Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Category: "Training Goals"

Day 304 - Resistance Training 7 Step Approach - Step 6: Volume

Volume refers to the total amount of work (or weight lifted) completed by an individual in a workout. People are usually most familiar with references to sets and repetitions, but there are also a few other connotations that you may or may not have heard of. Below I will define a few common terms.

Volume - Total amount of weight lifted in a workout.

Set - Group of repetitions sequentially performed before a rest.

Repetition-Volume - Total number of repetitions completed in a workout session.

Load-Volume - Total number of sets multiplied by the weight lifted per repetition. For example, 2 sets of 30 pound bicep curls (10 reps each set) would be 600 pounds ( 2 x 30 x 10 ).

Multiple Versus Single Sets

Some studies have shown that a single set of a specific exercise (8-12 reps) is enough to increase muscle strength and hypertrophy (growth). What is generally accepted and understood however, is that single sets are fine and will increase strength and hypertrophy for those individuals that are new to resistance training, but in order to continue to progress, an individual must use multiple sets in order to properly work and fatigue a muscle.

If we think back to our definitions from above, most specifically the "Load-Volume", it is easy to understand why multiple sets are more effective than a single set, even if the single set is done until failure. For example, if an individual did 100 pound back squats to failure (10 reps), in 1 set, that "Load-Volume" is 1000 pounds. However, if the same individual did 3 sets of 10 reps of 80 pound back squats, then the "Load-Volume" would be 2400 pounds lifted.

Primary Resistance Training Goal

In a previous blog (Step 5: Training Load and Repetitions), I discussed the goal repetition ranges for various training goals, but now we need to also relate this to Volume.

For strength and power gains, we know that an individual should try and stick to a weight that will keep them in a 6 or lower rep range. Studies have also been completed that have shown that 2-6 total sets per muscle group also yielded the best results.

Muscular hypertrophy or growth has been shown to be most effective when choosing a weight or load that keeps you in a 6-12 repetition range, in 3-6 total sets.

Muscular endurance is when you aim to stay above the 12 rep range, but slightly different than the power/strength or the hypertrophy goals, endurance recommendations are to simply do 2-3 sets.

Quote of the day:
"Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph; a beginning, a struggle and a victory."

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Day 141 - World's Toughest Mudder Training Schedule

From Tough Mudder:

TMHQ is hard at work designing the obstacle course to end all obstacle courses. Competitors will run laps of an 8-10 mile course featuring a healthy dose of the world’s most challenging obstacles. The winner will be the Mudder that completes the greatest number of laps over a grueling 24-hour period. While WTM obstacles will remain a mystery until event weekend, it’s safe to assume that obstacles at previous Tough Mudder events will only scratch the surface of the trials WTM competitors will be subjected to. Qualifiers should expect the event to require cardiovascular stamina, brute strength, agility, dexterity, mental grit, and most of all a passion to prove oneself to be the Toughest Mudder on this good green earth.

Needless to say, I have put a lot of thought into this training schedule, and although it may still change, this at least gives me a starting point.

You can refer back to the training I did for Tough Mudder Toronto, although this schedule will be remarkably different. Regular Tough Mudder events run anywhere between 10-12 miles, and generally have around 20-25 obstacles. The goal in that event was to essentially get through the course as quickly as possible.

Now, I really do not want to brag, but I spent a lot of time strength training my entire body, so I really had no issues whatsoever with the obstacles at Tough Mudder Toronto. I completed every single obstacle, and did every single one on my own.

Having said that...

World's Toughest Mudder 2011, was an 8-mile course, with 40 obstacles. One of my first and foremost points of focus will be overall total-body strength. Although Tough Mudder is keeping the event a secret until event day, I think it will be fairly safe to assume things will be at least somewhat similar.

This means that since the goal is to complete as many laps in 24 hours as possible, combined with the fact that there are so many obstacles, increased in difficulty, I will be training 2 main energy systems.

Total-body strength will be needed to complete the numerous obstacles on the course. Not only that, but there will be endurance running involved...potentially lots of it. Sure, the course is only 8 miles, with plenty of obstacles along the way, making the course much more segmented, but I don't plan on doing just one lap, so I will want my endurance and stamina levels to be high so that I can compete well into the competition.

Finally, it is one thing to be strong, but it is something completely different to be functionally strong. What I mean by this is that, although you may be able to bench press a bunch of weight, or hurl weight up and over your head, unless your joints, ligaments, and tissues are ready for a number of variables, you increase your risk of injury.

For that reason, I am including many of the P90X2 workouts into my training schedule. P90X2, for those of you who are not familiar, takes basic resistance training to the next level, by introducing many new variables to challenge the body.

