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The Fit 5: Perform Better

From boosting your bench press to killing a 5k, we tapped five experts for tips to taking your performance to the next level.

For all of our fans who shoot us questions on our 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, we tapped into five different performance coaches and athletes from across the industry to get the run down on how to start seeing gains from bench presses to 5k's.

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BENCH PRESSING

What's the best way to work myself up to a stronger bench press number?

“It’s tough to make a blanket recommendation on how much you should add to the bar. One way is to work sub maximally and use a 1RM calculator to see where your rep maxes have you for an estimated 1RM. If today you can do 225 lbs. for one rep, start working at 70 – 95% of that number for reps. Take a look at what you were able to do at those percentages. As an example if you find yourself lifting 205 lbs. for 5 reps then your estimated 1RM is 235. At that point, 70 – 95% is now a range of higher numbers and you can continue to work sub maximally until you hit a new repletion personal record, and then adjust accordingly again. I wouldn’t work to the same weight every session, instead stay in that 70 – 95% range. Vary what percentage range you work in each week. For programming ideas, get familiar with Prilepin’s chart. That will help you select sets, reps, and total reps at a certain percentage for a given training session. When you hit a new rep record, you can change the 1RM you’re working off of.”

- Greg Robins, NASM-CPT and coach at Cressey Performance

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OVERALL STRENGTH

What are the most important exercises I should be doing to build muscle and strength? Any exercises that I should avoid?

"Multi-joint or compound-multi-joint exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, bent over rows and overhead presses. The reason for this is because they pull in the whole body to stimulate growth and they allow you to really throw around a lot of weight. As for exercises to avoid: anything that's hyper-isolated, such as concentration curls, tricep kickbacks, etc. Not that these aren't great movements, but they're not going to help keep you lean. Stick with big moves and go after the large muscle groups."

- Justin Klein, CSCS and performance coach with T2Performance.com

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MAXIMIZING WORKOUTS

What are the most important rep ranges to train in to get the most out of my workout? I find that certain muscle groups grow when I train them with high reps while others with low reps. Why is that?

"It has to do with the muscle fiber type of each muscle group. There are two main muscle fiber types, conveniently named Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 muscle fibers are more closely associated with endurance work and respond best to higher rep sets in the gym. Type 2 muscle fibers are responsible for producing the force needed for strength and power. Certain muscle groups tend to be dominated by one or the other muscle fiber type. So your quadriceps, for instance, are usually Type 1 dominant and are respond well to strength-endurance protocols while your hamstrings are usually more Type 2 dominant and do well with more explosive movements or low rep sets. But just because a muscle group may have a higher ratio of a certain muscle fiber does not mean that it exclusively has this muscle fiber type. The deltoids, for example, are traditionally a mixed muscle fiber type group and respond well to a combination of higher and lower rep sets."

- Dan Trink, CSCS and Director of Personal Training Operations at PEAK Performance

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DISTANCE RUNNING

As a beginner, what's the best way to slowly build up stamina for long distances?

"Patience, patience, patience! The phrase, “Nothing happens over night” comes into play here. Distance running takes time. Your must slowly build your mileage week over week, month over month, year over year. Start with short frequent runs: ex. 20-30 minutes 3-4 days/week. Once you can handle that, up the time of each run to 30-40 minutes. Eventually you can add another day of running per week. Don't be too aggressive in upping your volume as this leads to injury and burnout. I would say the typical athlete can 'up' their volume after 4-5 weeks of consistent training at a specific volume."

- Jim Lubinski, NASM-CPT and professional triathlete

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AVOIDING MISTAKES

What are the biggest mistakes people make with their workouts when trying to add strength?

“Too many guys try to add weight every session, and can’t check their egos at the door. You need to get on a program and plan every session. There are a lot of effective systems for adding strength, like the conjugate method, 5/3/1, and 5x5 to name just a few. Get a system that’s been proven to work and follow it to a T. You’re not going to get stronger by chance or by pushing a little harder here and there. You need to plan it all out—heavy lifting and recovery."

- Matt Tuthill, CSCS and Sr. Editor of Muscle and Fitness magazine

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