We will start the strength- training routine by choosing exercises to target all our muscle groups. Always start the workout with the larger muscle groups, followed by the smaller ones. However, we can do our exercises in any order we like and change the order from time to time for variety and challenge.
The number of repetitions and sets done is based on our goals. In order to develop muscle strength, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends eight to 12 repetitions. They also recommend performing at least one set of each exercise to the point of fatigue.
However, many of us perform about two to three sets of each exercise. In lifting to fatigue, it takes an average of two to five minutes for our muscles to rest for the next set. Therefore, if our goals require a high-intensity routine, we will require a longer rest compared to using lighter weights and more repetitions, which would take about 30 to 60 seconds for our muscles to rest. By training each muscle group, two to three times alternate days of the week, our muscles will get time to rest, repair and improve their strength.
The manipulation of the number of repetitions, sets, tempo and the weights or the force generated brings about the improvement in our strength by overloading our muscles. We should challenge ourselves, but not to complete fatigue.
Strength training also requires good form by performing the movements with the appropriate muscle group. If we strength-train the incorrect muscle group when carrying out a particular activity, this could result in injury or affect exercising goals.
It is more important to focus on good form than to lift heavy weights with poor form. When we are starting with free weights or a weight machine, start with light weights and do a warm-up set of 10 to 16 repetitions. Then, for the second set, increase the weight by five pounds and repeat the same number of repetitions.
If we are able to do more than our desired number of repetitions, increase the weight slightly for the third set. We should be lifting enough weights that we can only do the desired repetitions and still be able to finish with good form.
Dr Kenneth Gardner is an exercise physiologist at Holiday Hills Research Center; email: email@example.com.