For example, pushups done on medicine balls create destabilized surfaces for your joints, forcing your body to adapt and stabilize best it can. This improves the overall athleticism, while also decreasing risk of injury.

Finally, I am currently in, and completing, my own strength phase, acting as both a bit of a recovery period from my training all year, but also maintaining/increasing my strength. I am not doing a lot of cardio right now, with more strength training to improve my overall total-body strength.

Once I then move into more functional training with P90X2, I will also increase my endurance training, and then the final push will be to tie everything together and really up my endurance.

From what I have seen of the course in New Jersey, where World's Toughest Mudder is being held, there shouldn't be hills like there were at the Tough Mudder Toronto event. I am sure there will be changes in elevation, but I don't believe they will have numerous Black Diamond ski hills to traverse like TM Toronto's course did.

Despite that, and adding to what I was discussing before, I will be adding in more endurance distance running this time around. LSD running (Long, Slow, Distance) is great for improving the body's aerobic metabolism efficiency. What this means, and may be especially important for an event like this, is that the longer my body burns stores of body fat, the less likely I will be to 'bonk' and run out of energy.

Also, the more efficient I can run through the course and not exhaust myself with the running alone, the more energy stores I will have available to me to complete the obstacles.

I actually found a blog post created by the winner of 2011's WTM. His blog has prompted me to consider a few variables while creating my schedule. Firstly, distance running will be key. As I said before, the greater my running efficiency is, running between obstacles, the more strength/energy I will have available to me to complete each obstacle. The winner from last year has competed in the Boston Marathon a number of times, so he is no stranger to distance running.

Secondly, recovery is also key. Rather than trying to cram a long workout into every single day of the week, I am going to intensify each workout yet also take scheduled days of recovery to allow my body to heal correctly. Remember, the growth, change, repair, and improvement of the body happens during the recovery periods.

Finally, one cannot discount the involvement the core has in an event like this. The winner from last year explicitly said that core strength is crucial to succeeding in this event. So, you will see my schedule is essentially broken up into three types of training days. Running, total-body resistance, and recovery.

So without further ado, here is the schedule:


9 - Chest & Back
10 - Plyo Legs
11 - Shoulders & Arms
12 - Core/Recovery
13 - Chest & Shoulders
14 - 5.5km run
15 - Off

16 - 7km run
17 - Yoga/Recovery
18 - 7km run
19 - Yoga/Recovery
20 - 7km run
21 - Yoga/Recovery

Functional Strength Phase 1 (September 22nd - October 12th)

Emphasis on functional, strength-based movements. Some plyometric leg work. Ramping up endurance work.

Day 1 - P90X2 V Sculpt and X2 Core
Day 2 - 8km run (week 1), 10km run (week 2), 12km run (week 3)
Day 3 - UBX (Chest, Shoulders & Triceps) and P90X+ Abs/Core+
Day 4 - Yoga/Recovery
Day 5 - 8km run (week 1), 10km run (week 2), 12km run (week 3)
Day 6 - P90X2 Base & Back and X2 Ab Ripper
Day 7 - Off

Recovery Week (October 13th - 19th)

Recovery week will consist of some light cardio training, along with some light resistance training.

Functional Strength Phase 2 (October 20th - November 9th)

Emphasis on functional, strength-based movements. No more lower-body plyometrics, but more endurance training.

Day 1 - Run: October 20 - 12km, October 27 - 13km, November 3 - 14km
Day 2 - P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance and P90X2 X2 Core
Day 3 - Run: October 22 - 14km, October 29 - 16km, November 5 - 18km
Day 4 - Shoulders & Arms and P90X2 X2 Ab Ripper
Day 5 - Yoga/Recovery
Day 6 - Run: October 25 - 12km, November 1 - 14km, November 8 - 10km
Day 7 - Off

Quote of the day:
"Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out."
~ Robert Collier

Day 88 - Grow Younger Every Day Step 5: Exercise with Purpose

Step 5 in leading a happier, healthier life is all about the time you spend exercising.

I see it all the time, people literally pissing their time away at the gym. On on hand, you have the guys lifting stupid amounts of weight (either because they can or because they are trying to impress others), they do a set, grunt and groan, drop the weights down and then pace around while sipping water.

Then, you have the folks who are using the cardio machines, staring blankly at either a magazine, tv, or my personal favorite - texting while exercising.

Why are you wasting your time?

In previous posts, I have discussed the importance of intense exercise, not to mention finding something you enjoy doing. I would say the majority of the people hitting the gym are not following either piece of advice.

