The health and performance benefits of weight training are well known for athletes, however, not every athlete can afford or has access to a certified strength coach. There are plenty of weight training programs on the internet, but the internet also contains an abundance of misinformation. A good place to start is basing your weight training philosophy 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 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 was accustom to the stress.
A simple way to start a progressive resistance program is to determine how much weight you can lift 10-12 times. This should be your starting rep range for most exercises. The last couple of repetitions should be challenging, but you should be able to complete them. Do not train to failure. After a couple of weeks, and once you feel like the last few on the last set were easy, add more weight. Eventually the reps will decrease to three to five for maximum strength, but to build a base and learn the movements, start with higher repetitions.
Periodization is a systematic approach to weight training that varies training volume and exercise intensity. A large body of research has been published on different modes and models regarding the periodization of weight training. One of the most common is linear periodization progression. This plan progressively increases the weight used on the exercise, while decreasing the total number of repetitions. In example, the first week would have the athlete preform three sets of 12 at a moderate weight. The next week, the athlete would preform three sets of 10 and add a little weight. The third week three sets of eight reps at a heavier weight. This method is used to increase strength and size while insuring the athlete does not train too much at too high of an intensity, 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 it was significant. The results showed that although all the subjects had a significant increase in squat strength over the 14-week study, the groups that completed multiple sets had approximately 50 percent better results in strength than the single set group.
A sample four-week, strength-training program would have 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. And 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, safe and stand the test of time because they get results.
Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a strength coach and personal trainer at Sierra Athletic Club and in the homes of clients in the greater Lake Tahoe area. For more information and fitness articles visit www.KCstrength.com.