Monday, 7 January 2013

Design Your Own Weights Program: Part 2 - The Practicals

In the last post we looked at some of the types of weights training and what they can achieve. Now it is time to put it all together, and create your own program! Yah!

Your Turn:

When putting together a program, there are a number of factors that will determine what type of strength you are building. This has been neatly summarised by the well respected and highly authoritative source: Wikipedia.
Across the top we have our four types of strength, while down the side are the different variables. Choose your load, number of reps and sets, rest duration and speed depending on which type of training you are focusing on in that particular workout.
Training goal
Load (% of 1RM)
Reps per set
Sets per exercise
Rest between sets (mins)
Duration (seconds per set)
Speed per rep (% of max)
Training sessions per week
Table reproduced from Siff, 2003[9]
Key Terms as described by Buffy: 

Load - the weight you are lifting. Duh. 
% of 1RM - stands for % of 1 rep max. With a training partner to watch you, build up to the maximum amount of weight you can hold for one complete repetition of the exercise. This is your maximum weight, 100%. From there, you do your weight training based on a percentage of that max. Every few cycles you should retest yourself to see how much your maximum has increased and readjust all your training weights from there.
Reps - Repetitions. How many times you do the action before resting.
Sets - the number of groups of repetitions.
Scheduling Your Sessions: 
Obviously, for beginners you are not going to be doing the large number of training sessions suggested. Be sensible! It is best to start with two workouts a week (as mentioned last time, female muscle tone starts to disappear after 4 days, so you need to be doing strength training more often than that). Within each session you need to vary between arms, legs and core.

Therefore, based on the information above and earlier, I suggest the following: 

-  If you are only doing two sessions a week, focusing just on one session dedicated to power and one session to strength is a good way to start out.
- As you can see, both power and endurance require very little weight, so can be done as body weight exercise (pushups, squats, crunches etc. that don't require any additional weights). Circuits are a good way to keep up the speed required for power focused workouts.
- Strength training will probably require you to use weights, but do a day of testing with a friend to find out what your max is first. Maybe just lifting an empty bar will be enough.

Key Exercises For Particular Muscle Groups:
These are just some suggestions on exercises you can mix and match for your training.  
Click on each link to see a demo (mostly) from the CrossFit website, where you can find LOTS more exercises. Highly Recommended. Warning, though, they often have loud music so turn your volume down before opening the link. 
Squats - this is one of the best exercises to do as you can use it for both strength and body weight training. I know they might seem boring, but once you see how cute your rear end becomes, you'll forgive them. (Also, see a more detailed description of how to perform squats without weights).
Lunges - these are good body weight exercises, can be done holding hand weights, and if coordinated can be done with a barbell across your shoulders.(The demon shows walking lunges, but you can also do them stationary). 

Box jumps - these are my favourite killers for power. They have the benefit of a squat, but with added dynamic power. Stand in front of a box or high step that comes up to just below your knee (you can start lower, but try to push yourself a bit, you might be amazed how high you can jump.). You then jump up onto the box both legs together. 
I was taught the key to this exercise only the other day after killing myself for ages. You should lift your feet and knees up so you land on the box in a squat position and then push yourself up. I tried to jump so that I had my legs straight when I landed on the box, which is obviously a lot harder and less effective. 
Chest/Bench Presses - These can be done either with very light weights as a power exercise focusing on speed, or with much heavier weights for strength training. However, if you are using heavier weights, you must always have a spotter on hand to catch it before it crushes your throat. It only takes a second and you really don't recover well. 
Pushups - I know, I know, everyone hates pushups, but they are soooooo good for you. They get your back, your arms, your chest, and your abs. What's not to love about that? (they only hurt so much because they are doing so much good!) If you can't yet do a full push-up there are lots of variations out there, so find one at a suitable level.  (This demo is great because it takes you through variations on a full pushup, as well as some bad technique to avoid).
Kettlebell Swings: I'm trying to keep it a bit different and not just have 'bicep curls' and 'triceps dips' in there, though they are both good. If you haven't used kettlebells or done swings before, they are great because they use so much more than just your arms, and mimic throwing a baby around rather well.

Plank: This is a bit of a classic, but is great for building core strength that includes abs and back. There are a lot of variations, up on your hands, on one side, etc., but start with the basic and once you can hold it for a minute, then try out some of the variations.

Knees-to-Elbows: want a bit more of a challenge than straight sit-ups? Try these. Hang from a bar and try to bring your knees up to your elbows. Make sure you stay controlled on the way up and on the way down. Try to get as far as you can when starting out.
Back Extensions: You should never forget to keep strengthening your back. All the back injuries people have, a lot of them come from trying to do too much without building up the muscles first. Save yourself the pain, and remember your back every workout.  A lot of gyms will have a place for doing back extensions. If not, you can lie on a mat and just lift your chest off the ground.

Action time!
1. First decide how many sessions you can actually do. If beginning, just start with two and possibly work up to three. 
2. Next, with a friend go to the gym and test out your max reps for your key strength exercise. 
3. Sit down and design one body weight/power session and one heavier weights session, calculating how much load you need based on your max strength for that particular exercise, then your reps and sets, etc. 
4. Enjoy! 
Every few weeks swap some of your exercises around to keep the muscles guessing. But keep in mind the 10% rule, that you should only increase the work of an exercise by 10% at a time. Any more and you risk doing damage. So don't step up your weights too fast.

If anyone knows of other great exercises they would like to share, please feel free.

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