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Resistance training basics.

Resistance training is a type of exercise that challenges the muscles to move against an unaccustomed force. It is perhaps the most powerful exercise technique available when done correctly and can increase strength, tone, functionality, bone density and overall health. It is a must do technique for everyone!

Resistance activities

A resistance exercise is any movement that makes the muscles move against resistance. Many everyday activities can be classified as low level resistance exercises, e.g. getting out of a chair, picking up a shopping bag etc. These low level activities do not become an issue until injury or age makes them harder to do.

For exercise purposes I would consider a resistance exercise as any movement that brings you to the point of fatigue between 1 and 15 repetitions. There are many types of exercise that can do this including lifting weights, exercise bands, body weights exercises, medicine balls etc. In general resistance training is associated with weight lifting. Please do not be mis-lead into thinking that weight lifting is for the massive guys on steroids. It is for each and every one of us from childhood to old age in some form or another.

Resistance training terms

Resistance training follows a set structure; these key terms are used to describe the training protocol.

Exercise    - A movement designed to challenge and develop the body.
Repetition - One complete movement of an exercise.
Set          - A consecutive number of repetitions, e.g. 10 push ups.
Rest         - Time taken between sets, e.g. 30 sec, 90 sec, 4 minutes,
Volume     - The number of sets per exercise.
Exercise order - The order of exercises e.g. circuit training,

In practice you will perform a set of an exercise, then take a certain rest period followed by one or more sets of that exercise before moving on to the next.

Physiological effects

The main effect of resistance training is changes in the hormones within the body. The biggest changes are seen in testosterone and growth hormone. The effect of training is to increase the amount and sensitivity to these, which results in you being better able to build muscle as well as numerous other health benefits. The best way to get changes in your hormone level is to train the legs with free weights, as these total body exercises create large hormonal shifts.

Resistance training is a far more effective method of exercise for losing body fat than aerobic training. Despite this it does not get the same attention within the gym.

Another excellent benefit is the training teaches the body to co-ordinate the muscles better. This means the brain can activate more of each working muscle and relax the opposite muscle more thoroughly. The result is you become stronger.

The repeated loads experienced when training also induces osteoblasts to build more bone to cope with the demands and thus improves bone density (not all resistance exercises increase bone density).

The keys to resistance exercise – Free weights, the right intensity and training the legs

The key facet to resistance training is using free weights, as they challenge and develop the body in a manner to aid your health, intensity, ensuring you exercise at the right intensity to get results and leg training, ensuring you are training your legs.

Free weights - They are better than resistance machines because they develop all the stabilizer muscles which are needed in general life. Free weights create balance, coordination and core strength within the body. It is a must do technique as resistance machines fail to obtain the same benefits in the same magnitude. Please note that body weight exercises would be considered free weights for this purpose.

Intensity - If you are lifting too light a weight, as often found with women, you will be wasting your time and receive few of the amazing benefits resistance training can bring. If you are lifting too heavy a weight, as often seen by men, you will hinder progress instead, through injury, incorrect muscle recruitment and postural problems. The intensity must be set just right to challenge the muscle yet allow full technique and be free from injury.

Training the legs - All leg work using free weights also challenges the whole body including the mid section and thus creating large demands on your system. The result is significant and beneficial changes occur in your hormonal environment. These changes allow for many of the benefits of exercise to be incurred. Leg training with free weights also increases bone density if done at the right intensity.

Points to note

Recovery - For optimal gains you should not train the same muscle on consecutive days in a row as it may well be still recovering from the previous session. Most of muscle rebuilding occurs when you are asleep at night away from the training session.

Muscle soreness - This is a sign you have lifted too much too soon. It is not an ideal feeling and you should look to have no soreness after a session. The soreness is just a sign of too much damage caused to the muscle tissues. The body does not need to be sore to make gains, instead it just needs to be stressed in accordance to periodization and you will know it is making gains. The more training you do the more exercise you can handle.

Length, volume and intensity.

In general, the length and volume of the exercise does not need to be too long. People love to spend ages doing the weights but this could be vastly improved by increasing the intensity and reducing the volume. A commonly seen example in weight training is doing 3 sets of 12 reps yet only feeling tired after the third set. This would mean you could probably have got the same benefits by just doing one set with a heavier weight and ensuring you reached fatigue. I see committed guys doing the same, they may do many sets but they do not take each set to fatigue and thus impede greatly the results of the training programme.

For general health you need to do resistance training twice per week minimum but ideally three times if possible. This can usually be done in a maximum of 30 minutes with the focus on quality not quantity. If your goal is to get bigger or improve your sports performance the weights should still be focused on quality over quantity. I would say a maximum of four weight sessions should be followed, even for the most committed exerciser

How to do it?

The resistance training can be done at home using your body weight or with weights. If you are a member of a gym then you have all the facilities available to you.

Simply pick five or six exercises, perform 15 reps to begin with, then take a short rest and do another 15 reps. Then move onto the next exercise.

The key is to change the difficulty of the exercise so you are fatigued by the 15th rep, if you can do 20 reps, it is too easy and you must make the exercise more difficult.

Long term the number of reps and the rest periods taken should be changed from 15 reps and 30 seconds to keep your body challenged, e.g. 10 reps and 60 seconds rest or 5 reps and 90 seconds rest. This is based on the principles of periodization.

Consider my course

All people on my results course have access to numerous training programmes for use within their house or a gymnasium setting. If you would like to follow one of these along with learning all the other aspects of healthy living needed to achieve your goals consider signing up to my course.

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