“Three sets of ten are all you need to do son!” More is better. Go hard or go home! No pain no gain! We have all heard these age old clichés, but the problem is deciphering which ones are true and which ones are completely false. Today I want to give you a primer on weight training basics that will help ensure that your workouts are safe and effective.
Principle #1: Realize that your workouts must be tailored to your needs.
-This is where a competent and qualified Personal Trainer can make all of the difference in the world. It is their job to ensure that your workout reflects your unique strengths, weakness, and goals. Anything short of this and you should be looking for a new Personal Trainer. If you are going it alone then I suggest that you start VERY conservatively if you are just beginning. Ignore the magazines as they have no idea of your particular needs and/or your abilities.
-Make sure that you progress slowly and steadily. More is not necessarily better at first. Remember that your joints and tendons are not used to the increased pressure of resistance training at first, but they will get used to it as you slowly progress in weight, reps, rest time, ect.
Principle #2: You must remember the “Law of Superscompensation”.
The law of Supercompensation states that when a muscle is broken down from exercise it must be built back up through proper nutrition and rest. As we all know, when we go to the gym we essentially break down our muscle fibers. The key to making them stronger is to ensure an adequate protein intake afterwards, coupled with a proper rest period before attempting to hit that muscle group again. In general, you want to make sure that you are not sore or unduly fatigued before attempting to workout again.
Principle #3: Large muscle groups take longer to repair than smaller muscle groups.
-A bicep will always repair faster than a Quadriceps. Why? Because the quadriceps covered a much larger cross sectional area of the body and thus it requires more, bodily processes, resources, energy, and nutrients to repair. In general your larger body parts such as quadriceps, hamstrings, and chest musculature should be given at least two days of repair before you hit them again…but remember this is for basic exercise. If you are an athlete or bodybuilder it can take up to 4-5 days.
Principle #4: Rest Periods dictate your response.
-I always get a kick out of those people I observe in the gyms that do a set of an exercise and then talk for a straight 5 minutes before their next set. The problem with this scenario is that your rest period can directly affect the physiological response your body derives from your weight training session. For example if you are waiting only 3-45 seconds between exercise sets you are deriving more of a muscular endurance training effect, whereas if you are waiting around a minute you are potentiating your Growth Hormone and Testosterone levels (both men and women) that is more conducive to muscular toning and growth. In general you want to switch things up periodically so that your body does not get used to any given rest period. You should select between 2 minutes down to thirty seconds for optimal results.
Principle #5: Remain Consistent
-Let me clearly define what consistency means…it means 3 times per week as a minimum. This can be more if you are more advanced, but for beginners you can even get away with two times per week for the first six weeks before advancing to three. This number is highly variable depending on your abilities but the overriding point to be made here is that you should be exercising consistently each and every week. If you get a week of 3 in and then turn around the next week and only do one workout you will NEVER make the kind of progress you are looking for because your body will not be able to become stronger BECAUSE there is not an adequate exercise stimulus to allow it to occur. You must be consistent…nuff said!
Principle #6: Remember that “one size exercise does NOT fit all”.
Remember the last time you ordered that Richard Simmons video or more recently that P90X workout and you got great results for around that time frame (60-90 days) and then things seemed to taper off? The reason for this is the mode of exercise that you are participating in. To illustrate what I am talking about let me tell you about the nature and characteristics of human skeletal muscle. Human muscle comes in a variety of fiber types. Type I Fibers or “red muscle fiber” is a muscle fiber that is characterized by its ability to endure. It is the muscle fiber that is highly “aerobic” in nature, meaning that it can process oxygen at a faster and more efficient rate than the other Type II fibers that I will describe shortly. The downside to this type of muscle fiber is that it is not very strong. Those who possess a high degree of this type of fiber are typically more slender and tend to be weaker in strength. Type II fibers are generally classified into what is called Type II A, B, or C muscle fibers. These muscle fibers are much stronger than the type I fibers but lack the endurance capacity of the type I fiber. Those that posses a high amount of these fibers tend to be very strong people but lack sub maximal muscle endurance.
So when you finish your workout video, you have predominantly exercised the type I fibers and by and large neglected the type II muscle fibers. The key is to “Periodize” your workouts so that you hit ALL of the muscle fibers and thereby train the muscle holistically rather than in “fiber isolation” that you will find in about 95% of all commercial/fad workouts.
Principle #7: Remember to PERIODIZE!
This is where you plan your workouts yearly…yes yearly. When one of our clients comes into Lifelong Fitness the first thing that we will do is get them on a year plan that is periodized. What in the world am I talking about? This is where you plan workouts around intensity/volume levels. For example if you are just starting you would want to start in a 10-15 rep range (resistance training) and stay in that range for 4-6 weeks to let the body settle into its newly imposed demands. After that period (hence the term periodization) you would do well in a rep range of 8-12 to induce what is known as muscle hypertrophy. You would then proceed to go through 3-5 more cycles to make sure that you are hitting all of the available muscle fibers. This is where a knowledgeable and formally educated Personal Trainer can make a world of difference for you as they will educate you as to how you can properly design a periodized training program.
Principle #8: Remember tempo!
This is one of the most overlooked principles there is. The tempo of your lifting has a very specific effect on the adaptation of the muscle fibers. When first beginning you should favor a moderate tempo for your lifting. When you have a year or so of training under your belt you should favor a variety of training tempo’s ranging from slow to ballistic and explosive. This will help to challenge and develop the whole scope of your available muscle fibers (principle #6). I could write an entire blog on this subject so stay tuned in the future…I just might!
Principle #9: Intensity and Volume Increases
Intensity as it pertains to weight training is based on percentage of 1 rep max (the maximum amount of weight that you can lift with any exercise). So if you are lifting around 12 maximal reps you are lifting approximately 65-70% of your 1RM. Typically you will want to range around 65%to 95% of your 1RM depending on your physical ability and your training experience. When increasing the volume (sets x reps x weight lifted for your entire workout) you want to make sure that you never go over a ten % training volume in a two week period unless you are an experienced competive or elite athlete. So take the time for this simple exercise and reap the rewards…your body will thank you and your results will skyrocket.
Principle #10: Rest!
More is not always better! I know that this one is hard to believe but please listen up! Once engaged in resistance training human muscle accumulates what is known as cumulative muscle trauma. This is part of the “tear it down and build it up” process. This is healthy under normal conditions because this is how you get stronger, but if you continue to train harder and harder without any rest you are in for overtraining syndrome which calls for a whole host of physical break downs as it pertains to your performance and physical well being.
So take a week off after about 12 weeks of consistent weight training. If you haven’t tried this yet go ahead and give it a try and see what happens…you will love it.