There are many ways to develop strength. The trick is to exercise your muscles effectively for strength, endurance and/or size while avoiding injury. The following can be used as guidelines for achieving these goals.
It is important that a person has at least one strength exercise for each major muscle group to ensure balance in strength gains and decrease the change of injury. The major muscle groups include the following:
- Quadriceps (thighs or the front of the upper leg)
- Hamstrings (back of the upper leg)
- Hip adductors (inner thighs)
- Hip abductors (outer hips and thighs)
- Lower back
- Pectoralis major (chest)
- Latissimus dorsi (upper back)
- Deltoids (shoulders),
- Biceps (front of the upper arm),
- Triceps (back of the upper arm),
- Neck flexors, and
- Extensors (neck).
Other groups of muscles which should be trained regularly include:
- Gluteus (butt),
- Obliques (side of the stomach),
- Gastrocnemius (calves),
- Anterior tibialis (front lower leg),
- Forearm flexors, and
- Extensors (forearm).
When performing strength-training exercises a person should always work from the larger muscles of the legs to the smaller muscles. This allows a person to perform the most demanding exercise of the large muscles when fatigue is at its lowest point.
Speed plays a major part in strength training. Performing each exercise movement in a slow and rhythmical movement is important. A person should not jerk or go at a fast pace when exercising. Concentrate on slowing and completing each movement correctly. Slower movements put more stress on the muscle which gives more resistance and force throughout a full range of motion. Controlled movements translate into greater strength and size gains. Always emphasise the lowering movement called the negative or eccentric phase of the exercise. For example, when lowering a barbell during a biceps curl go slower. A pace of about three seconds is recommended.
A set is defined as a number of successive repetitions performed without resting. The number of sets performed is a personal preference although beginners should try to stick to one or two sets of lighter resistance in the beginning.
A person should do a set until there is momentary muscle failure which is lifting to the point where a person cannot lift anymore without failing, jerking or doing the exercise incorrectly. Those who do multiple set training should rest or recover for between one to three minutes between sets.
Resistance and repetitions
When a person is exercising for strength purposes the trick is to exercise to the point of momentary muscle failure. Most people can complete about six repetitions at 85% maximum resistance, eight repetitions at about 80%, 10 repetitions at about 75% and 12 repetitions at about 70% before reaching momentary muscle failure. This is a general guideline because everyone is different. Maximum resistance is measured by how much resistance a person can lift in one repetition. Beginners should not ensure maximum one repetition resistance as this can be dangerous and lead to injury. A professional personal trainer helps a person to find their maximum resistance.
Because training at 85% or above increases the risk of injury it is recommended that a person training at eight to 12 repetitions which beginners working with higher repetitions at a lower weight. This makes strength training safe and effective. Some people who are advanced may benefit from using higher weights at lower than eight reps but keep in mind that this kind of training requires more recovery time before exercising the same muscle group again.
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