How I Train For Health, Strength, and Muscle

eirik garnas bent over row

During the summer I sometimes work out outside.

All of my writing on exercise, nutrition, physiology, and biology is based upon the same structure: Evolution provides the foundation that is needed to make sense of human health, and optimal fitness can be achieved by combining knowledge about our paleolithic ancestors with modern science. Physical Organic Fitness is described by some researchers as physical activity that is consistent with our hunter-gatherer heritage (1,2). I definitely see the benefits of moving like our ancestors, and this is reflected in my training programs which are based around natural human movements such as running, squatting, pushing, and rowing. However, I also see the value in goal-setting, progressive overload, and programming, so I try to mix the principles of effective training with the fundamentals of ancestral fitness by designing goal specific training programs based on the most natural human movements.

Exercising vs. training

My training programs are based around the major lifts, such as the squat, deadlift, bench press, and press

Training focuses on long-term progress.

The majority of people you’ll find at the average training center rarely have a long-term plan or structure for their workouts. They simply get into the gym one day, do a couple of random strength training machines and some cardio, go home, and repeat the same procedure a couple of days later. This type of exercise doesn’t really bring any significant long-term results.

However, as long as you push yourself, stick to good exercises, and emphasise technique there really isn’t anything wrong with just exercising without a long-term plan. This is basically what our hunter-gatherer ancestors did for hundreds of thousands of years.

While I personally see the benefits of spontaneous physical activity just for the fun and pleasure of exercising, most of my own training and my work as a personal trainer have centered around programming and goal-specific training. When you coach clients whose got specific goals, training beats exercising every time.

The basic training principles I adhere to

One of the things I’ve learned from my years as a coach is that although there doesn’t exist a training program that fits everyone, all effective training builds upon the same structure. I highlighted the basic keys to effective strength training in an earlier post, and most of these “rules” apply to all types of training, regardless of whether the goal is sports performance, better endurance, or muscle growth. While I typically change my routine every couple of months, I always adhere to the basic principles of effective training.

eirik garnas running with bricks

My training is based around the most basic human movements, such as running, squatting, lifting, and pushing.

My training programs are always centered around the most basic human movements, but I’ll adjust intensity, volume, assistance work, and frequency from program to program.  I try to work out at the gym 3-4 days a week. The days I’m not doing my routine at the gym, I typically go for a fast walk during the day (about 30 min).

I think it’s important to not let physical activity become a chore so although I typically maintain a fairly rigid training plan, I’ll sometimes do a more spontaneous workout where I play around with different exercises.

My training goals

I sometimes design specific goals that I want to reach within a certain timeframe, but most of the time I just use my primary goals as a guide in the back of my head. My overall aim is to optimize physical fitness, and here are my basic objectives…

  • Get a well-balanced muscular system. This means working on flexibility/mobility where it’s needed and strengthen weak muscle groups.
  • Improve metabolic and cardiovascular health.
  • Build muscle and strength.
  • Sprint faster and improve aerobic performance.

My current training program

eirik garnas gymThe idea behind my current workout routine is to combine mobility work, strength exercises, and some endurance and sprint training. The plan only includes 4 basic lifts, which I do every workout. I train the basic strength exercises in several different rep ranges to get as strong as possible over time and reduce the chance of stagnation.

Warm-up and mobility work
I start each workout with 10-20 minutes of dynamic stretching (especially hip flexors, hamstrings, and pectoralis), glute activation, air squats, explosive kettlebell deadlifts, etc.

Strength training
I begin with a couple of light warm-up sets before I stack on the weight. I go heavy on the first set and usually reduce the load a little on the last couple of sets to be able to get within the planned rep range. If I get the desired amount of reps on a set (e.g., 6 in the case of a rep range of 4-6), I’ll increase the weight on that set the next workout. I rest 2 minutes between each set and 3-4 minutes between exercises.

Sprint, indoor rowing, or running
At the end of each workout I either sprint, row, or run on the treadmill.

Day 1

  • Warm-up and mobility work
  • Strength training
    Squat to low box (1-2 sec. stop on the box) 5×2-4
    Bench press 5×2-4
    Chins 5×2-4
    Press 5×2-4
  • Sprints
    5 uphill treadmill sprints, 30 seconds each. 30 seconds break between each sprint. I slowly increase the speed from workout to workout.

Day 2

  • Warm-up and mobility work
  • Strength training
    Squat to low box (1-2 sec. stop on the box) 4×4-6
    Bench press 4×4-6
    Chins 4×4-6
    Press 4×4-6
  • Rowing
    2000m indoor rowing. I try to row a little faster every workout.

Day 3

  • Warm-up and mobility work
  • Strength training
    Squat to low box (1-2 sec. stop on the box) 3×6-8
    Bench press 3×6-8
    Chins 3×6-8
    Press 3×6-8
  • Running
    10-15 minutes running on the treadmill. I try to run faster every workout.

What does your training program look like? What are the obstacles that keep you from reaching your goals?

Comments

  1. I am 63 years old and am more comfortable with machines than dead weights. I also usually exercise alone. Does that make a (good/bad) difference?

    • Eirik Garnas says:

      That’s fine DK. Free weights aren’t for everyone. However, if you get an experienced coach to teach you proper technique in the barbell lifts I’m sure you’ll feel comfortable doing them after a while. I’ve teached strength training to men and women of all ages!

  2. You provide and excellent example. Maybe you can do a post on your mobility warm up? Thanks

  3. Great website Erik! Love your philosophy.

  4. I like this workout’s simplicity. Are you taking one day off in between workouts?

Trackbacks

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