The last few weeks I’ve been making progress. I feel and look more muscular. My muscles are energized at all times, both on workout days and rest days. I get a great pump from every workout session – and these pumps stay for a long time afterwards.
When I look in my workout journal I can see that the last couple of weeks I’ve been frequently
writing comments like “best ever!” – both in relation to the sessions as a whole and to certain exercises. For example, I’ve enthusiastically written “never gotten such pump from this one before – ever!”, in connection to last week’s bent over barbell rows.
In my journal I rate each workout on a scale 1 to 5. This helps me discern patterns over time. I like to be able to analyse what works for me, and what doesn’t.
Looking at the last two weeks (containing 10 gym sessions) the rating 5 out of 5 has become the most common. This is something I try to make a rare occurrence. A rating of 5 demands fantastic pump, good work ethic, mental toughness, good strength levels and a huge wave of endorphins – all in one session. So, even though this rating system is non-scientific and totally based on my own general feelings in connection with each session it still means something special has occurred when a rating of 5 suddenly is commonly seen.
I’m going through a period of great results. All in all, everything seems to point in one direction: up!
So, the questions that begs answering is of course: how come? Why am I experiencing accelerating results as of late?
When I analyse my habits of the last month the following factors stands out, making me want to accredit at least part of the results to them. I’ll list them in what I feel is increasingly important order, saving the most important for last:
An increase in good carbs and eating in accordance with 16:8
Looking at my diet I see an increase in good carbs. I’m always eating a lot of carbs, but during this period I’ve been adding more vegetables and eaten bigger portions of both pasta and brown rice. Furthermore, I note that I’ve been eating (more or less) in accordance with the 16:8 IF diet. There is a distinct pattern: when I train on an empty stomach I perform better. I feel stronger, have more energy and get a better pump.
Increased water intake
I always drink a lot of water, but I can see that during this period I’ve been more conscious about keeping the intake high each and every day, without exceptions.
Intensified training volume per muscle group
I usually train 2-3 muscle groups per session, but during this period I’ve been experimenting with dedicating a whole workout session to one single muscle group. This means that chest, back and shoulders all have been targeted with 20-30 sets in their respective sessions. I don’t intend to stick with this – in fact, the last few days I’ve already switched back to the 2-3 groups/session-formula – but it has clearly served me well during this short period of time. Does this mean that 1 group per session is always the best way to go? Not necessarily. It more likely means that it is a good idea to, every now and again, mix things up when it comes to what kind of volume and training frequency one utilises.
I write this in capital letters in order to underline that this is what I deem to be the single most important factor behind my last few weeks of success at the gym. I’ve been running a few times per weeks, most often somewhere between 2 and 4 kilometres. These cardio sessions has most often been performed outside, as workouts of their own, but sometimes they have come in the shape of a treadmill session at the beginning or the end of my lifting. It has raised my energy levels quite noticeable. It has also improved my recovery and maybe even my ability to both attain and maintain a good pump while lifting. The last two weeks I’ve had 8 cardio workouts, which together with the lifting sessions brings the total number of workouts up to 18 in 14 days. If one allows oneself to temporarily stop distinguishing between anaerobic and aerobic work and just focus on the total workout volume, it stands clear that it has increased a lot during these two weeks. With this in mind it doesn’t strike me as mysterious that I’m experiencing accelerated progress. On the contrary, it feels like a natural consequence stemming from the extra amount of work that I’ve been dedicating to my training.
In summary, if you want to give your progress an extra nudge, try this out:
1. Try sometimes hitting the gym on an empty stomach.
2. Try systematically increasing your water intake for ten days straight
3. Temporarily intensify each muscle group’s workout volume