Resistance Training General Information

Resistance Training General Information
Resistance training is one of the key components to a complete and balanced fitness routine. There are many benefits to establishing a consistent resistance training routine such as:
  • Reduced risks of osteoporosis (weakening of the bones)
  • Increases in core stability
  • Increases in muscular strength
  • Increases in muscular tone/definition
  • Decreased body fat
  • Increased ligament and tendon strength
  • Improved power, speed, and agility
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Reduced risks of developing arthritis
  • Development of positive body image
  • Increased metabolism (calorie burning)
There are many different ways to resistance train, everything from working out at your local fitness centre using machines or free weights, to working out at home using simply your body weight and resistance tubing.
Types of Programs/Routines
There are three primary types of resistance training programs. To achieve the overall best results it is important to utilize all three different types. This makes your body more adaptable and therefore more efficient. The three types of programs and their effects on the body are as follows.
  • Muscular Endurance Program – high reps, low resistance. The body becomes more effective at delivering oxygen and energy to the muscles that need it allowing for more work to be done before the muscles become exhausted
  • Muscular Hypertrophy Program – moderate reps, moderate resistance. More energy is stored within the muscles. This leads to gains in strength, endurance, and size
  • Muscular Strength Program – low reps, high resistance. The nerve connection between the muscles and brain becomes more active meaning that more of the muscle will contract when you need it to
Although the principles behind each type of program are different, they all overlap. For example, an endurance program will build a small amount of strength, just as a strength program will build some muscular endurance. So remember, to achieve the best results possible it is necessary to do all three different types of routines over time.
During the Workout
While you workout and overload the muscles there are several things happening:
  • Your body is using calories for fuel to complete the workout
  • Fatigued muscles sustain a small amount of fiber breakdown
  • Fuel stored in the muscle itself is being used and replenished
The combination of all of these factors leads to fatigue that causes you to feel weaker after a workout is completed. It is important to realize that the larger the muscles worked, the more dramatic the results you see will be. Do not spend a large amount of time working the inner or outer thighs or biceps and triceps when you could be working the legs, back, and chest muscles. These are the largest muscle groups in the body and working them will lead to the most dramatic results.
The same principle applies to training the abdominals (stomach muscles). Many people make this muscle group a primary focus of their workout thinking that it will help them to achieve a flatter, more defined stomach. The only way to get a flat stomach is to get as lean as possible, and the best way to do that is to eat properly and strengthen the largest muscles in the body, like your legs, back, and chest, the ones that burn the majority of calories. You definitely want to train the abdominals, but proportional to how much you train the rest of your body. That means 2 to 3 days per week for 5 to 10 minutes and that is all you need. Take the extra 30 – 40 minutes per week that you save on abdominal training and do an extra cardio workout or a few more exercises for your legs, back, and chest.
After the Workout
After an intense workout that overloads the muscles of the body, recuperation (rest) time is needed. This is why it is important not to train the same muscle group(s) two days in a row. It is okay to workout two days in a row, just work different muscles each time. It is during this recuperation that your body will adapt to the stresses you placed it under during the workout:
  • More nerve fibers connecting the brain and muscles will be activated
  • Fatigued muscle tissue will be repaired and strengthened
  • Increased amounts of fuel will be stored within the muscle itself
Initially you should expect to have some mild to moderate soreness a day or two after your workout. This is the result of your body working to build, repair and strengthen the muscle tissue that was overloaded during your previous workout. It lets you know that you challenged your body enough to have an effect. Increasing the amount of nerve activity to a muscle will cause several things to happen. When a contraction happens, more of the muscle fibers will contract, leading to an increase in strength. More active nerves means the muscle will have more residual, or resting, tension. This causes the firmness known as muscle definition, or tone. Repairing broken down muscle tissue leads to newer stronger fibers being developed, and increases the amount of fuel stored within the muscle. This leads to an increase in the ability of the muscle to keep contracting for longer periods of time. All of these effects add up to one common element. More fuel is consumed all day long. In other words, more calories are burned, helping you along the way to your fat loss goals.
