by Dr. Matthew Chircop
The Structure of a Typical Resistance Training Schedule
As a starting point, consider 3 to 5 training sessions per week, each 30-60 minutes in duration (about 3-5 exercises per session). Start by training a body part at least once a week. Aim for a total weekly number of sets of 9 for each muscle group (e.g. 3 sets of each of the following exercises – inclined bench press, dips, cable chest flyes). Whilst you might begin with a higher repetition range (e.g. 10-12), your target repetition range for most exercises (and for each set) is 4-6.
The selection of exercises for your training program depends on your goals for both strength and aesthetics (see aesthetics). However, you should make sure that you pair certain exercises to avoid functional imbalances. For example, if you need to add volume to your arms don’t just do bicep exercises, also do tricep exercises. Similarly, if you need to add volume to your chest make sure you include the upper back as well. Finally, the thighs require both quadriceps and hamstring muscles to be developed (or you might be setting yourself up for injury later).
A Typical Resistance Workout Session
Start each part of each workout which involves a different muscle group with a warm up. The warm up involves doing the exercise at a resistance half that of the working sets (see below) for the upper limit of repetitions (of the range you will be using for working sets) , followed by another set at about 3/4 of the resistance of the working set and the same number of repetitions as the working set. Rest for 3-5 minutes, then commence your working sets.
Set the level of resistance that allows for the least number of repetitions per set in the stated range, such that the rated perceived exertion is 7-8/10 (i.e. moderately difficult/intense). You should be able to breathe during the set, but it might not be possible to speak more than 1 or 2 words at a time. If you can’t breathe during the set, or if you can’t think clearly, then you need to reduce the load. Once you can perform the number of repetitions at the high end of the range, then increase the weight for the next set such that you need to reduce the repetitions to the lower number again (this is called progression, and is one of the key components of training). Each working set should be followed by a 3-5 minute rest. You can use a higher rep-range if you find that you can’t safely, and with good form, perform the movement at a weight high enough to almost reach failure with a lower number of repetitions.
What to Focus on During the Workout
Whilst the repetitions do not need to be performed slowly, the weight should not be “thrown” or “jerked” or “dropped” throughout the movement – lift the weight deliberately, as fast as you can with constant tension in the target muscle/s throughout the specified range of movement.
Exercise form is very important - but there are many sources of this information available on the web and published in books, so we are not going to repeat it here. Just note that if you are experiencing pain during a movement then you should stop immediately, and rest the area until you have obtained medical advice. The next time you try the same movement, use a reduced level of resistance. If the pain recurs, you might need to vary your form (e.g. change the width of your grip (narrow vs wide), type of grip (supinated vs pronated), or stance), or consider substituting the exercise for one that doesn’t cause pain. If the subsequent exercise choice causes pain, then you might have an imbalance and should seek advice from a personal trainer or physiotherapist to find out how to correct that imbalance.
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