10 Questions Every Lifter Should Know

Nobody wants to put time and effort into their training and not get the most of it. Knowing things like the best diet, best rep range, best workout, and what you should eat post-workout can be the difference between wasting your time and making the progress you want. And if you have no idea what any of this means, you may want to check out Training 101 where I break down the basics you need to know.


Is Diet More Important than Training?

Answer:  Yes

For more than a few reasons, your diet is actually more important than the training you do. First, exercise, even at high intensity is highly unlikely to negate all the calories that are eaten in an unmanaged diet. On the flip side, if your goal is to build your body, not eating enough prevents your body from creating the muscle you want. And from a health perspective, training can build muscle and burn calories, but no form of exercise can reverse the damage caused to our body by the over-consumption of sugars or saturated fats.

What’s the Best Diet?

Answer:  The one you can stick with

Seriously, every diet will work to an extent, but if you can’t stick to it, it doesn’t matter how well it worked for anybody else. Choosing a diet because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s right for you; you have to match what you are capable of doing with a diet you can follow. For example, if you hate eating in the morning intermittent fasting may be for you. If you aren’t a carb-o-holic, keto may be best. And if you can exercise self-control, IIFYM may be your ticket to lasting changes.

What’s the Best Workout?

Answer:  There isn’t a single best workout or training style

Progress requires calculated incremental changes and similar to dieting, bodies aren’t all “one size fits all.” The most important part of any training plan is balance. Every plan should balance pushing and pulling movements, core, and cardio.

Is Cardio Necessary?

Answer:  No

The default answer for any exercise is that it isn’t necessary, however, there is more benefit to performing cardio exercise than not. For starters, cardio is known to burn more calories on a per minute basis than any other exercise. More than that, cardio increases your work capacity, which allows you to train harder and longer. And most importantly, cardio provides a benefit for your heart that lifting does not.

Is Soreness Bad?

Answer:  No, but it shouldn’t be the goal of your training

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, is a normal part of training. Any time you change activities or increase the volume or intensity, you may experience localized soreness as a result of microtrauma. The soreness will generally start 12-24 hours post training and may last up to 72 hours. The best way to treat DOMS is with NSAID’s and slow gentle movement. Sharp, shooting pain or pain that lasts longer than 72 hours in a muscle is a sign of more significant trauma and is a clear indicator that you need to rest. Any joint soreness that lasts longer than 72 hours is cause to consider a trip to the doctor in my opinion.

How Many Reps Should I Do?

Answer:  It depends

There is no perfect rep scheme. I have seen trainees make progress doing as little as 1 set of 20 reps of every exercise. In general, growth requires a mid to high rep scheme with higher volume, strength is low to mid rep ranges, and explosive movements are done with low rep ranges. A well-rounded program will use all rep ranges to create an appropriate time under tension, one of the keys to growth.

How Often Should I Change Exercises?

Answer:  6-12 Weeks

The newer you are to a movement, the longer you can stay with it before seeing a plateau. Some programs may suggest changing exercises every 4 weeks, but between learning a movement and actually getting some benefit, it takes a minimum of 6 weeks. To see growth and have a true measure of its effectiveness in your program, it will likely take 12 weeks.

What Should I Eat Postworkout?

Answer:  Protein

Protein is the best choice for post-workout consumption because of the “anabolic” state of the body following a workout. In reality, for 99% of the trainees out there, it doesn’t matter what you eat. Unless you are a high-level athlete or have very specific goals (think bodybuilder or figure competitor) it won’t matter. What will matter is what you are eating throughout the day. Yes, protein and carbs are great to help the body heal after training, but if the rest of your diet is crap, it doesn’t matter if you chug a Muscle Milk after your workout. It isn’t what you do some of the time, it’s what you do most of the time.

How Long Should I Train?

Answer:  About 30 of actual training time

If you only count the time you are actually performing an exercise, not the warm-up or any of the rest periods, a good training session is about 30 minutes of hard work. When you add in time to warm-up and rests, workouts take longer on the clock. Trying to train hard with more than 30 minutes of actual exercise can lead to diminished returns and increased risk of injury or under-recovery.

How Many Days Per Week Should I Train?

 Answer:  2-5

During some of the busiest times of my life, I was lucky to get 2 training sessions in per week. While I wasn’t making progress, I wasn’t regressing either. Many of the best-known programs are 3-5 days programs for a reason. They allow a good amount of quality training to be done, they allow the body to recover, and they fit a busy schedule. On the flip side, training 6-7 days a week is extremely hard to recover from unless training is your job. There is only so much under-recovery you can handle before your body breaks down, so while you may make progress for a month or two, there is a greater risk associated with going “balls to the wall” that often.