The question of the week at the Stoweflake Gym was: “How do you determine reps and weight for a strength training program?”
For those who are just starting their strength training journey, I would recommend starting with a weight that you can control (using perfect form) for at least ten to twelve reps; the last two reps of the set should be challenging, but not so challenging that you sacrifice form.
When form degrades, because the weight is too heavy, an injury is sure to follow. Being injured for just the sake of saying how much you lifted is NOT the goal. Proper form and execution is the real indication of strength.
Correct biomechanics ensures that you do not damage the joints or ligaments that support them. So a good practice is to warm up before you start your routine. In warming up I mean: use a bar or dumbbells that are extremely light and perform the exercise you are going to do with perfect form. Not only will this warm up the muscles, but it will also reinforce the image of the motion in the mind. Believe it or not, visualization is a valuable tool here.
After establishing the proper weight, start the first week by doing two sets per body part, building up to the four sets of ten to twelve reps per body part in the following weeks. This will ensure that the effects of the exercises will not lead to being too painful during the next forty-eight hours.
That’s right I said forty-eight hours! The impact of doing new exercises activities or increased workloads the body is not accustomed to causes a reaction called DOMS: delayed muscle soreness, which is due to the tearing of existing muscle fibers that were recruited by the physical activity. The rebuilding and repairing of these fibers stimulate a series of skeletal muscle cell division causing hypertrophy or thickening of the muscles; making them bigger and stronger.
To prevent/contain some of this tissue soreness, one can make sure to do some aerobic activity after the lifting segment along with a stretching program. Active recovery also helps. Following a day of lifting, try some light cardio, stretching, or lift with different muscle groups if you are doing a split muscle training program.
A three day a week routine is recommended. Your muscles need to rest from lifting so they can rebuild. It is interesting to note that a person that begins a lifting program will first develop neural drive stimulating muscle contraction, which basically translates to learning how to use the muscle. This is contributed to the first strength gains a client will notice just by learning how to use the specific muscle or muscles they are employing.
After four to six weeks the client should have made sufficient gains in strength and the correct biomechanics of the lifts. At this juncture, depending on the client’s goals, it might be time to reevaluate the lifting program, i.e., the number of sets, reps, and rest periods.
The above text was speaking to the beginning lifter. There are many avenues to a lifting program and depending on why you are lifting will determine on how you do so. If you have any questions on developing a strength program for any sport or just for functional strength, please contact me.