Intermittent Fasting & Training: How to Make it Work for You!
Am I saying you should abandon whatever training split you’re using and adopt some crazy new program? Not at all. As long as you’re training hard, performing the basic movements and focusing on strength gains, the stuff you’re already doing in the gym is putting you on the path to consistent growth. But there is a way to eek out a little more progress, speed up your results and even get leaner while continuing to add mass. It’s called high frequency or “intermittent” training! The following are some of its benefits, as well as a few ways you can add frequency to your current routine.
More Frequency, More Results
If you listen to any one training guru for too long, you’ll become convinced that a muscle just can’t recover without some arbitrary amount of rest. Some trainers claim it takes a week or more for a body part to recover, some claim just a few days, but ultimately, none of them are correct – at least not 100%. Recovery and muscle growth aren’t such simple processes, and you can’t just use fatigue, soreness or even a slight dip in strength as signs that you shouldn’t train a given body part or movement on a given day.
In fact, powerlifters, weightlifters and athletic coaches have long understood that more training is always better – as long as you don’t exceed your capacity to recover. And by “more,” I mean both more volume (more sets per session) and more frequency (more sessions per week). If you’re eating enough and sleeping enough to recovery and grow – and that’s a big “if” – there is essentially no such thing as too much training.
Of course, just about everyone’s modern lifestyle limits their capacities to recover. If you’ve got a job, school or other full-time obligations, you’re not going to be able to be live the recovery-centric life of an elite athlete. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still do more! You can probably make more time for extra training, extra eating and extra rest if you really cut the fat from your life. Plus, extra frequency will eventually increase your work capacity and your ability to lift more weight, more often and still come back for more! Higher frequency training may lead to a dip in performance at first, but this adaptation will make you bigger, stronger and able to handle more training in the long run.
One of the best uses for intermittent, high-frequency training is to address weak points in your physique. If you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter, chances are you’ve got a few weak points that are holding you back on certain exercises and body parts. Week triceps may stall your bench press, for instance, and handling less weight on the bench and other pressing exercises will ultimately limit the growth of your chest and shoulders. The same is true for the hamstrings, spinal erectors and many other lower body muscle groups that often take a back seat to the quads.
However, you don’t just want to throw in an entire extra workout for these muscles – at least not right off the bat. That might work for a week or two, but you’d soon find your recovery and strength in the gutter. A better, more sustainable option is to use frequent, light workouts to gradually add training volume to these weak points.
For example, you might start to bring up a weak chest by doing a few sets of push-ups a few times per week. This kind of simple workout can be done at home or even at work, and it’s not taxing enough to impede your recovery for your heavier upper body workouts. Over time, you’d build up to more reps, more sets, more times per week, until you’re doing maybe 200-300 push-ups per day! Given how easy push-ups are for most trainees, that may not seem like much, but remember – extra work is always going to produce more results as long as you can recover. You’ll be amazed at what a difference this consistent, extra effort can do to bring up lagging body parts.
Upper Body Movements
So, what exercises should you do for intermittent training? Unless you work at a gym, you’re probably going to want to pick movements that require little to no equipment. For your upper body pushing muscles – the chest, shoulders and triceps – you’ll want to use push-ups, handstand push-ups and basically any other movement where you’re pressing your body weight.
For your upper back and biceps, you might need to get a little more creative, but it’s still possible to get plenty of good work in. Find something stable that will allow you to hold your body parallel to the floor, and do body weight or “fat man” rows. You can also carry resistance bands with you, attach them to stable surfaces, and do face pulls, rows and other pulling movements at just about any angle to address different weak points in your back.
Finally, hands down the holy grail of high-frequency training movements is the pull-up. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you buy a simple but sturdy pull-up bar for your home, and knock out a few reps every time you walk by it. When you’re out and about, use whatever you see in your environment to do the same – tree limbs, monkey bars, etc. You might look a little weird, but that’s the price we pay to build an exceptional physique!
Lower Body Movements
Most people use high-frequency training to work on their upper bodies, but then again, most trainees don’t pay nearly enough attention to their legs! Unless you’re the rare lifter who’s got overpowering legs and glutes, you should also use a few simple movements to add volume to your lower body training.
By far the best – and simplest – movement for this purpose is the body weight squat. Like the push-up, it may seem too easy to produce any meaningful results, but you’d be amazed at what 100-200 extra squats per day will do for your lower body size and work capacity. Take the number up way higher – 500, 1000 or even more per day – and your legs are bound to grow!
Aside from squats, you can add some meat to your hamstrings with resistance band leg curls. Attach the band to a surface at knee level, sit in a chair with the band around your ankles, and curl your legs inward. Play around with the setup until it gets somewhat difficult to do 30-40 reps – you don’t need to make this a “heavy” exercise. Add in a few hundred reps of these per week, and not only will your hamstrings get bigger – your squatting will feel far more stable and strong.
Finally, we’ve got the basic, body weight calf raise. Anyone who’s built truly impressive calves will tell you that you’ve got to hammer them hard and often, and they’re just about impossible to overtrain, so knock these out however and whenever you can. You’ll experience some soreness, sure, but that shouldn’t impede your calf workouts in the gym or affect your other lifts.
Adding Frequency to Your Routine
Thus far we’ve discussed simple, body weight movements you can use to supplement your weight room workouts – but high-frequency training doesn’t stop there! In-home workouts are great for adding a little extra to your overall workload, but their biggest benefit is that they increase your work capacity. You might not be able to add a whole ‘nother chest or leg workout to your routine right off the bat, but these lighter workouts will help you transition into a higher workload without making you feel weak, run-down or overtrained.
So, while not everyone has the time to add extra gym sessions, intermittent training is a great way to build up to more volume, more frequency and heavier loads in the weight room. If you do have the time and the desire to grow, you’ll eventually want to add to your workload in some fashion, be it more sets, more sessions, more weight or a combination of the three. You may not live the life of a highly paid, full-time athlete, but you can more than likely make some extra time for extra training.