The Fit 5: Progressing in the Gym

The Fit 5: Progressing in the Gym

For all of our fans who shoot us questions on our Twitter and Facebook Page, this one is for you. Each week, we will tap into our pool of editors and experts to help with any questions or challenges you are having with your fitness regimen. This week, Dan Trink, C.S.C.S, Director of Personal Training Operations at Peak Performance NYC and founder of TrinkFitness, answers your questions about making serious progress in the gym.

1) Increase Size and Strength— asked by Alex Ross:

I do 3 sets of 10 for barbell bench presses, 4 sets of 10 for incline dumbbell bench preses and 3 sets of flyes once per week for chest, but increases in strenth and size have stalled. What do you suggest?

“It seems as if you’ve adapated as much as possible to your current training program, so therer is only one thing to do—change it. Try 4 weeks of lower reps in each of the movements as so: 5 sets of 3-5 reps for the bench press, 4 sets of 4-6 reps for the incline DB press and sets of 8-10 reps for the flye. Since you’ll be decreasing the number of reps, you’ll be able to increase the weight you use making you stronger. When you go back to the sets of 10 in a month, you should be able to lift more weight. Keep alternating between these strength workouts and size workouts and you should be able to progress. You may also want to think about changing your movements. Try dumbbell bench press and barbell incline for a while. Try doing your flyes from different angles on the cable cross-over station such as going low to high or high to low. In other words, don’t be afraid to stimulate your muscles by providing some variety. Adding in some military or other standing overhead pressing has been shown to improve bench press strength. Finally, have someone take a look at your form to make sure you are getting the most out of your press.”

2) Do More Pull-Ups — asked by Eric P.:

I’ve been trying to hit 100 pull-ups, so I do traditional pull-ups and chins twice per week, but after 5, 6, or 7 sets, I’m stuck at 50. How else can I increase my pull-ups?


“Pull-ups are a great exercise but are tough to complete well once you are fatigued. Strengthening the often neglected smaller muscles of your mid back (such as your mid and lower traps) can make you better at pull-ups as they tend to be the muscles that fatigue most quickly. You can also try adding some eccentric or negative training to your program. Once you hit technical failure (the ability to perform a rep with appropriate form), use a step and ‘jump’ up to the top of pull-up position and lower yourself as slowly as possible. Repeat for 3 or 4 reps. You can also try some harder pull-up variations for fewer reps that will get you stronger once you go back to the traditional pull-up. These include sternum pull ups and lean-away pull-ups. Finally, there is no faster way to improve pull-up performance than lightening the load that you are pulling, so if you’re carrying around extra body fat, try leaning out.”


3) Increased Deadlifts — asked by Julian Scott:

How can I increase my deadlift numbers besides doing deadlifts each week?

“You can try strengthening the prime movers involved in the deadliftnamely the glutes and hamstringswith alternate exercises. Pull throughs, hamstring curls, good mornings, hip thrusters and step ups can all improve your pulling power. If you are worried about deadlifting too often because of stress it puts on your body, try doing lower load speed deadlifts by putting a much lighter weight than usual on the bar and lifting it off the ground as quickly/explosively as possible. This is a technique power lifters have incorporated to recruit more high-threshold motor units which ultimately makes them stronger when they go back to near maximum effort lifts.”

4) Shorter Run Time — asked by Josh Abandonato:

What kind of workout structure would you recommend for cutting down my 5K time?

“This is a tough one to answer as I do not know what your current training looks like. However, it has been shown that incorporating sprints into your training program can improve your endurance running times. I would also take on a strength and conditioning program that focused on strengthening the main muscles of your lower body. Those involved in running include your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Finally, I would not ignore soft tissue work, foam rolling and remedial and corrective exercises to aid in recovery, regeneration and injury prevention, as you’ll never run your best time if you’re all banged up.”

5) More Effective Shoulder Workout — asked by Michael Hunt:

My shoulders have stayed the same for years. Is there a good shoulder workout you could recommend for growth including days, sets and reps?

“Shoulders include ‘mixed fiber type’ muscles which, in simpler terms, means they respond well to both high rep/lighter load and low rep/higher load schemes. So be sure you get both strategies into your training. Focusing on the medial or middle head of the shoulder will give you more of that capped look if you are strictly going for size, so make sure you are including some form of lateral raise in your program. Keep in mind that the shoulder is one of the most complicated and delicate joints in the body. They get used in a variety of non-shoulder specific moves such as bench press, pull ups and dips so that is something to keep in mind when deciding training volume. I wouldn’t hit shoulders on their own more than once per week to allow for complete recovery. And be sure to include external rotation, rotator cuff and trap work in your overall training scheme as you want to keep your entire shoulder girdle healthy and balanced.”


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