Focus on the intensity of your training only after you have perfected your lifting form. The basis of strength training is to gradually increase the amount of weight that you lift during training to ultimately increase the amount of force your muscles are capable of generating. This is called progressively overloading the muscle to achieve gains in strength without causing injury. The following intensity guidelines for general strength gains are for beginners, for people who are restarting their routines after a break, and for people learning new exercises.
♦ Once your form is perfected (page 44), gradually increase the weight you are lifting until you reach a weight that you can lift only 12 times with good form. Finding this 12-rep weight will be trial and error at first.
♦ Your 12-rep weight will increase as you gain strength, so increase the weight you are lifting appropriately (but no more than 10% each week).
♦ Start a training routine consisting of one to two sets of 12 reps for each major muscle group (defined in "Type of Exercise" on page 46).
A long-term strength routine of one to two sets of 12 reps is excellent for maintaining and increasing general strength. In addition, this type of routine only takes about 30 minutes to perform. Once you have developed a solid strength and endurance base (after about eight weeks) you may be interested in pursuing more specific training goals. In general, the following guidelines apply to the various types of strength training goals:
♦ Muscle endurance - two to three sets, 12-15 reps with a 15-rep weight; 30-60 seconds rest between sets.
♦ Muscle hypertrophy (increase in muscle mass) - three to six sets, eight to 12 reps with a 12-rep weight; 30-90 seconds rest between sets.
♦ Muscle strength - three to five sets, two to eight reps with an 8-rep weight; at least 120 seconds rest between sets.
Note: Do not perform maximal lifts when strength training.
Type of Exercise
For maximum benefit and to decrease the risk of injury, pay attention to:
♦ Muscle balance - perform exercises that target the opposing muscle groups across the joints to strengthen the major muscles and improve joint function; e.g., strengthen the biceps and triceps muscles in the upper arm.
♦ Exercise selection - Select at least one exercise for each of the major muscle groups. The major muscle groups are the chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, lower back, and abdominals (abs). (See Figure 7-2 and Worksheet B-2.)
♦ Exercise order - perform multi-joint exercises before single-joint exercises. In a multi-joint exercise more than one joint (per side) moves during the exercise; e.g., your shoulders and elbows move during a bench press. In a single-joint exercise one joint (per side) moves during the exercise; e.g., only your elbow moves during an arm curl. Perform lower back and abdominal exercises at the end of your workout since those muscles are used for balance and posture during other exercises.
Use Worksheet B-2 to design your workout and to record your training progress. Change the exercises you perform for each muscle group every four to eight weeks, even if you keep the same set and rep routine. Changing exercises will overload the muscles differently, increase your strength gains, and alleviate boredom. There are a variety of exercises for each muscle group listed in Figure 7-2. To increase their upper body strength, women should perform exercises that target the back, neck, chest, shoulders and arms.
Figure 7-2. Exercises for Various Muscle Groups
shrug, pull-ups, rows
(Deltoid, Rotator Cuff)
lateral raise, upright row shoulder press, bench press, reverse fly, rotations
Triceps triceps extensions, dip, push-up bench presses, kickback
(Latissimus Dorsi, Lats) lat pulldown, pullover, rows pull-up
back extension, superman
reverse wrist curls
Gluteals leg press, lunge, squats, hip extension, glute-ham raise rear thigh raise
Hamstring leg curl, leg press, squats lunge, glute-ham raise
(Gastrocnemius & Soleus) calf raise, heel raises, lunge
Figure 7-2. Exercises for Various Muscle Groups
Chest f (Pectorals) bench presses, chest fly, dip chest press, push-up
Curls (arm, preacher, hammer concentration), chin-Up, rows lat pulldown
(Rectus Abdominus and Obliques) crunches, knee raises, rotary torso
(hip abductors) hip abduction, leg raises
Quadriceps leg extension, leg press, squats, lunge, step
hip adduction, leg raises
toe raises, foot flexion with resistance
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