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Blog: How to Scale Your Workouts

**HOW TO SCALE YOUR WORKOUTS**

One of the perceived drawbacks to group training is the assertion that it’s a one-size-fits-all workout. At Breakthrough Bootcamp, we take great lengths to expose many variables in our workouts that can be altered to cater to each individual’s needs.

If you’re the type that likes really intense workouts, you should be able to make any workout intense for you simply by manipulating these variables. Conversely, novices can lower the intensity by manipulating these same variables the opposite way.

Let’s take a look at some of these variables:

WEIGHT: I always say your goal should be to lift as heavy as possible while maintaining good form. Often times, the difference between an ‘easy’ workout and a ‘killer’ workout is the weight you use. Obviously, the heavier you go, the more intensity required. Novices should start with light weight first to perfect the basic movements. Once perfected, it’s advised to increase weight incrementally. The benefits of going heavy are faster fat loss, improved strength, and perceived feeling of empowerment. Lifting heavy feels great and the results are even better!

TEMPO: Depending on the exercise, you can make your workouts easier or tougher simply by changing the tempo of certain movements. For instance, during a strength based movement, you’ll cause more muscle microtrauma (which is a good thing believe it or not.) if you slow down the movement (especially during the eccentric part, the part of the movement where you’re resisting gravity). If you’re doing a pushup, slowing your descent will make the exercise more difficult. During a cardio-based movement, you can rev up the intensity by increasing the tempo. By increasing the tempo of a cardio exercise, you’ll elevate your heart rate.

ACTIVE/REST INTERVALS: During our circuit workouts, we have a start (active) and stop (rest) time period. A common interval would be 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. A novice could make this circuit more manageable by decreasing the active time (20 seconds on) and increasing the rest time (40 seconds off). Someone more advanced would do the opposite. 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off might be more appropriate for them.

PROGRESSIONS/REGRESSIONS: Great news – most exercises have a tougher variation (progression) and an easier variation (regression). A pushup has several variations that can be used. A novice may want to perform the pushup on their knees or with their hands on an elevated surface. Someone more advanced could elevate their feet or wear a weighted vest during the pushup. Squats can be done in its simplest form by sitting and standing from a chair/box, and can be progressively more difficult by adding weight or a jump.

We take great care to ensure that each of our workouts give you the opportunity to manipulate most, if not, all of these variables.

Another important aspect to look at here is complete exercise modification. This means that you can insert/remove certain exercises from your workout to make your training even more conducive to your goals. It’s well documented that types of exercise can impact the effectiveness of your training routine. We’ll look at how to evaluate this below.

Now let’s look at how these variables should be approached based on your goals. Let’s assume your goals are either: fat loss, muscle gain, increased performance, and improved general fitness/health.

FAT LOSS:

Weight – Heavier is almost always better

Tempo – Varied speeds during strength, usually fast during cardio

Active/rest intervals – More active, less rest (during cardio)

Progressions/regressions – Whichever progressions you can sustain without ‘burning out’

Complete exercise modification – Include more strength based exercises to help preserve muscle and metabolic rate. Dumbbell complexes are a great mix of strength and cardio.

Notes – If you’re on a severe caloric deficit, less can be better. Diet, sleep and rest/recovery take precedent over training. Calorie restriction + intense exercise tends to put your nervous system in to overdrive, so it’s important that you recognize that this shouldn’t be done long-term. Most successful fat loss clients either aim for small improvements OR they go from aggressive measures to maintenance phases in a cyclical fashion. Slow steady cardio (eg. Long walks instead of sprints) can be beneficial after a workout, as it doesn’t put greater demand on your nervous system.

MUSCLE GAIN:

Weight – Heavy (generally a weight that you can only do 8-12 max reps per set)

Tempo – Alternate between standard tempo, and slow eccentric during strength. Standard tempo cardio

Active/rest intervals – Less active, more rest

Progressions/regressions – whichever variation targets the biggest, and most muscles.

Complete exercise modification – Replace some cardio exercises for compound strength movements (squats, lunges, deadlifts, bent rows, chest press, etc.) Progress to some isolation movements once you’ve build a solid base from compound exercises.

Notes – Eat like a beast. Sleep lots. Lift heavy. Remember that you won’t grow if you don’t eat enough.

PERFORMANCE:

Weight – Heavy is usually better

Tempo – Slow eccentric during strength, fast tempo for cardio

Active/rest intervals – Always more active/ less rest (unless training specifically for strength)

Progressions/regressions – Always aim for progressions

Complete exercise modification – Replace some isolation exercises for more compound strength and cardio based movements. Including plyometrics, and other explosive based movements may be beneficial

Notes – The above suggestions are for general performance. If you’re training for something specific, you’ll have to adjust accordingly.

GENERAL FITNESS/ HEALTH

Weight – Start light, incrementally go heavier at your own pace

Tempo – Try varied tempos. Start slow during cardio, then work your way up at your own pace

Active/rest intervals – Start with plenty of rest, gradually bring down rest and up active intervals

Progressions/regressions – Start small, work your way up

Complete exercise modification – Generally not necessary

Notes – The key here is consistency. Adjust the variables based on what’s most likely to get you to enjoy your workouts more.

Hope this helps!

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