Muscle power is the ability of the muscle to do maximum work within the shortest amount of time. Muscle endurance is the ability of the muscle to do moderate work over an extended period of time. Weight Training trains and develops the muscles for power. Spot reduction is not possible, however, adding lean muscle raises the Basal Metabolic Rate and therefore burns more total body fat.
Strength training not only increases bone density but tendon and ligament thickness thereby decreasing the risk of injury by increasing overall structural strength. Muscle atrophies at a rate of about 6.6 pounds per decade of age past 20 years old if not exercised. Strength training can avoid muscle atrophy through the aging process.
- Helps control blood pressure
- Reduces body fat
- Improves posture
- Increases muscle strength
- Raises Basal Metabolic Rate
- Increases bone density
- Injury prevention from normal activities
- Physical appearance
- Improves balance
- Improves mental attitude
- Improves immunologic response
- Improves Cardio-respiratory function
- Improves Cardio-vascular function
- Improves Liver function
- Improves Gastrointestinal function
Circuit training is generally set up in gyms to provide a workout to specific muscles in a specific order. Generally, the exercises are done quickly without a great deal of rest in between sets. One set is performed on a machine and followed by a set of different exercises on the next machine. When all the machines in the circuit have been used the round is completed again from the start until three complete sets have been executed.
Circuit Training does not provide an effective aerobic workout. Studies evaluating circuit weight training showed an average improvement of only 6% in cardiovascular fitness as measured by VO2 max over six-week study period. Circuit training was described as continuous exercise with moderate weights using 10 - 15 repetitions with 15 - 30 second rest periods.
Each individual's capabilities are determined by their genetic makeup. Individuals with increased neuromuscular efficiency incorporate greater numbers of muscle fibers during contraction and therefore have the advantage in strength potentials. In general, men have more testosterone than women and therefore have a greater potential for accelerated growth.
Muscles have a tendency to adapt to repeated stimulus, thereby, requiring less energy and effort to execute the same task. This can inhibit muscle growth (hypertrophy) or fat loss that we are trying to achieve. There are two types of overload principles:
If you over-stimulate the muscle, growth in strength and size will be inhibited. The levels of over-stimulation are dependent on each individual. It would be unreasonable to double the amount of weights. Make sure that you can do at least 4 to 6 repetitions.
- Increasing Weights - increases muscle size.
- Increasing Repetitions - increases muscle strength with less growth in size.
Muscle training for a specific task is called specificity. Although each person has individual variations in movement for sports related activities, specific training essentially involves working the muscles in the same manner as it's expected use.
Muscle design evolves for a specific use. Care must be used when isolating specific muscles not to create an unbalanced condition. Unbalanced muscles may allow a particular muscle to work harder than the supporting and stabilizing muscles, thereby, increases the chances of injury.
Types of Specificity Principles:
- Resistance - resistance is identical to or greater than encountered during the activity or sport.
- Movement - movement patterns mimic that encountered during the activity or sport.
- Muscle - specific muscles are exercised that will be used during the sport or activity.
- Speed - movement matches speed used during the activity or sport.
Free Weights Vs. Machines
Free weights provide a more complete workout. However, they also require more expertise in their use. When lifting free weights like barbells and dumbbells, not only is the prime mover or Agonist being worked but all the muscles responsible for stabilizing the joint. The result is to increase the strength of the stabilizer muscles. Greater care is required when using free weights. Improper technique can result in injury to the user or bystander if the weights are dropped.
It is important to remember to enlist the aid of a spotter whenever free weights are raised over the head. A spotter's responsibility is to insure the safety of the user during the execution of the exercise. The spotter must observe the condition of the user and try to anticipate exhaustion. The spotter must also insure that balance and an even lift is executed, that proper breathing technique is adhered to and that proper form is being executed by the user. A spotter's strength is not as important as his or her vigilance.
Machines provide a safer workout than free weights. Machines also specifically target a particular muscle automatically. It's harder to cheat during an exercise by incorporating unintentional muscle groups. However, since lateral movement is generally restricted, machines do not provide as complete a workout.
When lifting overhead with machines, a spotter is not necessary since the weights are confined to a rack and not directly overhead. Some machines are not adjustable for height or length of limbs on an individual basis. This can cause poor fit and even undue stress on joints when the supporting pressure incorrectly applied. The Biceps Curl and Triceps Concentration machines in many gyms are not adjustable and may cause undue stress on elbow joints instead of applying pressure to the back of the upper arm along the triceps.
In summary, free weights provide the best workout when a spotter is available and proper lifting technique is executed. In contrast, machines provide a better workout than could be safely achieved using free weights when a spotter is not available.