If you wish to be a bodybuilder, then go right ahead and take your time between sets. Use ridiculous amounts of weight. Sip lots of water, etc. However, I am almost certain that most people do not want to be bodybuilders. Sure, ask most of the guys out there, and they will probably say that they wish to be "ripped", so they think that their huge muscles are going to "pop out" of their fat...simply not true.

Or what about the women who feel as though just because they are "in the gym", that is good enough, as if the air you breath while "working out" is going to magically make you thinner...

Most people have busy lives. I have a 7-month old son at home, so even though I thought I had a busy life before, I now know how much free time I used to have. I hate the feeling of wasting time throughout the day, especially when I may only have a small window of opportunity to get my workout done, I need to get shit done, and pronto! (excuse the language)

When I say "Exercise with Purpose", I mean that in two different ways.

First of all, as I mentioned above, when you train with purpose, you spend less time sitting around, and more time working. I highly recommend either hiring a personal trainer, using a home workout video, or structuring a workout for yourself complete with break times, etc. This way, you allot a very specific amount of time for yourself to workout, and you finish on time.

Secondly, Exercise with Purpose refers to having a training goal in mind. For those of you who follow my blog all the time will think I sound like a broken record here, but ALL health and fitness journeys should start with a goal or goals. This should be something very specific. "I wish to lose 10 pounds by August 20th!" "I want to run a 5km race in 25 minutes!" etc.

Once you start with a goal, the more specific, the better, you can then structure you workouts to aim directly at that target. I find, for myself, I get much more mental focus when I am training because I have a very specific light at the end of the tunnel that I am striving for. I get into my home gym and work as hard as I can every day because I know that I have, for example, 60 days to hit my goal, and I need every single minute of my training time to reach that point!

Trust me when I tell you that, setting a goal for yourself, working towards said goal, and then conquering it, is one of the most satisfying experiences you can make for yourself!

Quote of the day:
"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream."
~ C.S. Lewis

Day 57 - Fitness vs. Training

Some of you may be wondering why I have such a silly title to this blog. Aren't these two the same thing? No, they are not, and I plan on explaining why I feel this way.

Anybody who exercises or stays fit with physical activity is doing 'fitness'. Fitness is usually (not always) geared towards feeling better, looking better, being healthier, etc. It is the main category of physical fitness that most people fall into.

The one downside to fitness - in my opinion - is that it is less goal-oriented and focused as 'Training' is. Allow me to explain.

I use physical fitness all the time! I enjoy staying active, lifting weights, doing cardiovascular exercise, going for walks, going for hikes, playing with my nieces, etc. The times of the year when I am focusing more on 'Fitness' and less on 'Training' is fine, but I am often not as concerned with any specific goal.

Sure, as I said before, some people may use physical activity to try and change the way they look or how they feel and just overall get 'in shape', but it is the times of year when I start to 'Train' when I feel fully alive.

Training is used for those times when you are specifically asking of extreme demands out of your body to improve for a certain competition or sport. Athletes know all about training. It is used to improve skills, or performance so that you can become better at something.

So how is this different than overall fitness? Growing up, I was always active with sports such as competitive hockey and soccer. Training wasn't necessarily something I thought about as much as I do now, simply because I participated in events for fun, but looking back on how I acted/felt, I can see now how truly different things were.

I find my entire mood changes when I am training for performance. I begin to get that 'hunger' or 'drive' during my training sessions to push myself that much further. To push my body to the brink of what it is capable of doing, and then wake up the very next morning and be ready to do it all over again with the same desire.

You do not necessarily have to be training for a sport or competition to get these feelings, however, but I find it certainly helps. Knowing that every action or exercise I do is moving me closer to my goal is an invigorating experience.

Over the past several weeks of my Warrior Training, I have been using physical fitness to get in overall shape. Sure, I was training towards a specific goal, but I was further from my goal dates, so my training was more about getting in overall great shape to lead up to my performance training.

That takes me to today. Day 1 of my Performance Phase was this morning and man oh man did I feel alive! I know that I have less than 5 weeks now until my first competition that I am training for (Warrior Dash) so I could definitely feel my attitude and energy levels pick up a notch or two!

As I said, you do not necessarily need a specific event or competition to train for. But I highly recommend spending a few weeks, maybe a couple times a year, focusing on one specific goal, and attacking that son of a bitch. It is a truly amazing feeling!

Quote of the day:
"A successful man continues to look for work after he has found a job."
~ Author Unknown

Reader Question - Should I do Insanity if I'm a skinny guy and can't keep weight up?

Should I do Insanity if I'm a skinny guy and can't keep weight up?

