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  • Writer's pictureDieting From The Inside Out

Weight Training for Beginners with Alex Bush | DFIO Ep.259

About Today’s Episode:

Today, I interviewed a newer friend of mine—Alex Bush. Alex is a co-owner of Physique Development and he is an expert on all things training related.

I wanted to get him on here to give a little bit of a different perspective on training because training is such an important part of weight loss and transformation—if your training is not in the right place, it will yield very different results than if your training is set up correctly.

We talk about not only training with the optimal program/plan—and doing things the best way possible—but also training in a practical way. Where does ‘optimal’ training and ‘practical’ training intersect for the average person?

Alex gives some amazing insights around the most common questions our listeners have about training, like what constitutes a good workout, how to prepare yourself mentally to go into a workout, how to select the right weight, and much more.

I’m super pumped for you all to hear this episode, so let’s get into it!


Transcription (click to expand)

The Dichotomy of Optimal and Practical Training:

Alex finds that the big driving force of balancing optimal and practical training is about meeting the individual where they are at—personally. No matter how deep his knowledge of training becomes, Alex maintains the ability to scale back to the core of what it all means and how to explain training in an easy-to-understand way.

As a coach, he finds being able to approach clients at their level is essential to making them comfortable with the topic of training.

He often sees in the training education space on social media that people will talk over others, with the intention of establishing themselves as an authority on the subject. Alex, however, has the opposite approach—he wants everyone to feel welcome and know that everything can be broken down so they can learn, take that knowledge, and move forward.

Alex and Jared both find that, when it comes to knowledge about training, as you learn more and more you almost start to feel as if you know nothing because there is so much depth to training. This is part of why Alex really focuses on meeting clients where they are and making information digestible.

What Got Alex Interested in Deep Training Knowledge:

When Alex was in high school, he had a really great teacher and strength coach. His coach really impressed upon him the knowledge of what training can do—and be—for a person when done correctly versus incorrectly.

His coach was excellent at teaching proper technique when it came to strength training—starting his students with foundational knowledge on how to properly perform various exercises.

When Jared first started working as a personal trainer, he found that many high school coaches had an attitude of “as long as the bar gets up,” but this mentality doesn’t teach appropriate technique. He remembers having a kid come in once who was naturally very strong—squatting around 500 lbs in high school—but his form was not good. Jared was able to teach him proper technique, further increasing his squat numbers, and getting him even better results while keeping him much safer.

Jared and Alex both find that many people lack a fundamental understanding of body mechanics and it can be hard to get them to step back and learn.

Alex is the type of person that is very obsessed with the small details in all areas of his life—strength training, business, etc. That dedication to the nuance associated with training and his early experiences with strength training are what led him to gain such a deep knowledge of strength training.

The Mindset for Strength Training:

The first thing someone needs to know, Alex says, is that more is not better. He finds that oftentimes a person gets into the gym and is only familiar with 4-5 exercises, so they just focus on doing those—and end up going way overboard on volume.

In reality, they are just moving through space and burning calories.

While there may be a time and a place for this—like someone who is just trying to get in the habit of going to the gym—to really see changes in one’s body, a progression needs to take place.

Alex finds it necessary to get to a place of understanding how the body functions, what the exercises are actually doing, rep quality, and getting to a place of challenging oneself.

A person who has never been in the gym—and has no experience or knowledge of how to train, what failure feels like, etc.—is often lost because they have never had any guidance. This is where he believes in-person and online coaching can excel in providing knowledge and instilling confidence to know when to keep pushing themselves.

More is Not Better:

Jared sees a lot of people in his coaching program who come from the “more is better” mindset.

Before starting with coaching, they were not training optimally. They then learn basic fundamentals and feel like—because their workouts are now shorter and more optimized—they aren’t doing enough.

Alex finds that when an individual has the association of difficulty being associated with “how heavy I’m breathing and how much I’m sweating,” it is difficult for them to understand that there are other metrics that are being tracked.

It is also difficult for them to understand that their body composition is not going to change based on how much they are sweating.

What they really need to focus on is transitioning to a situation where they can focus on getting stronger, feeling muscular tension, and being challenged within the set itself.

Recording your exercises, comparing them to examples of that exercise with proper form—perhaps from the Physique Development YouTube Channel 😉—and assessing where you are or aren’t doing said exercises in a similar fashion can help you continue to progress.

These are much more important to focus on rather than simply sweating and breathing heavily.

Jared has had the experience of most people being stuck in an old-fashioned mentality of training where 2 hours is better than 1 hour and so on, when the reality is quite different.

What Makes a Good Workout:

For Alex, one of his big drivers is, “live to train another day.”

He says we are not wanting to walk out of a session in a place where we are immobile. You should not be celebrating doing a workout one day and still having trouble moving a week later. If that is happening, adjustments need to be made to the training.

Next, are we getting better from session to session?

If you are just starting, you will have to establish a baseline—but as you progress in your training, you need to track from week to week what changes are occurring.

Are you becoming stronger? Are you feeling more or less fatigued? What, intrinsically, in our body do we feel?

Do you feel like you pushed yourself? Did you pick an appropriate weight? Were the rest periods necessary, or when you stood up did you feel like you could go right back under the bar and do more?

