Pumping effort into designing your routine will pay off and leave you closer to achieving your goals.
By Jill Barker
The Vancouver Sun
C2: Health October 18, 2010
There’s no shortage of opinions on how to maximize your efforts in the weight room. Unfortunately, most lifters follow a routine that’s based more on rumor than on science. And while not everyone will get the same results from the same workout, it pays to understand the facts when designing an effective weight-training routine.
The first step in maximizing your results is setting a goal. Do you want improved sports performance by getting stronger and more powerful? Or are you looking to build the kind of muscle that looks good in a T-shirt. Maybe you’re lifting to improve your running, cycling or cross-country skiing by building more muscle endurance. Only when you know what you want to achieve can you design an effective routine. To that end, here’s some of the latest information on building muscle.
With your goal in mind, one of the first variables you need to establish is the number of repetitions per exercise. Most people choose the middle ground of eight to 10 reps per set, without understanding that results vary, depending on the number of reps it takes to fatigue a muscle. For anyone who wants to build power and strength, fewer reps and a heavier weight is recommended. Ending a set well before fatigue sets in has shown to produce better results than training a muscle to failure. Researchers were impressed with the strength gains made when performing one to three reps of a heavy weight fooled by a short rest period versus the more traditional approach to lifting enough weight to fatigue the muscle by the end of the set.
For those who want bigger, but not necessarily stronger, muscles, more reps are the order of the day. Studies suggest that boosting the number of reps to eight to 12 will increase production of muscle-building hormones, which in turn will result in bigger muscles. For even better results, researchers suggest training beyond the point of muscular fatigue.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if an extra few reps are helpful, more will result in even better results. There is a point where the benefits begin to diminish.
Once you have matched the number of repetitions to your training goals, you need to determine the correct number of sets. The most recent studies overwhelmingly agree that novice and seasoned lifters alike benefit best by performing multiple sets. For most individuals, three sets in the optimum number, with very little added benefit realized by doing more.
Once you have established the number of reps and sets to match your goals, finding the right amount of weight is easy. Experiment until you find a weight that corresponds with your training goals. Then train all major muscle groups accordingly, two or three times a week, scheduling a day of rest in between workouts. Maintain the weight and established number of reps until you can successfully perform two additional repetitions, with no assistance from a partner, for two consecutive workouts. Then increase the weight by no more than 10 per cent.
Following an established set of tried and true guidelines is important to the overall success of your workout. Not only will you see better results, your workout will become more efficient.
So go ahead and make some much needed changes, basing your practices on science, not guesswork. Following the advice of the guy with best research will work better for you than following the advice of the guy with the biggest muscles.