Purpose. The purpose of strength training is to produce good muscle tone throughout the entire body. This should result in greater balance, control, and support of the entire body. When muscles are strong, less demand is placed on the skeletal structure. A tone body should reduce injury and fatigue. A tone body should result in greater alertness and a more positive emotional and mental outlook. Another purpose of strength training is to apply resistance while stretching the muscles. Greater stretching can be achieved by using resistance. So, strength training can be like doing Yoga with the help of light weights. Some strength training can be done without the use of any equipment. Click here to read more about the benefits of strength training.
Frequency. The recovery rate of some muscles is quicker than others and each person’s ability to recover is different. Strength trainers will usually work on different muscle groups from one day to the next, giving the muscles more than 24 hours to heal and grow. If a full body strength training workout is performed, then waiting a full day to rest between workouts is a good idea.
Repetitions (Rep’s) and Sets. The number of times you do a specific weight lifting exercise in a short period of time without rest (repetitions), and how many of these uninterrupted groupings of an exercises you do (sets) can determine how your muscles will grow. If your level of weight or resistance is low enough that you can perform the exercise many times, your muscles are likely to grow lean and tone. If the weight or resistance you are using is so difficult that you can only do a few exercises before fatigue sets in, your muscles are likely to get big but not have as much long-term endurance. It is common for strength trainers to do three sets of twelve repetitions. Resting for a few minutes between each set of 12 repetitions will give the muscles a little time to recover strength. It is possible to exercise a different muscle group while one is resting — switching from upper body to lower body (for example). For leaner muscles and more endurance, consider doing four sets of 18 to 24 repetitions.
Muscles are Like Batteries. Some batteries can provide very intense short bursts of energy. These can be used for starting engines. Other batteries are designed to provide a lower level of power over a longer period of time. These are considered deep-cycle batteries and are typically used for powering small electric motors or other appliances. A third kind of battery is a hybrid battery that can be used for starting engines and providing power to appliances. Perhaps the most balanced kind of strength training would produce hybrid muscles that have strength and stamina.
Proper Intensity of Resistance. It is important to choose the correct weight or tension while strength training. The most widely accepted advice regarding this is to choose a level of resistance that results in fatigue after 8 to 12 repetitions. It is also suggested to use even more resistance to produce fatigue after only a few repetitions for greater muscle ripping and growth. The problem with higher levels of resistance is that they are likely to cause injury. Little benefit is gained by trying to put on large amounts of muscle mass. Instead, consider using less resistance and increasing repetitions and sets. For example, pick a resistance that doesn’t produce fatigue until 18 repetitions and 3 sets (a total of 54 full muscle extensions). This should reduce chances of injury, increase stamina, and produce a sense of wellbeing.
Muscle Groups. There are generally three areas of the body that muscles are grouped by: lower body (legs/buttocks), upper body (arms/chest/back), and core (abs/sides). There are exercises that will tone the front, back, inside, and outside of these muscle groups. For example, lifting a leg forward, backward, left and then right (while providing resistance) will tone the front, back, inside, and outside of the leg.
Equipment Used. There are a variety of strength training devices available. They generally fall into three categories:
- Dumbbells and Free Weights. Hand-held weights are most commonly used for curls, although other exercises can be performed with them. When used without any pulleys, straps, or other equipment, they are limited to being held in the hands. Some dumbbells offer an adjustable weight feature, so that a single dumbbell set with various removable weight plates can be more easily stored. Otherwise, separate dumbbells of different weights would be used. Dumbbells are heavy, expensive, and take up room to store. Dumbbells rely upon the downward pull of gravity so their resistance is only one way; in a straight line pointing down.
- Weight Lifting Machines. For a full body workout that isolates specific muscle groups, weight lifting machines are commonly used. Weight lifting machines usually rely upon weight plates and pulleys to create resistance. Some use rubber bands, flexible rods, or hydraulics to create resistance. Because they do not rely upon gravity for resistance, the muscles can be equally (or optimally) trained throughout the entire extension of the exercise. Some weight lifting machines strategically vary the resistance throughout the muscle extension to provide an increased amount of resistance where the muscle (and anatomical leverage) are greatest. This means that when and where your body is the weakest and most likely to be injured, the weight lifting machine reduces the resistance. Weight lifting machines are expensive and typically require considerable space for use.
- Stretch Resistance Bands. These are light weight and do not depend on gravity to create resistance. Similar to free weight, resistance bands can promote balance and the use of other muscles for stabilization.
Resources. The following links will take you to exercise related links provided by the organization indicated.
- American Council on Exercise provides resources and Documents such as Exercise Can Help Control Stress
- American Diabetes Association
- American Heart Association
- How Stuff Works
- Kids and Health
- Mayo Clinic
* The information on this page regarding exercise is based primarily on the personal first-hand experience of Gregory Paul Johnson. Always check with a physician before making significant changes to your exercise routine.