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First of all, if you don't know what "Insanity" is, you can check it out here. Insanity is a very intense at-home, high-intense interval training program from Shaun T and the company Beachbody.

I often get asked this question, especially on my youtube videos/reviews. No doubt, individuals see the results in the infomercials and want to, "look as good as those guys/girls do". A few things before I start off, yes it is entirely possible to get infomercial-like results from certain home-workout programs. However, everyone's results will be different depending on a slew of criteria including how hard you push yourself, your diet, your genetics, your personal abilities, your history of fitness, etc.

No matter where you begin your health and fitness journey, it is important to set goals for yourself. Goals can range from something cosmetic like, "I want to lose 15 pounds" to something more competitive like, "I want to run 5km in under 25 minutes."

By completing a training program like Insanity, there is no doubt that many calories will be burned during each and every workout. For a skinny guy/girl that wishes to put on some body weight, this may not be the right program for them. Having said that, there are other benefits to be gained from a training program such as Insanity such as aerobic stamina, anaerobic power, etc.

When referencing a skinny guy (or girl), one needs to evaluate exactly why that person is skinny and also what their goals are and why they wish to gain mass (assuming that is their goal). Often times, skinny people can be more genetically predisposed to a leaner frame. These people are often referred to as "hardgainers" or the fact that they have a hard time gaining mass. If an individual truly is having issues keeping weight on, despite being very sedentary, then there may be other factors at play and a visit to the doctor would be highly recommended.

Putting all of that aside and getting back to the topic, being skinny isn't so bad either. I know many guys (and some girls) don't like to be skinny and want to put on weight. I was the same way as a teenager as I really struggled to put weight on and keep it on. At the end of the day, your muscular size is not always directly correlated with your strength, power or athletic ability however, and a skinny person doing a program like Insanity can yield some tremendous athletic benefits such as aerobic conditioning and spatial awareness (balance, coordination, etc.)

It actually would be entirely possible for a skinny person to actually gain mass by doing a program like Insanity as there is a tremendous amount of body-weight resistance exercises here that can stimulate muscular hypertrophy, but it would be incredibly hard for an already skinny person to keep up with the caloric demands, especially if they are already genetically predisposed to have a fast metabolism.

If one would approach this question based on how I am assuming it is to be interpreted, I would say that someone looking to put on body mass in a strictly non-athletic way, then they should stay away from Insanity and look towards more traditional weight lifting routines that stimulate muscular growth (hypertrophy).

-Tyler Robbins

Running Speed

The mechanics involved in human running is substantially different than when walking. When human beings walk, the body rotates through various positions including balancing on one leg, while the weight shifts from one leg to both legs, to again on one leg. There is a cadence that rotates through these general positions.

Running, on the other hand, is more of a ballistic action with the body continually launching its weight from one leg to the other. The speed at which someone runs is directly linked to the stride frequency to stride length relationship. For example, when comparing novice to elite sprinters, studies have shown that elite sprinters achieve greater stride length and can increase it further up to about 45m from a static start of a race. Compare this to novice sprinters who peak their stride length around the 25m mark of a race from a static start.

When comparing novice to elite stride frequency, elite sprinters can achieve faster slightly higher frequencies (~5/second) and maintain that pace for a longer period of time compared to novices. When you think about the mechanics behind sprinting, it is easy to understand that a sprinter that has a high turnover stride (stride frequency) and is pushing off for more power (stride length) will elicit a greater speed.

One thing to understand, however, is that due to varying leg lengths amongst different individuals, stride length is difficult at times to train. Stride frequency, however, can be trained effectively to increase running speed.

Sprinting Performance and Stride Analysis

Below is a summarized list of the major muscular requirements during sprinting:

1. As the back (recovery) leg swings forward, eccentric knee flexion controls its forward momentum, prepares it for an efficient foot strike.

2. Muscle action then shifts from eccentric to concentric action and continues to the support phase (leg beneath center of gravity) which transfers power to the leg.

3. During the ground support phase, the high joint angle at the planted foot allows for stored elastic energy. Eccentric knee extensor activity also allows the quads to store and recover elastic energy.

4. There is a triple extension from the ankle, knee, and hip all at once allowing for propulsion and drive forward.

Training Goals

To maximize sprinting speed, I have listed a few training goals below that can help in running efficiency:

Minimize Braking - By aiming to plant the supporting foot directly beneath the center of gravity and maximizing the backward velocity of that leg during the propulsion phase will minimize the braking effect of forward momentum.

Fast Foot Strike - By increasing stride frequency and backward propulsion, you minimize the amount of time the foot has contact with the ground, therefore minimizing the braking effect of forward momentum.

