If you’re new to the fitness scene, the thought of putting together a training program, much less navigating the gym floor can appear daunting. The fear of looking inadequate might even keep some people from stepping into a gym in the first place. However, the saying “you have to start to be great” rings true in this case as well. Below are a few tips and pointers designed to help jump start a lifting program tailored to your goals
Training for strength:
Strength training is commonly used for power lifters and individuals whose careers depend on physical strength – i.e., firemen, linemen, construction work, etc. The goal is just as the name implies, to get stronger.
Aesthetically, this may or may not be conducive to your goals. A person training to build strength, requires a physical structure big enough to lift and move such mass. Therefore, the person usually needs to be solid in comparison.
As an aesthetic example, picture a power lifter. These men and women have a lot of muscle mass, but they also carry a lot of fat mass. That’s because when being asked to lift and move mass amounts of weight, the body must adapt to this new level of stress. It does so by holding onto food as fuel to use when asked to perform these greater tasks.
This isn’t true for all of powerlifter physiques of course, but it appears that being heavier allows a strength athlete to move more weight. So, adding both fat mass and lean mass to their physiques works in their favor.
When in a caloric deficit necessary to lose fat mass, they would then compromise lean mass and strength. If the goal is aesthetics, strength may sometimes take a back seat.
If your goal is to get stronger, you will want to stay within the 4-8 rep range and repeat for 3-6 sets. You will perform sets of single reps, double reps, and triple reps to test your strength and increase your one rep maximum. Your one rep maximum is described as the most amount of weight you can use for a lift with proper form for one rep. Some lifters use their one rep maximum as a basis for the weight used in their workouts. For example, a set may look like this:
Set 1 – 15 reps at 60% of 1 rep max
Set 2 – 10 reps at 75% of 1 rep max
Set 3 – 5 reps at 85% of 1 rep max
In this example, you would lower reps and increase weight as a percentage of your 1 rep max.
With this style of training, the goal is simply to increase the amount of weight lifted. Power lifters will employ all muscles needed to lift the weight and not necessarily focus on the mind to muscle connection and focus on the activation of specific muscles. Furthermore, when you compare strength training to that of hypertrophy (as discussed below), the time under tension is much lower with strength training. Since Type 1 slow twitch muscle fibers respond more to endurance training, they respond better to longer time under tension. These slow twitch fibers grow without having much increase in strength. Visually, the muscle will become bigger, while strength may not necessarily increase.
Training for hypertrophy:
Hypertrophy is the term used for the increase of muscle mass. The term “toned” is often used to describe this stye of training. Training for hypertrophy will create that coveted “toned” look. What happens is an increase in lean mass while simultaneously increasing metabolism and burning more fat.
Hypertrophy training utilizes the 8-12 rep range for about three or four sets. The specific weight to use will depend on the individual. The key to hypertrophy training is to choose a weight such that the last two to three reps of any set are difficult to complete but can still be completed with proper form. Whether the set is comprised of 8 reps, 10 reps, or 12 reps, the last 2-3 reps of that set should be hard to where completing much past the given rep range would compromise form or cannot be completed. As an example, in a set comprised of 8 reps, rep #6, #7, and #8 should be difficult. Similarly, in a set of 12 reps, reps #10, #11, and #12 should be difficult. In these examples, the weight used would vary since it is assumed a heavier weight could be moved for eights reps and not necessarily for fifteen reps.
The goal with hypertrophy training is to fatigue the muscle. Keeping the muscle under tension (TUT) for 40-70 seconds per set. This appears to be the length of time that ensure muscles are getting enough stimulus to spark change in size. This is also a good indicator of what weight to use in a particular set. Flying through a set in eight in twenty seconds, may indicate a heavier weight is needed to slow the tempo and complete the indicated set range in 40-70 seconds. On the other hand, if a set is taking longer than 70 seconds to complete, the weight could be too heavy, or form may be lacking to compensate for the heavy weight.
Again, the goal is to fatigue the muscles, thereby forcing the body to adapt to this new stress.
A huge factor in lean mass creation and therefore fat loss is nutrition. When training a muscle, the muscle fibers are be stretch and torn apart. The message to the body being to adapt. That’s why pre and post workouts nutrition are so important. With proper nutrition, these muscle cells can rebuild stronger, leaner, and bigger. The leaner mass a person has, the more fat he/she must burn even at rest in order to maintain that lean mass. Without proper or sufficient intake, the body converts lean muscle tissue to usable energy before it will catabolize fat stores.
Putting on true muscle mass takes time, consistency and hard work. Proper training technique and diet are crucial to progress.
Training for Endurance:
Endurance training is all about stamina and improving the performance of slow twitch muscle fibers. How long can you go without fatiguing? Usually this applies to cardiovascular sports like running, swimming, hiking, etc. Progress I measured by heart rate, pace and duration.
When training for an endurance sport, it’s easy to put aside strength training workouts in favor of cardiovascular exercise. However, the muscles still need that stimulation. Following strength training workouts, a three times per week when endurance training is still advised for that reason. Therefore, endurance training utilizes the exact same principle as above when it comes to choosing a weight for a rep range.
People looking to increase muscular endurance will want to increase the amount of volume placed on the muscle. Whether that’s done with higher rep ranges (15-20+ reps), great time under tensions (pause reps, tempo sets, or drop sets), or simply training the muscle more frequently, all methods of endurance and volume training.
Whichever rep range or style of training you choose, the main takeaway is to work on bringing muscle as close to failure or failure without injury or incorrect form. Remember, the body (and therefore physique) won’t change unless it’s forced to do so. It wants to be in homeostasis! Your job is to stay consistent and diligent over time. Keep at it! Change is coming!
Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash.