In my last post, “Get Stronger and Healthier Faster With These 4 Terms”, you learned about the main terms used in designing strength training programs. Now I’ll explain how they are used. You will see the results you aim for faster when you use these correctly. You don’t want to waste your time working out inefficiently. Design your workouts smarter so that you get the most out of them.
Let’s start with the warm-up. Remember that a warm-up is a light or less strenuous version of the activity you are about to do. Imagine someone going for a jog. The warm-up for their jog may be to start out at a slow jog or even a brisk walk. Then, after about 5 minutes or so, they pick up the pace until they are going at the speed they want to train. With this example in mind, let’s apply it to strength training. To warm up for strength training, you would use lighter weights for a higher number of reps, and remember to ease into your full range of motion of the exercise throughout the set.
When I do squats, for example, I start with light weights or no weights and do a set with more repetitions than I plan to do with my normal heavier weights. It helps to warm up the muscles I am about to use and also the joints specifically involved in that exercise. Instead of this type of warm-up, I may warm up on a cardio machine for about 5-7 minutes. The idea is to warm up your muscles and joints so you are ready to push harder.
Here Is the Most Important Principle of Strength Training
There is almost no end to the variety of reps and sets you can use to make up your program. The essential principle behind all types of strength training programs is this: You need to stress your muscles more than they are used to in order to gain strength. This is it! There is nothing more complicated than this one principle. You can have a complex strength training program with ever-changing reps, sets, and resting times. But, the basic principle of stressing your muscles more than they are used to is always the most important thing you need to remember.
How much rest between sets will affect how much stress and what kind of stress you place on your muscles. Some programs call for very little rest, and some for up to 4 minutes.
How you use and order reps, sets, and rest, along with weights, will determine your outcome. The two ends of this spectrum are these:
1. Heavier weights and lower reps per set, with more rest, will help you build more strength.
2. Lighter weights and higher reps per set, with less rest, will help you build more endurance.
You need to determine what you want to achieve – more strength or more endurance. Having enough power to lift a heavy weight 1 or 2 times shows how strong your muscles are. Being able to lift a weight for 20 repetitions shows the endurance type of strength your muscles have.
Your goals will be something in between strength and endurance. There is a lot of variety used to plan strength training programs when balancing the two. What I’ve briefly explained is just the tip of the iceberg.
Warm-up, repetitions (reps), sets, and rest. These are the nuts and bolts of nearly every strength training program. I hope this helps you understand how your program design will help you reach your fitness goals faster than flailing around inefficiently.
I advise asking a personal trainer for help with setting up a good program for you. It might take 1 or 2 sessions to learn the basics. Then you will most likely be able to do a simple program on your own. Many health clubs offer fitness assessments and a couple of free workouts when you join. And if you would like, feel free to send me a message with your questions.
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As with all the exercise information on this site, please get a check-up with your doctor before you begin an exercise program.