Two of the most important variables in resistance training are the number of repetitions per set and the amount of weight used. Depending on your goals, it may be beneficial to do more reps with less weight, or vice versa. There are a number of factors to consider when constructing your ideal strength training program.
Types of Training
Resistance training generally encompasses any type of anaerobic training aimed at improving the function of skeletal muscles. Resistance can come from the weight of the body itself or from an external source. Muscles can display improvement in a number of ways, including increased size, strength, endurance, stability and flexibility. Using higher repetition sets in resistance training is traditionally associated with improving muscular endurance, while higher weight and lower repetitions are traditionally used for increasing muscle size and strength, generally known as hypertrophy. More advanced resistance training, such as that for competitive weightlifting, may include very heavy weight with very low repetitions; this is generally used for developing power.
Benefits of Muscular Endurance
Muscular endurance refers to a muscle's ability to keep working continuously for relatively long periods of time. Developing muscular endurance is beneficial for preventing injuries and promoting greater efficiency in movement. Distance runners, for example, benefit from this type of training because they must maintain pace and good running form for long periods of time. Having better endurance in the major muscles of the legs and core helps prevent the injuries and wasted energy that may come from deteriorating form caused by muscle fatigue. High-repetition endurance training is also used by those who want to improve muscle function with minimal increase in muscle size.
Benefits of Hypertrophy
Hypertrophy refers to an increase in muscle mass, and goes hand in hand with greater muscle strength. This process results in what is often called toning. Hypertrophy is the goal of most basic full-body resistance training programs. Usually, the weight selected will be lifted eight to 12 times to achieve muscle exhaustion, for two to three sets. Building larger, stronger muscles contributes to the toned, athletic body type that many exercisers seek, improves performance and prevents injuries in many activities. It also increases overall resting metabolism.
Many people, especially women, tend to shy away from resistance training with significant amounts of weight for fear of bulking up. In truth, most women's hormone composition prevents them from achieving drastic increases in muscle size through basic resistance training. Even for men, a more tailored, extensive training program that includes appropriate nutritional components is usually needed where significant hypertrophy is the goal. Another misconception is that resistance training alone will make a person look toned. Unless an individual has a low body fat percentage to begin with, the process of toning includes both increasing muscle mass and decreasing the body fat stored on top of the muscles. This means incorporating good nutrition and plenty of aerobic exercise into your workout program.
Resistance training includes many other variables in addition to reps and weight. For example, an ideal resistance program will incorporate some exercises that use multiple muscle groups at the same time to improve the body's functional movement capability and prevent injuries. The nature of the muscle contraction used in an exercise is also significant. Muscle fibers can contract while the muscle shortens, maintains the same length, or lengthens, all of which are relevant in achieving certain goals.
Always consult a doctor before beginning an exercise program. Use good form when performing resistance exercises, and do each movement with control. Have a spotter assist you with heavier lifts.
- American Council on Exercise; Personal Trainer Manual
- American Council on Exercise; Fit Facts; Strength Training 101