Factors that Effect Training Results
Importance of Correct Form: There are several key things you must know to maximize your results and minimize any risk of injury. Remember, if you are ever in doubt about a particular exercise or technique make sure you ask either your personal fitness professional or contact us at
Key form points to focus on:
Neutral spine – probably the single most important habit to establish is to maintain a neutral spine for virtually all exercises. A neutral spine involves several key points:
  • Placement of the head directly over the trunk of the body
  • Keeping the ears over the shoulders
  • Chin level with the ground
  • Shoulders lined up with the hips and squeezed slightly together
  • Knees slightly bent
Speed of movement – with the exception of “power” training for athletes, exercises should be done with slow, controlled motions. As a general rule, the lower the number of repetitions to be completed, the more slowly the movement should be done. A movement speed of between 2 and 4 seconds in each direction will be good for any workout.
Breathing – it is ideal to try and “exhale on exertion” while resistance training. Every time you must lift the weight, you should try to exhale. Correspondingly, as you are resisting the weight you should inhale. If you have trouble with this at first just remember this: BREATHE! Do not hold your breathe as this can lead to potential problems.
Muscular tension – while completing repetitions of an exercise, try to keep a constant tension on the muscle. Do not allow the muscle to relax by setting the weight down until you have completed all of your repetitions. If you find that you are unable to complete enough repetitions before you reach exhaustion then lower the weight you are using slightly and try again.
Resting between sets – it is very important to take the required amount of rest between sets of a particular exercise. You want to fatigue the muscle while you are completing the set, but you want to allow it to recover somewhat between sets. This allows the body to replenish energy and oxygen to the muscles and prepares them for the next set. Without this rest, the muscle would fatigue immediately and you would be unable to perform the next set properly.
Exercise Intensity
If you are new to strength/weight training and unsure of how you should “feel” when you workout, or if you have been working out for a while but have yet to realize much if any results, then you probably need to take a serious look at your intensity level.
Regardless if your goal is fat-loss, size gain, sport specific training, or general fitness, there should be one common element between them – high intensity workouts. Why do we need to resistance train at high intensity? It is the key to becoming more fit and achieving your goals. Intensity is the key to building strength, and strength is the key to achieving your weight loss and fitness goals. Stronger muscles require more energy. The stronger you are, the higher your metabolic rate will be, and the higher your metabolic rate is, the more calories you burn. That means more calories all the time, not just when you exercise. You can burn an extra 50 – 100 calories a day just doing your everyday activities. That may not seem like much but add that up over a year and you have got an extra 15 000 to 30 000 calories used. That is a potential 5 – 10 pounds of fat a year!
Will all this high intensity stuff also make me bigger? Absolutely not! Very few people take advantage of the potential strength they already have. Their muscles are inefficient and only a portion of the muscle is used. You can, through strength training, teach your brain how to use all of the available muscle. That means when you contract a muscle, you contract more of it, therefore it is stronger and requires more fuel (extra calories used) without having to be any larger. As an added bonus, this stronger, more efficient muscle will tend to always be in a state of slight contraction and that is what gives your muscle definition or tone.
O.K. but what exactly does high intensity mean? It means that you must overload your muscle, you need to give it more work than it is used to doing. Basically, you need to do each set of each exercise to exhaustion, until the muscle cannot physically perform the task anymore. Your last 3 -4 repetitions should be very difficult to complete. As a matter of fact, you really should not be able to complete the last repetition at all. That is how you know when a muscle is exhausted. Over the next 48 – 72 hours your body will do something called supercompensate. It will make the muscle stronger so that during your next workout the muscle will be better able to handle the load you are giving it. If you ever wonder why you should not train the same muscle group two days in a row, that is why, so it has a chance to get stronger! Of course now that the muscle is a bit stronger you should try to do a bit more in your next workout. That is called progression and that is covered next.
If you are not used to working out with this high intensity, then it is not something you should just jump in to. Take two weeks and slowly increase the intensity every workout so that starting in the third week you are up to full intensity. Always remember, if you are not sure, ask a local fitness professional or one of our online fitness consultants.
