By Jonathon Stavres PhD, ACSM-EP-C
Weight training is a well-known method of improving muscular fitness, and is recommended to be performed concurrently with aerobic training. However, different programs are used to achieve different goals. For example, someone who is preparing for a marathon will have a very different aerobic training program than someone who is only intending to cut weight and increase their aerobic capacity (VO2max). Similarly, a weight training program must be designed according to the individual’s specific goals.
Become stronger, bigger, and increase muscular endurance
The three most basic weight training goals are to become stronger, become bigger, and to increase muscular endurance. While these three muscular characteristics are related, they are separately addressed with weight training.
First, muscular strength is best addressed by low-rep and high-load exercises performed in a slow and controlled contraction. The principle behind this type of training is that your muscles are adapting to the higher-load.
A common lifting scheme for improving strength includes performing three to five sets of 5-10 repetitions of 75-85% of a one repetition maximum (1RM). It is important to note that the reduced number of repetitions is not intended to reduce the overall workload, as the volume of exercise should still be high.
Each set of exercise should also be separated by about two minutes of rest, which provides sufficient time for phosphocreatine (Pcr) stores to replenish, which are a primary energy substrate for high-load and short-burst exercises.
Next, muscular endurance is best addressed by maximizing repetitions and reducing rest time. The National Strength and Condition Association (NSCA; Clayton et al., 2015), recommends performing at least three sets of 10-25 repetitions of 65-75% of a 1RM separated by 30 seconds of rest or less. Just like training for peak strength, these guidelines address endurance through specificity.
Mix it up
Finally, training for muscular hypertrophy (a.k.a. increasing size) is a mix of the previous two programs. In order to increase muscular hypertrophy, the NSCA recommends performing three or more sets of 8-12 repetitions of 67-80% of a 1RM with 30-90 seconds of rest.
Just like aerobic exercise, different weight-training schemes elicit unique metabolic challenges resulting in specific muscular adaptations. Therefore, it is important to structure your weight training program to match your specific goal. Stay tuned for a discussion on periodization, which is a method of organizing each of these weight training programs to achieve a peak in performance at a specific time.
For more examples of other variations/exercises look under Multimedia-VDF Exercise Tips
*Consult with a physician and/or medical healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen
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Clayton, N., Drake, J., Larkin, S., Linkul, R., Martino, M., Nutting, M., & Tumminello, N. (2015). National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Foundations of Fitness Programming (pp. 35).