Strengthen the Hamstrings - Eccentric knee flexor strength is the most important aspect limiting recovery of the leg as it swings forward.

-Tyler Robbins

Resistance Training 7 Step Approach - Step 5: Training Load and Repetitions

Load is the most critical part of a resistance training program. I will detail ways in which fitness professionals define and use loads in a well-rounded resistance training program.

Terminology Used to Quantify and Qualify Mechanical Work

Mechanical Work - force and displacement (distance) an object or weight is moved. A quantifiable way in which you can measure mechanical work is like in Olympic weight lifting when you multiply a weight lifted by the number of times lifted.

Load Volume (or Volume Load) - Basically a measurement of weight (units) multiplied by distance (distance units) and repetitions. To note however, that certain repetition quantities alter the quality of the work being done. For example, 1 set of 15 repetitions is not the same as 3 sets of 5 repetitions.

Relationship Between Load and Repetitions

Repetitions is and should be inversely related to the load lifted, especially when calculating correct loads for specific repetition amounts. For example, the higher the load, the lower number of reps an individual should be able to lift.

Calculating 1-repetition maximum (1RM) and 10-repetition maximum for individuals is a highly effective tool to structure a proper resistance training program. Depending on an individual's goals, their resistance exercises should remain within a specific rep range to meet such goals, which will be discussed later.

Keep in mind that an individual's 1RM (or calculated 1RM) on a weight machine may be significantly higher than doing a similar action with free weights as more synergistic muscles must be involved, potentially lowering the overall strength capacity of the user.

Below is a chart that can be used to determine 1RM based on percentages of weights lifted. There are many exceptions to this chart however based upon what muscles are being worked as well as the individual's comfort and skill level.

%1RM - # Repetitions Allowed
100 - 1
95 - 2
93 - 3
90 - 4
87 - 5
85 - 6
83 - 7
80 - 8
77 - 9
75 - 10
70 - 11
67 - 12
65 - 15

Calculating 1RM

There are few different ways you can calculate a 1RM for a specific exercise for an individual. For starters, a test can be conducted in which an individual can progress through a few "warm-up" sets and then, using a hypothetical 1RM, attempt to lift their heaviest weight possible for 1 repetition. Another way to calculate is by using the above chart to have an individual complete an exercise with a desired weight for as many repetitions as they can (preferably below 10 reps or so) to then calculate a theoretical 1RM.

When attempting an accurate 1RM test, where the individual is attempting to lift their heaviest weight for 1 repetition, a few things should be considered. First of all, only those individuals who are considered intermediate or experienced weightlifters who have a lot of experience at the specific exercise should attempt a 1RM test. Also, only power or core exercises that involve large muscle groups and multiple joints can withstand the large forces placed upon the body.

Assigning Load and Repetitions Based on the Training Goal

Once a strength and conditioning specialist has made a well-judged assessment based on an individuals needs (Step 1: Needs Analysis), as well as tested for actual and theoretical 1RM's, a training program can then be designed based upon the trainee's goals and therefore load and repetition quantities.

Generally, there are 4 main categories of resistance training goal sets.

1. "Strength" training is when an individual stays in a 1-6 rep range or so (85-100% 1RM). Strength training has minimal muscular growth, but very large potential for very strong muscles. Strength training should primarily be kept to "Core" exercises (large muscle groups, multi-joint).

2. "Hypertrophy" training is the training mode that creates the most muscular growth with added strength as well. Here, an individual should aim for a 6-12 rep range (85-70% 1RM).

3. "Endurance" training is to teach your muscles to be as fatigue-resistant as possible. Not a whole lot of strength gains are found here, nor much muscular growth, but muscular endurance training certainly has its place in training many individuals and athletes alike. Here you would want to push your repetitions higher than 12 (67% 1RM).

4. "Power" training is similar to strength training but slightly different. Due to the fact that the muscles are trying to displace (move) a weight as fast as possible, the muscles can not generate as much overall force, therefore slightly lowering the power weight goals to stay within a specific rep range. Here, you would be aiming for approximately 80% 1RM in order to stay in a 2-5 rep range.

Variation of the Training Load

Although an experienced weightlifter or athlete may mentally feel prepared to lift "heavy" 3 times a week (M,W,F), the heavy strains placed on the body can quickly lead to overtraining. Instead, a 3 day-a-week training schedule involving power and other core exercises should be split into a "heavy", "medium", and "light" day where the light day involves lifting 80% of the loads lifted on the heavy day, while maintaining the same repetition counts as the heavy day.
-Tyler Robbins