Workouts for improving muscular endurance or strength must
follow the principles just described. There are also other factors
to consider, namely, safety, exercise selection, and phases of
Major causes of injury when strength training are improper
lifting techniques combined with lifting weights that are too
heavy. Each person must understand how to do each lift correctly
before he starts his strength training program.
One should always do weight training with a partner,
or spotter, who can observe his performance as he exercises. To
ensure safety and the best results, both should know how to use
the equipment and the proper spotting technique for each exercise.
A natural tendency in strength training is to see how much
weight one can lift. Lifting too much weight forces a compromise
in form and may lead to injury. All weights should be selected
so that proper form can be maintained for the appropriate number
Correct breathing is another safety factor in strength training.
Breathing should be constant during exercise. The lifter should
never hold his breath, as this can cause dizziness and even loss
of consciousness. As a general rule, one should exhale during
the positive (concentric) phase of contraction as the weight or
weight stack moves away from the floor, and inhale during the
negative (eccentric) phase as the weight returns toward the floor.
When beginning a resistance-training program, the trainer should choose about 8 to 16 exercises that work all of the body's
major muscle groups. Usually eight well-chosen exercises will
serve as a good starting point. They should include those for
the muscles of the leg, low back, shoulders, and so forth. The
exerciser should choose exercises that work several muscle groups
and try to avoid those that isolate single muscle groups. This
will help him train a greater number of muscles in a given time.
For example, doing lat pull-downs on the "lat machine"
works the latissimus dorsi of the back and the biceps muscles
of the upper arm. On the other hand, an exercise like concentration
curls for the biceps muscles of the upper arm, although an effective
exercise, only works the arm flexor muscles. Also, the concentration
curl requires twice as much time as lat pull-downs because only
one arm is worked at a time.
Perhaps a simpler way to select an exercise is to determine
the number of joints in the body where movement occurs during
a repetition. For most people, especially beginners, most of the
exercises in the program should be "multi-joint" exercises.
The exercise should provide movement at more than one joint. For
example, the pull-down exercise produces motion at both the shoulder
and elbow joints. The concentration curl, however, only involves
the elbow joint.
PHASES OF CONDITIONING
There are three phases of conditioning: preparatory, conditioning,
and maintenance. These are also described in Chapter 1.
The three phases of conditioning are preparatory, conditioning, and maintenance.
A beginner should use very light weights during the first
week (the preparatory phase) which includes the first two to three
workouts. This is very important, because the beginner must concentrate
at first on learning the proper form for each exercise. Using
light weights also helps minimize muscle soreness and decreases
the likelihood of injury to the muscles, joints, and ligaments.
During the second week, he should use progressively heavier weights.
By the end of the second week (4 to 6 workouts), he should know
how much weight on each exercise will allow him to do 8 to 12
repetitions to muscle failure. If he can do only seven repetitions
of an exercise, the weight must be reduced; if he can do more
than 12, the weight should be increased.
The third week is normally the start of the conditioning phase
for the beginning weight trainer. During this phase, the lifter
should increase the amount of weight used and/or the intensity
of the workout as his muscular strength and/or endurance increases.
He should do one set of 8 to 12 repetitions for each of the heavy-resistance
exercises. When he can do more than 12 repetitions of any exercise,
he should increase the weight until he can again do only 8 to
12 repetitions. This usually involves an increase in weight of
about five percent. This process continues indefinitely. As long
as he continues to progress and get stronger, he does not need
to do more than one set per exercise. If he stops making progress
with one set of 8 to 12 repetitions per exercise, he may benefit
from adding another set of 8 to 12 repetitions on those exercises
in which progress has slowed. As time goes on and he progresses,
he may increase the number to three sets of an exercise to get
even further gains in strength and/ or muscle mass. Three sets
per exercise is the maximum most lifters will ever need to do.
Once one reaches a high level of fitness, the maintenance
phase is used to maintain that level. The emphasis in this phase
is no longer on progression but on retention. Although training
three times a week for muscle endurance and strength gives the
best results, one can maintain them by training the major muscle
groups properly one or two times a week. More frequent training,
however, is required to reach and maintain peak fitness levels.
As with aerobic training, the trainer should
do strength training three times a week and should allow at least
48 hours of rest from resistance training between workouts for
any given muscle group.
Timed sets refers to a method of physical training in which
as many repetitions as possible of a given exercise are performed
in a specified period of time. After an appropriate period of
rest, a second, third, and so on, set of that exercise is done
in an equal or lesser time period. The exercise period, recovery
period, and the number of sets done should be selected to make
sure that an overload of the involved muscle groups occurs.