If you are feeling like you could go right back and do another set, that is a good indicator that you should add some reps or increase the weight.

These factors are a good place to start when determining whether or not you had a good workout.

One last thing is whether or not you were focused in the training session.

Were you becoming distracted by scrolling through social media or FaceTiming your friends during your workout? Or did you truly spend your time focusing on yourself and getting better at what you were trying to accomplish?

Jared admittedly struggles with focus during his rest periods. He is taking slightly longer rest periods currently and often finds he has the desire to hop on Instagram instead of focusing on whatever is coming next in the workout.

What Helps Focus:

Alex is big on pacing (walking around) during his training sessions. Sometimes it is necessary to sit down and rest, but when he doesn’t need to do that he will pace.

He also finds visualization helpful. Seeing yourself accomplishing what you are about to do—and ingraining that image in your mind—helps overcome potential mental blocks, as well as keep distractions at bay.

This can be especially useful when someone is approaching a weight they have never handled before.

When a person approaches a weight they have not done with the attitude of “I hope I can do this,” as soon as something feels ‘off’ they will often just rack the weight and not go again—but it is often just a mental barrier. Their mind is telling them that they can’t do this.

Lastly, Alex also finds that focusing on breathing and getting back to nasal breathing—not just huffing and puffing—in addition to pacing and visualization helps him focus during rest periods.

Jared points out that there are numerous studies in sports that support the benefits of visualization.

Training to Failure:

There was a recent meta-analysis reviewed by MASS Research Review, where they looked at self-assessed RPE (rate of perceived exertion). This study found that the participants were picking about 53% of their 10-rep max—thinking they were hitting their 10-rep max.

When you are talking about reaching true muscular failure multiple times in a training session, the likelihood that you are going to be ready to train again in a few days is pretty slim.

However, if the average gym-goer is only reaching 53% of their true capacity (while thinking they’re at 100%), then Alex would rather push them to reach ‘failure’ much more often because they need to get closer to failure than 53% in order to sufficiently stimulate muscle growth.

This means that the idea of pushing to failure varies by individual.

For someone who is newer to strength training—or someone who doesn’t have a good idea of what true failure is—pushing them more may be appropriate so they can truly reap the hypertrophy benefits they are likely seeking.

Tangibly speaking, Alex likes to take a couple of sets to failure during training sessions. For example, he won’t take many sets of squats to failure—but if he is training biceps, it’s likely he will be taking every set to failure.

Failure will also depend on the exercises chosen and the individual.

Jared notes that you need to think about the ramifications from an injury perspective when thinking about going to failure.

For example, mechanical failure on a deadlift could lead to a lower back injury—but on something like a lateral raise, mechanical failure may just be not getting to 90 degrees. It is a much safer exercise to perform to failure.

How to Pick the Right Weight:

With his clients, Alex approaches the first week as a baseline establishment week—where the focus is on finding a place where you feel challenged.

For example, if you are supposed to do 3 sets of 8: you try a weight and if you think you can go up, then the next set you try a slightly heavier weight—or if you think the next weight may be too heavy, you keep the weight the same.

If you hit all your sets, the following week you would try a heavier weight.

You get into self-assessment of how you are handling the weight.

Don’t be afraid of getting into a situation where you go up in weight and only get 7 out of 8 reps because this information is good to have.

From that point, you can see if a short break allows you to get that 8th rep or if you have reached a wall and need to work on it for a couple of weeks to get all 8 reps.

Alex finds that always wanting to get that extra weight on—while maintaining the movement quality—is important.

If you select a heavier weight but cut-off part of the movement, this signals that you actually need to go down in load. This comes back to the importance of filming yourself while training and reviewing your movement quality.

Alex himself experiences sessions where he thinks he did as much as he possibly could on an exercise, but then watches the video he took on his phone and realizes he actually didn’t push himself enough.

He believes that a lot of people fall short here because they are scared to film themselves or they are limited by the rules of their gym (many large chains do not allow you to film in the gym).

Having a good training partner is another good tool because you can push and compete with each other.

Women and Weight Training:

Alex says there is a lack of understanding when it comes to the development of muscle tissue.

He finds that, oftentimes, since one of the places many women carry fat is through their legs, they don’t want to add muscle—not understanding that they can lose fat and build muscle and like the look of their legs even more.

It’s the same situation for other parts of the body.

You will reap more benefits for your time by lifting heavier weights versus doing 20 reps that aren’t really challenging you. The heavier weights will lead to the physique you want.

When You Don’t Have The Best Set-Up:

Alex will usually narrow exercise selection, but increase the quantity of the exercises you can do.

Getting really good at the exercises you can do or adjusting the bias on the exercise is a good way to utilize the same exercises and make progress.

Trying to do the most with what you have is key.

What Alex and Physique Development are Working On:

Alex is currently expanding his horizons in fitness. He is getting back into running and learning yoga.

Yoga has been challenging. Alex was horrible when he started—and says he is “not good” now—but he is enjoying learning.

Physique Development has continued to expand in the online training space and is now working on revamping its training app in the direction of making more sport-specific training programs available to non-1-on-1 clients.



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Post-Production by: David Margittai | In Post Media

© 2023 Jared Hamilton



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