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Strength training made easy

Published:Wednesday | April 11, 2012 | 12:00 AM

This article concludes our reflection on strength training being number one for 2012. Many of us will be at different points in our strength-development programme based on our baseline at the beginning of our discussion.

If you have been strength training consistently for the past three to six months, doing whole-body exercises two to three days per week, doing one to two exercises at one to three sets for each exercise for each muscle group, you can still be considered as a beginner. Persons who have been exercising consistently for the past three to six months and are now doing up to four days of strenuous strength training, picking two to three exercises for each muscle group, doing two to four sets can now be considered as intermediate.

Hopefully, many of us have now advanced to strength training more than four times each week. If that is the case, we will find the experience more fulfilling by including some of the more novel strategies such as the split routine in our programme. It allows us to isolate one or two body parts or muscle groups for each training day in the week. It includes many sets and types of exercises for each body part such as the arms, legs and abdomen on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and chest, shoulders and back on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. At this stage, it is more desirable to exercise each body part once per week to allow for maximum recovery time. Here you will be aiming to do four to five exercises for each major muscle group performing three to four sets for each.

Free weights

Many of us may have been strength training via the use of our body weight. However, we may find the inclusion of free weights and exercise machines much more fulfilling. The machines have interesting engineering devices that provide us with mechanical advantage that makes strength training easier. We experience faster improvements, they make it easier to strengthen muscles that pose more challenge such as the triceps, hamstrings and abdominals, all this will help to motivate adherence and encouragement to train even harder.

A few of the routines that will improve your strength development are: super-set system, circuit training, split routine, single set system, multiple set, light to heavy system, heavy to light system. Incorrect strategies can lead to a variety of negative results including injury, losing strength and feeling burnt out.

The super-set system is a combination of multiple sets of eight to 10 repetitions of two or more exercises for the same body part by opposing muscle groups such as biceps and triceps, performed with little or no rest between. Another example, a muscle group performing one set of several exercises in rapid succession.

Circuit training involves a series of strength exercises performed one after the other with minimal rest of 15 to 30 seconds between exercises. About 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise are performed at each station in the circuit.

Dr Kenneth Gardner is an exercise physiologist at Holiday Hills Research Center; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com.