Proper Lifting Technique
The technique incorporated into lifting weights is the most important part of weight training. Improper technique can be responsible for everything from unintentionally exercising the wrong set of muscles to an injury requiring surgery and possibly years of recovery. Tears can occur in muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Joints can be damaged with possible chronic implications. Technique can be learned from reading exercise magazines or books specifically geared to weight room technique. However, in most cases, a few initial trips to the weight room with a Certified Personal Trainer can be extremely helpful to get you started on the proper exercises with respect to your goals and instruct you on proper technique. Starting a workout program without a trainer is like going to school without a teacher.
The following guidelines should be followed when lifting weights:
- Lift Weights from the floor with legs and not the back.
- Use a smooth full range of motion.
- Don't jerk the weights.
- Don't lock the knees (keep them slightly bent).
- Don't put pressure on the teeth, the enamel can crack.
- Keep back alignment, don't hyper extend or flex the back.
- Don't chat with your buddy, concentrate on the task.
- Unoxygenated muscles can cramp, breathe on exertion.
Sets And Repetitions
A Repetition is referred to as a Rep and is a single lift of the weights. A group of Reps are called a Set. An exercise is generally composed of 3 to 4 Sets.
The amount of weights to use is dependent on the goal of the participant and the fitness level. If the goal is to build muscle at the fastest rate then 6 to 8 Reps should be done with a heavier weight. If the goal is to simply tone or maintain the existing muscle strength then 12 to 16 Reps should be done with a lighter weight. The table below shows the 8 to 12 intermediate goal:
Participants should never use the heavy weight category if they have not lifted before or if significant amount of time has passed since they have last trained. When initially beginning a training program it is recommended to use the Light category for a least 3 to 4 weeks before progressing to the medium weight level.
There are various methods for determining the amount of weights to incorporate into a training effort (Heavy, Medium, Light). The 1 Repetition Maximum (1RM) method is determined by the highest weight that one can lift only once and not again. A percentage of this 1RM value is then calculated to use for multiple Reps and Sets. For example if the participant can bench press 150 lbs as a maximum effort and only once then the 1RM is 150 lbs. A percentage of this weight is used for the full complement of Reps and Sets. For the Light category, 50% of the 1RM is used.
Another method that can be used to determine the weight to use for a particular exercise is to simply estimate the initial weight. Do as many as you can. If your goal is to build muscle at the fastest rate, then if you can do more than 8 Reps then the weight is too light. If you can't do more than 6 Reps, then the weight is too heavy.
The following table details the number of Reps to use depending on the participants strength training goals. In each case perform 3 to 4 Sets.
Variations of Sets And Repetitions
All of the following systems are good for promoting muscle strength and endurance. Form is critical in all weight training and particularly for each of the following variations.
- One Set - One set for each exercise. One or more exercises may be selected for each body part to be trained. Excellent for beginners and those with limited time.
- Three Set - Provides good results for most people regardless of their fitness goals. Most commonly used system.
- Split Routine - Alternate training days of specific muscle groups. Never train the same muscle groups two days in a row.
- Pyramid Set - Begin with heavy weights and low reps and end with high reps and low weight. Increases stamina.
- Heavy Set - Begin with a warm-up set of less than 50% of the intended maximum weight. Continue increasing the weight in each set to near maximum until the weight that can be lifted a maximum of 4 reps. Increases peak power.
- Super Set - Two exercises for one body part done consecutively with no rest in between. This technique can be applied to opposing muscles, i.e. quadriceps and hamstrings.
- Tri Set - Three consecutive exercises for the same body part.
- Giant Set - Five or more consecutive exercises.
The recommended minimum weight training according to the ACSM is one set of 8 -12 repetitions of eight to ten exercises that work the major muscle groups at least 2 times per week. Studies have shown that strength training twice per week resulted in a 21% increase in strength. Increasing the training sessions to three times per week resulted in a 28% increase in strength only 7% more than the twice per week group or 75% of what could be accomplished in a three session week.
For six hours after a weight training session muscle requirements for protein are extremely high. It is therefore a good time to intake a protein rich meal or supplement. Carbohydrates are also necessary after a workout as well as before.
Before exercise, carbohydrates provide the energy to sustain the workout. After the workout session, the muscles, as described above, require tissue building protein. Intake of carbohydrates after the workout raises the insulin level. Increased insulin levels in turn lift growth-hormone levels and stimulates the production of protein, which is needed for new muscle growth and repair. In addition, protein takes up to 24 hours to move through the digestive system and will be utilized within the next two days for repair. Carbohydrates move through the system within 3 hours.
In summary, take a carbohydrate drink or meal about 2 hours before your workout and during the workout. Afterwards, consume both a protein and carbohydrate snack immediately after the workout. When using sports drinks, try to use drinks that contain a complex carbohydrate like maltodextrin and not one that is simply glucose, fructose or simple sugars, which won't provide sustained energy and can actually cause your workout to be shortened due to fatigue.