Starting a weight-lifting program at the gym can be a little confusing. Besides deciding what exercises to do and how often to go, you also need to determine how many reps and sets to do for each exercise. Unless you have a trainer or someone who can tell you how many to do, it will be up to you to determine this. Knowing the basics about the three main types of resistance training will help you decide on your resistance, reps and sets, and then you can use this knowledge to create your own personalized weight-lifting routine.
Types of Resistance Training
Endurance, hypertrophy and strength are the main types of resistance training. Endurance training works on your ability to perform a task many times. This could be comparable to a tennis player who needs to be able to hit the ball over and over again throughout the whole game. Hypertrophy training works on getting the muscles big and bulky, so this is much of what you see when you look at bodybuilders. Strength training focuses primarily on strength, meaning the total amount of weight you can actually lift. This is comparable to someone in a weight-lifting competition. They can lift an extremely heavy weight but don't have to do it over and over again.
For each of the three categories, you would use a different number of reps. By the end of your set, you should feel like you are close to or unable to perform another repetition of the exercise. This is where the muscle fails, or maxes out. To strengthen for endurance, max out between 12 and 15 reps; for hypertrophy, you should max out between eight and 12. Strengthening will have a range from four to six. This in turn will determine how much weight you use. So as an example, if your goal is to train for hypertrophy, your aim is between eight and 12 reps. If you can do more than 12, you need to increase your weight. If you can't even get to eight, you need to decrease it.
When you first begin any resistance training, start with one set of each exercise. You'll be able to spend more time focusing on your technique and learning how to avoid over-training. After several weeks of doing one set, start increasing your sets as your body allows. The main thing to remember is that you should be able to complete all exercises with proper form before increasing your sets, and you also want to ensure you are not over-training. Over-training is when you don't allow your muscles enough time to recover between workouts, and it can actually hinder your results.
Tips and Precautions
Avoid holding your breath. You should be exhaling during the lift and inhaling during the return portion. Form is important to avoid injury, so talking to an experienced lifter or trainer can help. Keep your lower back straight and keep your core muscles tight. Also, perform the exercise throughout your entire range of motion. This will help maximize the function you gain from the training. And finally, you want your reps to be slow and controlled. Try to spend two to three seconds going each way, and pause during the middle phase to maximize your overall results.