Balancing Strength And Aesthetic Training

It is easy to believe that the fitness industry is composed of two types of people, those who care about what they look like and those that care about what they can do. In one corner, aesthetics reign supreme and in the other, strength training and athleticism is god.

Making the choice between training for strength and aesthetics is a difficult one.

The truth is usually much more complex for most people, it is good to be able to do everything you can such as run a 5.30 mile, do a back flip and not lose the flexibility or range of motion.

It is also great to be able to look good too, there should be balance, you can train using a kind of hybrid routine. Here is how to tow the line between athletic and aesthetic.

1) Don’t Be Afraid To Flip The Programming Script

Many magazines and newsletters have ingrained it into us to train your biggest, heaviest lift first meaning bench first for a chest workout, squats first on leg day etc. This makes sense though right? You want to lift the most weight when you’re strong and fresh but there is a good reason for saving the big lifts for later on in the workout.

]Personally I do not start with heavy work, the last thing I want to do is get under a bar upon entering a gym and squat 315 pounds straight away, it is unpleasant and  I don’t feel like I get that much benefit from it because my back, quads and glutes are not ready for it.

Don’t worry about changing up your workout.

This doesn’t mean you should skip these lifts either, just turn th order around, it works well when I start with accessory work and exhaust the muscles first. By doing a compound lift last I am probably taking 30% of my weight off that I normally do but I have found better strength and muscle gains come this way doing this.

This approach requires you to take a small drop in weight but your back and joints will thank you for it long-term.

2) Divide Your Split And Conquer

Any athlete realizes that it pays to be fast and agile but you gotta squat of course. Squats release key anabolic hormones and build strength and muscle like nothing else, also, squats and shuttle runs are brilliant at burning fat for even the slowest of gym goers. The problem is working out how to fit in sprints around heavy leg training without compromising either.

I do them on different days, when I train legs heavy I may do lower intensity cardio that morning. The day after I train legs I do a low or no impact aquatic workout to help aid recovery. I follow that with a speed day where I focus on short duration, high-intensity work like sprints. The day after that I do a combination of higher and lower intensity work. A day later I will do bleacher runs, something like 50-70 steps where I sprint up and walk down for a total of around 10 sets.

All conditioning work comes with a side benefit, a year round body fat percentage in single digits, usually around 5-6% for a 230 pound athlete.

3) Compound Lifts Are A Must

Almost regardless of the sport, performing variations of the bench press, deadlift and squat is crucial because they use the most muscle,build the most strength and carry over the best to other activities. Do you want sport-specific training? Fine, but don’t forget to build your base with the core lifts first.

Changing your workout up every so often can pay dividends,

No matter whether you are going for athletics or aesthetics, you’re never going to be able to get away from compound training. You can go do accessory work but you are never going to grow from just doing that on it’s own. Likewise, when you are doing strength and conditioning for sport, you’re never using just one muscle.

They work synergistically, you could become a better athlete if all you did was bench, dead and squat. You can of course do more but even when you do them at the end of a workout, these are what ultimately matters most.

Whether you are looking to get bigger, leaner or more athletic, check your workout’s current ratio of compound to isolation moves. While the details will vary from person to person, you want at least half of your total sets spent on multijoint lifts.

4) Hit All The Rep Ranges

Many athletes focused on their physique tend to get tunnel vision on the classic hypertrophy rep range they learned early in their career. Sets of 8-10 for 3 sets anyone? They do work but don’t always get the job done.

When I train in the 12 -20 rep range the muscle is full but not as hard. When I begin to train heavy, my fast-twitch muscle fibers are more active, I will be much more sore and the muscle will be denser and more formed. This does not mean one is better than the other.

When I have trained for a full football season with my amateur league I do 10-12 weeks of heavy, strength-based training with most sets in the 4 to 8 rep range. Then I will transition into a shorter phase of 4-6 weeks where I stayed in the 6 to 12 rep range. I finished with a 4 week stretch of 10-15 reps or more to condition the mass I build.

It is great looking pumped up but have you got a balance of strength to go with it?

I try to blend elements of each phase into my weekly schedule to create gradual adaptations to my physique and conditioning levels. Utilizing multiple rep ranges throughout the week can similarly help you reap strength and muscle benefits while delaying or eliminating training plateaus.

5) Prioritize Mobility

If lifting is the only priority of yours you may find yourself spending most of the week nursing sore muscle bellies, stretching tight shoulders against doorjambs and sneaking in excruciating quad stretches in the break room, the best way to keep this to a minimum is to have the workout before the workout.

The key to keeping your range of motion and flexibility is being vigilant and consistent with your warm-up. I spend 7-8 minutes before every workout doing a dynamic warm-up and often follow that with 7-8 minutes of static stretching. This helps prevent me from injuring myself whilst in training, it also helps me to gauge my flexibility on that day, I have not really had an injury when training before and this is because of my consistent use of flexibility work.

Even if you just train to look better it is still important to maintain a healthy range of motion in all of your joints. In addition to dynamic warm-ups and stretches, foam rolling and dedicated soft-tissue work can prevent the loss of mobility that sometimes accompanies long-term lifting.

6) Lunging To Get Lean And Mean

If you are looking for a move that hits aesthetics and athletics in one fell swoop then look no further than the lunge. It is a movement that is present in almost every sport but it is also a great test when done for high reps. I try to do a lunge finisher twice a month to test my metal and show any weaknesses.

A great way to end leg day is to perform the dreaded lunges which will help you out a lot when going forward.

Every other week I end my leg day with a quarter-mile of bodyweight lunges or with a 25-pound vest. It makes my hips, glutes and hamstrings feel bulletproof and conditions the muscles really well and is a brutal cardio workout.

Other movements can easily be adapted to challenge your overall athleticism whilst providing a big aesthetic payout. Other examples might include completing 100 pull-ups in as few sets as possible, doing farmer carries for a mile or flipping a tire 1-5 times a minute on the minute for 20 minutes.

If your mind straight away jumped to those other choices because you don’t want to do lunges then the correct choice is to just do the lunges, it will suck but you will become a better athlete because of it and a better looking one as a result.

As you can see from the above, you can do strength training and still get in the aesthetics too, click here if you would like to try a program that will offer you excellent toning and fat-loss results in just 3 weeks.

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