Training Principles and Guidelines - Part Three
By Chad Tackett - president
Global Health &
FitnessAlmost any form of exercise will stimulate some
degree of strength and muscle development. Unfortunately, misconceptions,
myths, and misunderstandings plague the fitness industry, especially in regard
to strength training. There is a huge attrition rate among those starting a
strength training program primarily because most people are not taught the
principles essential for a safe and effective program.
This article is part three of a five part
series discussing the very important principles and guidelines of a safe and
effective strength training program. This article discusses the importance of
proper lifting technique, exercising through the full range of motion, proper
exercise sequence, and the correct number of sets to do for what you're trying
to achieve. The previous article,
part two of this five part series, explained the
importance of forcing blood to your muscles and proper lifting speed. The
following exercise guidelines are extremely important for your safety and the
effectiveness of your strength training program
The most common and critical
training mistakes may be those of exercise technique. The tendency to use too
much weight typically results in poor form, which decreases your ability to get
results, and increases the risk of injury. Examples of poor form or technique
are: bouncing the bar off the chest in the Bench Press; using hip and back
extension to initiateBicep Curls; arching the back or bending backward under
Shoulder Presses; using any sort of momentum in any exercise; and training at
fast speeds. These mistakes will not send the blood you need into your muscles
and will work counter to your goals. Be aware of these mistakes and eliminate
them from your program.
Exercise Through Full Range of Motion
exercise through a full range of motion, with emphasis on the end of the
positive phase. Full range exercise movements are advantageous for
strengthening the prime-mover, or agonist muscles--the muscles directly trained
in the exercise, such as the biceps in the biceps curl. Lifting in the full
range of motion is also advantageous for stretching the antagonist muscles, the
muscles that act in opposition to the agonist. In the Biceps Curl, the triceps
is the antagonist. Training in the full range of motion enhances both muscle
strength and joint flexibility.
It is very important to select
at least one exercise for each major muscle group to promote well-balanced
muscle development. Training only a few muscle groups or training one muscle
group more increases the risk of injury.
Another important element of
strength training is exercise sequence. When performing a variety of
weightlifting exercises, it is advisable to proceed from the larger muscle
groups to the smaller muscle groups. This allows optimal performance of the
most demanding exercises when fatigue levels are the lowest and you feel fresh.
Another reason, one that is often overlooked, is illustrated by the common
example of training both back and biceps. Ordinarily, you would want to train
your back first, since it is the larger muscle group of the two; let's say you
are doing the Rear Lat. Pull-down. In that exercise, you are indirectly working
your biceps, too, since both muscle groups are at work in the pulling motion.
This means that your biceps will actually be warmed up and ready to train when
you get to them. This is the same for exercises requiring pushing motions such
as the chest, shoulders, and triceps. By the time you are done with your chest
exercises, both your shoulders and your triceps are warm and ready to train. Of
course, you might not always do your "pulling" (back and biceps) and your
"pushing" (chest, shoulders, triceps) motions on the same day--because as you
reach a plateau you will want to change your exercises, the order that you do
them, and the muscles that you train together, to provide a new stimulus and
interest for yourself. This will be discussed soon.
Another important element is exercise sets.
An exercise set is the number of successive repetitions performed without
resting. The number of sets per exercise is largely a matter of goals,
interests and personal preference. We recommend that people treat their first
set as a warm-up--12-20 reps with relatively light weight (done slowly). Then
you can do either one, two, or three more sets--even up to six (strength and
power program)--depending on whether you are at a beginning, intermediate, or
advanced level and what you are trying to accomplish.
If you are working on your second exercise
for a particular muscle group, we recommend that you do either two or three
sets for that exercise since that muscle is already warmed-up from the first
exercise. Regardless of the number of sets performed, each set--and each
repetition--should be done in proper exercise form and under control.
click here for Part four, where I'll discuss the
inverse relationship between resistance and repititions and the importance of
progressive resistance. That is, I'll explain the amount of weight you should
use and the number of repititions you should do for the results you desire.
I'll also explain how to gradually increase the weight you use to stimulate
further gains. Until then, remember to use proper lifting technique, exercise
through the full range of motion, exercise in the proper sequence, and use the
correct number of sets for what you're trying to achieve. Good luck, and enjoy
all the wonderful benefits of strength training.
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