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Resistance training (also called strength training or weight training) is the use of resistance to build strength, anaerobic endurance and the size of skeletal muscles. It is based on the principle that body muscles will work to overcome a resistance when they are required to do so. When you do strength training repeatedly and consistently, your muscles become stronger than what they were beforehand.
A well-rounded fitness programme includes:
- Strength training to improve joint functioning, bone density, muscles, tendons and ligament strength,
- Aerobic exercise to improve heart and lung fitness,
- Flexibility exercises, and
- Balance exercises.
You should vary your strength-training programme every six to eight weeks in order to improve constantly. Experts at the University of Berkley have this advice to give: “You can vary your routine by increasing the number of repetitions or sets. Or, increase the weight so you can cut back on the number of reps and/ or sets. You can alternate ‘heavy’ days (heavier weights, with fewer reps and/or sets) with “lighter” ones.”
6 Basic principles of strength training
- Your overall fitness programme is composed of various exercise types such as aerobic training, flexibility training, strength training and balance exercises. If you’re not getting all these types of variations in, you’re missing the importance of having an overall balanced body.
- If you’re not progressing on your weights or other types of resistance, reps and sets you won’t see your muscles getting stronger. In order to continue to gain benefits, strength-training activities need to be done to the point where it’s hard for you to do another repetition. (This is called the progressive overload principle. Says Chris Goulet: “Without progressive overload your body does not need to adapt and therefore will never get bigger or stronger beyond a certain point.)
The aim of progressive overload is to use an appropriate weight or resistant force that will challenge you, while maintaining good technique. Also, regular adjustments to the training variables – such as frequency, duration, exercises for each muscle group, number of exercises for each muscle group, sets and repetitions – help to make sure you progress and improve.
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- Keep in mind certain exercises are designed to strengthen a certain muscle or group of muscles. So when you are doing bicep curls you can’t expect your legs to get stronger.
- Rest is very important. Rest periods vary depending on the intensity of the exercise being undertaken. If you don’t rest properly between reps and sets you won’t achieve the specific goal you’re aiming for.
- Always use variety. This means you need to vary your workout routine by, for example, regularly introducing new exercises. This challenges your muscles and forces them to adapt and strengthen. Changing your workouts can help you push past a training plateau.
- Muscles need time to repair and adapt after a workout. A good rule of thumb is to rest the muscle group for at up to 48 hours.
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