The benefits of strength training are no secret among athletes and the general population. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford access to a certified strength coach. There are plenty of weight-training programs on the Internet, but there's also an abundance of misinformation. A good place to start your strength-training program is to base it on the same scientific principles used by many NFL, MLB and collegiate strength coaches, and those of the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Progressive resistance is arguably the most important variable in a weight-training program. In order for the body to respond and adapt, an adequate amount of stress must be applied. If an individual does not continue to challenge the body, the body has no reason to get stronger, build lean muscle or increase performance simply because the body is used to the stress.
A simple way to start a progressive resistance program is to determine how much weight you can lift 15 times. Then use that same amount and stay between 10- 12 repetitions, your 15 rep max. The last couple of repetitions should be challenging, but you should be able to complete them. Do not train for failure. Once you feel like the last few on the last set were easy, add more weight.
Periodization is a systematic approach to weight training that varies training volume and exercise intensity. One of the most common forms is linear periodization progression. This plan progressively increases the weight used, while decreasing the total number of repetitions. In example, the first week would have the athlete perform 12 reps at a moderate weight. The next week the athlete would perform 10 reps and add a little weight; and the third week, eight reps at a heavier weight. This method is used to increase strength and size while insuring the athlete does not train too much, which can lead to a decease in performance or even injury.
What it so special about three sets? Well the scientific literature shows that multiple sets are more effective. A study by Kramer and colleagues, "The effects of single versus multiple sets on strength" tested 42 male subjects to determine if there was a difference and if there was one, was it significant? The results showed that all the subjects had a significant increase in squat strength during the 14-week study, but the groups that completed multiple sets had about 50 percent better results in strength than the single-set group.
A four-week strength-training program to improve the squat has an athlete squat 100 pounds for three sets and 12 repetitions for the first two weeks. On the third week, they would squat 110 pounds for three sets and 10 repetitions. On the final week, they would squat 120 pounds for three sets of eight reps. After the final week, the athlete can then pick a new exercise to try and get stronger at, or repeat the same program using more weight. These basic strength-training principles have proven to be effective and safe not only for beginners, but for advanced lifters as well.
- Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal fitness coach that works out of Sierra Athletic Club and in the homes of clients in the greater Lake Tahoe area. Visit www.KCstrength.com for more information.