it’s more than just cutting calories or eating more of them. Understanding the different styles of training will help us understand what goal we’re trying to achieve when each of them is put into practice.
The exercises themselves can be similar across all types of training, however, the biggest change is in training intent, reps/sets, rest periods, and tempo. The 3 types of programs we are discussing are strength, hypertrophy, and metabolic training.
Strength based training will mean working with fewer reps, heavy loads, and longer rest periods. You won’t be seeing many supersets, and the goal here is to take that rest to truly reset so you can go and pick up something pretty dang heavy! This is typically the style of training you will see used by someone who is looking to increase the overall strength of their muscles.
Hypertrophy based training will mean working with 6-12 reps, and you will use moderate loads with moderate rest periods. You can still have strength adaptations here, but also enough hypertrophy is happening to get new tissue. This style of training is most commonly used to increase muscle size by increasing muscle endurance. The goal here is to find a working weight that you can lift with proper form while also creating stress on your muscles. You’ll know you’ve found a good weight when the last 2-3 reps of your set are difficult to complete.
Metabolic training will have more reps, less rest, and more supersets in play. The goal here is to increase your metabolic rate during and after the workout. When you’ve identified the weight you can lift during a hypertrophy routine, you can get a good idea of what you’ll be lifting during a metabolic workout. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot less. More reps and less rest means your body is going to burn out quicker, so the weight you're lifting for 4 sets of 12 will be heavier than what you can lift for 4 sets of 20.
WHY SWITCH IT UP?
The reason to go through different types of training, isn’t to “confuse your body”, but to continue to have adaptations within your training. Think of it like this: your body can only handle so much stress, and stress is accumulated within training, life, relationships, etc. When you have surpassed the amount of stress you can handle and recover from, your body can no longer adapt and progress. If you stress your system in different ways, it allows you to take a break from one type of training as you go into the next so you have a clean slate to progress on. Adaptations = improvement. You need to stress your body to convince it to change.
APPLYING A NEW TRAINING STYLE
It's normal to feel a little disjointed when you switch up your training style. Let’s say you have: 4 sets of 6 and 120 seconds rest vs. 4 sets of 12 with 30 seconds rest. It's easy to assume 4 sets of 12 with 30 seconds rest is going to give you a harder workout because, after all, it's more. But as we all know, more isn't always the answer. Because each of these training phases all have such different intents, you will have to alter the amount of weight you lift. So while 4 sets of 12 might seem like it will be more challenging on your body, lifting heavier for 4 sets of 6 will force you to work just as hard to achieve a different physiological goal.