Good training is more than just exercises, sets, and reps. Each time you walk into the gym to train, that is exactly what you should be doing: training. You are always training for something bigger and better than today. Because of this, you should be looking at your training sessions as individual parts of a whole. It really does begin long before you step foot into the weight room and perform that first rep. In this article, I will break down the training session into individual parts, how to view it, and set things up to help you get bigger, stronger and keep breaking PRs. If your goal is to be strong and jacked, you need to hear what I have to say.

Mindset About Training

Before you’re even in the gym, you’ve got to have the right mindset. Do you sometimes dread going to the gym? Do you think ahead to tomorrow and say something like, “I have to go to the gym tomorrow”? If so, you’re viewing things wrong from the start. You don’t have to go to the gym; you get to go to the gym. There are many people in this world that don’t get to go to the gym. Some don’t have the freedom. Some don't have the financial ability. You’ve also got people who are unable to go to the gym because of health reasons, disabilities, etc. We really are lucky that we get to go the gym. It pisses me off to hear someone bitching about “having” to train. You don’t have to train. You choose to train. So change your mindset and realize that if you live in a free country, have your health and the physical ability to train you are lucky that you get to train.

warm-up julia ladewski chase karnes 090514

Before the First Rep

You should be preparing your mind ahead of time, long before you’re even heading to the gym. The day or even days before your next training session, you should already know what big lift you’re doing that day along with what weight(s) you’re planning to hit and for how many reps. You should be thinking about it and visualizing it. Do it in your mind long before you step onto that gym platform. This alone can make a huge difference in your success in the gym.

Another key thing is keeping your mind on the task at hand. When you’re warming up, your focus should be on warming up. When you’re training your first movement of the day and its deadlifts, you should be focused on deadlifts — NOT what you’re eating at supper and NOT what your next lift is that day. You should keep sole focus during each part of each training session. In a world that’s so fast paced and full of people trying to multitask, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking about what you’re doing next in the training session or even that evening. Keep your mind focused on one task: what you’re doing at that moment.

Warm Up

This really is an individual thing, as we all have our own ways we prefer to warm up. If you’re not a client of mine then I personally don’t care how you warm up, I just ask that you do some sort of warm-up. A good warm-up is one that addresses all of the following:

  • Soft tissue work (Foam rolling, LAX or tennis ball, Theracane, etc.)
  • General prep (Hip mobility, hip flexor stretch, leg swings, jumping jacks, etc.)
  • Specific prep (The bar for whichever movement, then slowly adding weight as you warm up to your first working set weight)

The thing about the warm-up is that most healthy individuals can get it done in 10 minutes or less. Too many people think the warm up should last 20 or 30 minutes because that’s what they’ve been told, so they skip it completely. Get the warm-up done with purpose, but get it done and move on to the thing. After all, we started going to the gym to train.

vision lifting chase karnes david allen brandon smitley bench prep 090514


Train the Movement

The first lift of the day and usually the big lift you should’ve been thinking about on the day(s) leading up to this training session should be trained as a movement. We are concerned with performing the movement efficiently, technically sound, and safely while achieving our programmed weights, sets and reps. You shouldn’t be worried about what “muscles” it’s working and why you are feeling it here and not here. If you’re squatting I promise you that your quads, hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, upper back and abs are working hard. So if you’re not “feeling” your glutes for example, it doesn’t matter. They are working. This lift we are concerned with training the movement, not the muscles.

Train the Weak Point

While it may not always be the second movement of the day, each session should be targeting a weak point after the main work is done. Typically these are also supplemental lifts in which we are training the movement instead of the “muscles”. So if your weak point on bench press is your lockout due to lacking triceps strength, then you may want to overload the triceps a bit more. This means you should hit close-grip bench presses or floor presses after your main bench press work is completed. We are overloading the weak point with a movement that targets the musculature involved most in the big lift we are trying to build while still training in a movement based mindset.

pressdowns chase karnes chris duffin 090514

Train the Muscles

These are the movements that are done more like a bodybuilder. With these, we are more concerned with feeling the muscles work that we are trying to target over training the movement. Quite the opposite of our first lift of the day. Continuing on with the bench press example from above, we may decide to target the triceps directly with triceps pressdowns or dumbbell triceps extensions. On these, we are not concerned with the weight or movement near as much as we are concerned with feeling your triceps work. We are looking to get in some sufficient volume targeting the actual muscle we are trying to work.

Injury Prevention

These are also done in more of a bodybuilder fashion, but depending on the movement there can be less emphasis on feeling a certain muscle work. For example, face pulls are a great movement to increase pulling volume while targeting the upper back. They also seem to be great for shoulder health. While there is a lot of muscle being worked on the face pull we aren’t trying to target any in particular. We are just looking at using a full range of motion while contracting the upper back hard on each rep. These movements should worry less about weight and more about getting in quality volume.

This article may be a bit “out of the box” and completely different than how you typically view a training session, but I firmly believe that your perception of a training session can have a significant impact on your results in the gym. By breaking things into sections, you can put complete and total focus on the task at hand. This also allows you to approach each section with the right mindset, focus and intensity. It also allows you to look at training as a bigger picture when programming so that everything you are doing in the gym has a specific purpose, as it should.