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Weight Selection

We all want to be the strongest guys at the gym, to put up the “big weights” and show that we are powerful, virile men.   Good news, The Apollo Challenge is designed to get you there!  In order to achieve life-long results and not just a one-time showing  you will have to be smart in your approach.   The Apollo Challenge workout program relies on appropriate weight selection to maximize results on each given training day.  The goal is to fatigue the intended muscle(s) by the completion of the prescribed repetitions.  Weight selection is critical to establish a pattern of progress from workout to workout.   Going too light won’t provide enough stress and the risk of going too heavy can produce compromised technique leading you into leveraging your soft tissues in a manner more likely to induce injury than muscle growth.  Injury (muscle or joint) is the single largest deterrent to strength gains.  Consistent, intentional training is the key catalyst to strength gains and increasing muscle mass.  Injury eliminates consistency as it’s impossible to build a habit of health if you’re not able to complete the work.

Before we explain weight selection, it is important to understand the intention of our time in the gym so you can make informed decisions.

You Are The Only Competition

It is important to develop a “compete with yourself” mindset. Competing with others at the expense of your body is a reliable recipe for failure.  Sport is about winning, training is about staying healthy and setting both short and long-term goals to achieve lasting results.  Keep your focus in the gym on training and not making a sport out of an exercise.  Remember these three C’s to reinforce self-awareness throughout your training:  Conscious, Critical, Control.

Be Conscious of Exercise Intention

Be conscious of exercise intention.  Exercise intention is understanding exactly what muscle(s) you’re supposed use in a given exercise and how to influence them to your favor. This is a form of deliberate practice which is the opposite of mindless lifting.  Pick up the weight, decide exactly how it should be performed, and how many repetitions.  This habit alone will move the needle forward. Thinking about each muscle involved as you activate them has shown to increase muscle activation and training effect.[1]

Be Critical

Be critical of your movements and time in the gym.   The more you perform an exercise with consciousness and control in mind the better you’ll become at critiquing your movements.  You will easily recognize small adjustments that are unnoticeable to the eye of your training partner.  This is an on-going process.  Refine, Refine, and Refine.  Master your body.

Maintain Control

You should be dictating the speed of the movement keeping your tempo in mind.  Understanding control minimizes the use of momentum to produce force.  Momentum typically leverages soft tissues and joints and reduces muscle tension, you should be in control of the weights not gravity.  The Apollo challenge emphasizes tempo and repetition schemes to induce specific muscle stress in return for a specific response as listed below. [2]

12 Rep Day “Go for the Pump” 1010 Tempo to induce cellular swelling and stimulate growth.  It’s essential you fatigue the muscle each set. See the Day 1 Article for more
8 Rep Day “Go for the Burn” The 4010 Tempo is used to cause stress to the muscle in the form of micro tears eliciting a beneficial inflammatory response to stimulate growth. See the Day 2 Article for more.
5 Rep Day “Heavy Day” The 10XO is used to maximize strength gains by stimulating your nervous system to recruit as many motor units as possible to move heavy weight.  “X” represents explosive. See the Day 3 Article for more.

Weight Selection Guidelines

When selecting a weight for each exercise, the idea is to control the weight and produce stable and consistent force.  Each repetition should look the same with an inevitable decrease in speed during the onset of fatigue.  We will allow fatigue to affect speed but it must not affect technique.  Your weight choice should challenge your thresholds but should not compromise your technique.

Please note the following guideline to be “general ” as individuals vary greatly in muscle fiber make-up (fast or slow twitch) and it’s for this reason to expect a variance.  Never attempt to perform a movement with a weight you can’t handle and always ask for help from a professional when attempting to push yourself.

12 Rep Day Choose a weight that will exhaust you by the end of each set. Start lighter than you would expect and then select a higher weight if you find the previous set was not challenging enough.  Make sure to track your weights in your Apollo Challenge book so you can refer back to them to choose weights for the following workout.
8 Rep Day Choose a weight that is roughly 5-10% heavier than your 12 Rep Day. Realize that this day has some different exercises which you will have to set a new baseline on.  The weight should be challenging and exhaust you by the end of the set.
5 Rep Day This is your heavy day. Choose a weight that is 10-15% heavier than your 12 Rep Day. You will be surprised how much weight you can move on these days. This weight should be very challenging and should exhaust you by the end of each set.

Keep Your Training History

 The Apollo Challenge book and workout pages are designed for you to record your weights as you move through each set.  This allows you to set targets each week to exceed and progress from the previous workout.  

Don’t be afraid to micro progress.  Adding 1 ¼ lb and 2.5 lb. plates (often magnetic) to dumbbell exercises is a great example of micro-progression.  Progress is not linear.  For example, your strength gains in weeks 1 & 2 are likely to be much greater than in weeks 3 & 4. This is due to neuromuscular adaptations that spike immediate improvements in motor unit recruitment.  You should consider a 5-10lb. increase on a dumbbell exercise a significant gain.  

Finding a great Training partner is an invaluable asset as they provide accountability, support, and motivation.  Don’t be shy about getting someone started on the same mission as you.  It will ultimately benefit you both.

If you are ever in doubt when performing an exercise or selecting weights, always seek the advice of a professionally certified trainer.  Hiring a trainer to guide you through the first couple workouts is a worthwhile investment if you are new to weightlifting.

[1] Snyder BJ, Fry WR. Effect of verbal instruction on muscle activity during the bench press exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(9):2394-400.

[2] Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(10):2857-72.

One thought on “Weight Selection

  1. Great content!  What are some good weights to start with for the average American Male? 5’10” and 190lbs (with a goal of being 5’10” and 175lbs after my Apollo Challenge).  Thanks!

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