Program Progression
Most people think of progression as waiting until they can easily, or at least comfortably, complete the required number of repetitions for each exercise and then increase the weight. It is most common for people to do this a couple of times and then stop increasing the weight altogether. Sometimes the number of repetitions will then be increased for a little while but for the most part the workout stays exactly the same from that point on. Many people, when asked why they are not increasing their weights anymore commonly reply “I do not want to get bigger “.
I cannot emphasize this point enough – if you want to get results out of your workout you must use a system of consistent progression. Remember, you do not have to get bigger to get stronger, and getting stronger is the key to the results you want.
Let’s take a basic look at how the body responds to resistance exercise and then explain an easy system for consistent progression. There are two stages involved in increasing muscle strength. These stages overlap, with stage 1 being responsible for the most strength gains initially in a new routine and stage 2 increasingly becoming the primary factor after 4 – 8 weeks. During the first stage the body will become more effective at: inhibiting or relaxing the opposing muscle groups in any exercise; contracting the synergists or assisting muscles; and contracting or relaxing the stabilizers or balancing muscles. During the second stage, balance becomes easier and you can concentrate on fatiguing the muscle more thoroughly. Within several hours after your workout the body responds and starts the supercompensation process that lasts for between 48 – 72 hours (depending on the intensity of the workout). During this process the body will do two things: increase the amount of contractile mechanisms in the muscle fiber itself; and increase the amount of nerve stimulus to the muscle. This supercompensation is your body’s way of preparing for your next workout.
So what does all this mean? It means that as long as you are supplying your body with the nutrients it needs, and you are only working a muscle group every 48 – 72 hours, you should be a little bit stronger every time you workout. Correspondingly that means you must progress, or your intensity will drop.
So how do you do that? Easy! For example, if you are using a range of 12 – 18 repetitions as a target to complete for each set, to determine the amount of resistance required find the weight that causes you to reach exhaustion towards the low end of that range (12). From then on, every time you workout, try to increase the number of repetitions you can complete until you are at the high end of the range (18). Then increase the resistance (usually by 5 lbs. for upper body and 10 lbs. for the legs) and complete as many repetitions as you can with this heavier weight. Do not increase the resistance until you can complete the high number in your range for all of your sets. You will usually end up close to the low end of the range when you increase weight, but if you are slightly over or under that number that is okay, just progress from that point.
Above all remember, if you do not progress, you are just maintaining, and unless you are happy with where you are now, you will not get to where you want to be.
Workout Consistency
One of the most important parts of your workout is just the fact that you show up to do it. As discussed in “Intensity” and “Progression”, your body will adapt after every workout that you do. It is these adaptations that get you the results you are looking for. But guess what – it will only happen if you “prove” to your body that you are going to do your workout consistently. When you first start a routine there are all sorts of physiological changes that occur almost immediately. If you are looking for physical or “esthetics” changes though, that takes time. Your body will have no problem gaining strength, but it will also tend to be very resistant to making those appearance changes that most people so desperately want.
The longer you have been carrying around that extra 15 or more pounds of fat, the more your body will accept it as “normal” and therefore the more resistant it will be to get rid of that fat. Does this mean that if you have been carrying that extra fat around for ten years or so that you are doomed to having it forever? Absolutely not! But what it does mean is that you must be consistent with your routine or your body will think that it is okay to return to it is “normal” state. You have to “reset” your body’s way of thinking – convince it that lean and solid should be the new norm. The great thing is that once you achieve that new norm it is actually quite easy to maintain it.
So, remember these two things:
  • Stick with it! Do not give up, changes will happen. It just takes some time. You need to look at all the years you have ahead of you to be fit rather than concentrating on the next two or three weeks.
  • You must continuously challenge your body to get results! That means that a specific routine is only going to work for several weeks, then you must revise what you are doing. That is where your program change comes in. Each month you will be required to learn a new routine, and this will make your body have to adapt. That is what will get you the results you want.