GYM SESSION DENSITY

How can a fighter best structure weight training sessions to be the most productive in the shortest space of time? We’re a twitchy bunch with a strong work ethic and rest periods are generally not respected.

However, it takes a relatively long time for the neuromuscular system to recover between strength and power exercise sets – typically between 3-5 mins – and not allowing adequate recovery greatly reduces strength and power development. Taking less rest between sets is tempting, as you don’t feel fatigued. But in reality your central nervous system is still fried and incapable of delivering a strong enough spark to contract your muscles with sufficient force.

But who’s got time to wait at least 3-minutes between sets? Is there another way to use this rest time that doesn’t hamper strength and power?

The solution is supersets – pairing two non-competing exercises back to back without any rest. For example, perform 5x front squats followed immediately by 5x weighted pull ups, then rest for a couple of minutes before hitting the front squats followed by pull ups again. By the time you return to the front squats, about 3-minutes will have elapsed, and by the time you repeat the pull ups again, about 3-minutes will have elapsed too. The chosen exercises don’t interfere with each other’s recovery as pull ups involve different neuromuscular pathways to the squats.

Renowned strength coach Mike Boyle advocates tri-sets for even greater ‘density’ – pairing two strength exercises back to back with either a core or mobility exercise, depending on your personal requirements. I like this approach, it allows you to pack a lot of high quality work into a short space of time. Get in, train hard, and get out again.

Here’s an example gym session structure that I use, you can plug in any relevant exercises into the categories outlined:

Soft Tissue/Flexibility
Activation/Movement Preparation

Superset:
1a) Power Exercise
1b) Mobility Exercise
Rest 2-mins

Tri-set:
2a) Strength Exercise 1 – Lower Body
2b) Strength Exercise 2 – Upper Body Pull
2c) Mobility Exercise
Rest 1-min

Tri-set:
3a) Strength Exercise 3 – Upper Body Push
3b) Strength Exercise 4 – Core
3c) Mobility Exercise
Rest 1-min

 

You can even fill the short rest periods with Muay Thai footwork practice or relaxed shadow boxing if you like. I may do this during lower intensity sessions when the lifting loads aren’t so taxing.

This session structure packs a lot into around 45-60 minutes. And if you can fit two sessions like this in each week for 4-weeks, you’ll be rewarded with increased in power and strength, improved mobility and significantly reduce your likelihood of injury. It’s certainly time well invested in something other than Muay Thai practice.

7 Comments

  1. Gary Rowley April 28, 2014 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Thank you for that Don. Supersets it is then!

  2. Tom Billinge April 29, 2014 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Thanks Don – great as usual. Could you give a good example workout for this format? I have used your functional muscle routine for a few months and it’s been really good, but I’m keen to try something new. Thanks!

    • DonHeatrick April 30, 2014 at 11:19 pm - Reply

      Cheers Tom,
      I’ll put something together – probably as a TeamMuayThai download :)

      • Tom Billinge May 1, 2014 at 2:41 am - Reply

        Great! Thanks Don!

  3. James McKie May 3, 2014 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    what would you suggest for mobility exercises?

  4. […] the Gym Session Density article, I’ve been asked what mobility exercises I’d  suggest to fit into the gym […]

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