What are you Training For?

Different weight levels, repetitions and sets cause your muscles to develop or "adapt" in different ways. Here's a rundown of what these are all about, we'll review the way to train for these specific goals in the article below.

Strength is the ability of your neuromuscular system - your brain, nervous system and muscles working together - to generate force. A big part of strength is neurological. (We've all seen someone who doesn't look very big but is very strong).

It is helpful to think of two kinds of strength. Maximal Strength is the type of one repetition strength that powerlifters train for. Endurance Strength is the ability to produce force over prolonged time, important for marathoners and most of the rest of us.

Hypertrophy means getting bigger muscles. Fast twitch muscles fibers typically hypertrophy more than slow twitch or endurance muscle fibers. Weight training programs for those seeking hypertrophy need to target the fast twitch fibers. There is also a neurological component, as the nervous system needs to establish a connection to the maximum number of muscle fibers in order to get them working and growing.

Power applies to generating the maximum amount of force in the shortest period of time. The brain, nervous system and muscles work together to hit a baseball out of the park. Training for power generally involves quickly moving both heavy and light loads.

How Many Sets and Repetitions Should I Be Doing?

An exclusive to Your Fitness Newsletter by Cary Raffle.
Gym Science - Ask the guys in the gym how many sets and reps to do and you'll get almost any answer. You'll hear about people who "got big" doing this and didn't get big doing that, or their own personal experience. Or that "it doesn't really matter because everyone is different," and you need to do "change it up" periodically. They may have stories of a body builder they know, but most of us aren't body builders and don't spend the time, follow the diet or take the supplements and risks that a body builder might to achieve results.
Exercise Science - As an alternative, you could turn to a large body of scholarly research on exercise programs published in peer reviewed journals in which all kinds of people - from young athletes to normal healthy adults to the elderly - were tested and results were compared. The studies considered the different goals, summarized to the right, and are fairly consistent in their findings and lead to the following recommendations. The following recommendations for sets and repetitions are from the National Academy of Sports Medicine:

Endurance Strength1-3 sets of 12-20 repetitions @ 60-70% of 1RM* w/0-:90 rest
Maximal Strength3-6 sets of 1-12 repetitions @70-100% of 1RM w/:45-5:00 rest
Hypertrophy (size)3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions @70-85% of 1RM w/0-:60 rest
Power3-6 sets of 1-10 repetitions @30-45% of 1RM &/or up to 10% of body weight w/3:00-5:00 rest

*1RM=1 Repetition Maximum

We all have a different mix of the 3 muscle fiber types, different diets, and our bodies respond differently to training, however, these have been proven to produce the desired results among thousands of people studied in research. Within 4-6 weeks, your neuromuscular system adapts to a particular workout or training regimen, and you experience a diminishing return on your efforts.

For best results, most people should Periodize their training and cycle between 2-3 different phases of training - or different progressions of weights/sets/repetitions within the same phase - on a 4-6 week basis. An added benefit to Periodization is reduced risk of injury; doing the same workout on a long-term basis is similar to working on an assembly line and increases the risk of repetitive motion injuries. For an article about periodization, scroll down through my weblog.

For those of you who would like to read a very detailed and scientific review of this subject, click here to download a copy of the American College of Sports Medicine's Position Stand: Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults.


Keep Your Motor Running: Fuel Before and After Competition

adapted from an article by Jacqueline Berning, Ph.D., R.D
Skipping meals or not eating before a workout can impair performance, and not eating after a workout or competition leaves you running on empty. Make nutrition a priority before, during and after exercise.
The Pre-Exercise Meal First it keeps you from feeling hungry and sluggish before and during exercise, and secondly it helps to maintain optimal levels of energy for the exercising muscles. A good recommendation is to eat a meal 2-4 hours before exercise. The ideal pre-exercise meal should be primarily carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat. Carbohydrates are digested rapidly. Protein and fat take longer to digest. Pre-exercise meals high in fat can cause stomach upset, gas and bloating.
The Post-Exercise Meal Muscles are most receptive to recovery during the first 30 minutes after exercise. To completely restore muscle energy, eat within 30 minutes after exercise and then eat small meals at 2 hours and again at 4 hours. If you can't take solid foods 30 minutes after exercise, or they are not available, try drinking 2-4 cups of a sports drink or eating an energy bar, then eat more solid foods 2 and 4 hours later.
Be sure to hydrate after a workout or game. Weigh yourself and drink 3 cups of fluid for each pound lost during the competition.
The same kind of high-carbohydrate, power-packed foods are recommended for BOTH before and after exercise:
4 or more hours before AND 4 hours after
Grilled chicken/rice/fruit
Turkey sandwich/raw carrots
Spaghetti with meat sauce
String cheese/grapes/crackers
Energy bar/Sports drinks
2-3 hours before AND 2 hours after
Cereal/lowfat milk
Fresh fruit
Bagel with peanut butter
Sports drink
Energy bar
1 hour or less before AND 30 minutes after
Energy bar
Sports drink
To read the full article at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, click here.

Plyometrics: Controlled Impact/Maximum Power

The Eastern Europeans first used plyometrics in the 1970s to develop greater strength and power in their Olympic athletes. They based their programs on scientific evidence that stretching muscles prior to contracting them recruits the ''myotactic'' or stretch reflex of muscle to enhance the power of contraction. This prestretching of muscles occurs when you perform jumps one after the other.

One study found that participants in a well-designed program of stretching, plyometric training and weight training reduced their landing forces from a jump by 20 percent, and increased their hamstrings strength by 44 percent. Both of these factors contribute to reducing an individual's potential risk of injury.

A safe and effective plyometric program stresses quality, not quantity of jumps. Safe landing techniques, such as landing from toe to heel from a vertical jump, and using the entire foot as a rocker to dissipate landing forces over a greater surface area, also are important to reduce impact forces. In addition, visualization cues, such as picturing yourself landing ''light as a feather'' and ''recoiling like a spring'' after impact promotes low-impact landings.

If you are considering plyometrics, proceed with caution. Carefully considering the type of jumps selected for the program, enlisting a coach or trainer for supervision, and gradually increasing to more difficult exercises can make a plyometric program both safe and effective.

You can contact me for more information, and read the full story from the American Council on Exercise by clicking here.

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