Resistance Training Tips for Success

Resistance Training: Tips for Success

Resistance training is more than simply lifting weights. You can easily find yourself injured or hitting a plateau if you do not adhere to the following guidelines regarding safety, form, and application. Using these principles will help to ensure that you are maximizing the benefits of every rep during your workouts.

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Tip #1. Assess your Current Fitness Level: Completing a fitness assessment before beginning a new resistance training program is a great way to establish your current level of fitness.  It can also help you to set realistic goals and timelines for accomplishing them. A way to assess yourself for a given exercise is to first attempt to lift 60%-70% of the weight you think you could do. This will help you focus on your form and leave room for you to adjust weights if it feels too heavy. You will be able to refer to your assessment to help determine the weights and intensities at which to begin working in each of the subsequent exercises you will perform.  Be honest with yourself. If you are a beginner, do not over train while trying to get quick results. Slowly introduce yourself into resistance training. You will prevent muscle soreness and possible injury.

Tip #2. Keep a workout journal: Once you have established the weights you should use for your goal rep ranges, recording them into a journal will help you remember where to begin in subsequent workouts. By referring to your journal, you eliminate the need to perform “test” sets every time thus maximizing the time you spend working out.  Write down the weights you use as well as the number of reps you complete in each workout so you know where to pick up the next time you work those muscle groups again.

Tip #3. Know your goal: Work in a rep range that will be most beneficial in realizing your personal fitness goals. Different levels of intensity and different volumes of work will provide a variety of results. Choose a plan that uses rep ranges and intensities that are specific to your fitness goals. Lower rep ranges contribute more to size and strength while greater rep ranges contribute more to fat loss and muscular endurance. See our in depth workout routines to meet your training goals.

Tip #4. Warm up your muscles: Always complete a 5-10 minute warm up before exercising in order to increase your body temperature and adequately loosen and stretch out your muscles. Increase your blood flow by completing easy cardio exercises such as fast walking or cycling. Additionally, if you will be performing strength training exercises at a range lower than 20 reps, than make sure you complete one or two warm up sets using a weight that is 60% of the max weight you will be using for each exercise. Attempting to lift heavy weights without properly warming up your muscles is likely to result in injury causing a greater setback to your fitness goals.

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Tip #5. Good Form: Focus on using and maintaining good form the entire way through each movement and each set. Understand what good form is for an exercise and then either work with a partner that can tell you how your form looks or work in front of a mirror to ensure that your form is correct. Make sure that you get your form down during those warm up sets when you are not working at 100% intensity. Using improper form while working with heavy weight is a recipe for injury. If you are unable to maintain proper form for the entire set of an exercise, this may indicate that the weight you are using is too heavy and you may need to decrease in order to maintain proper form.

Tip #6. Have a Workout Partner Spot You when Needed: Use a spotter for heavy sets or new exercises. Having a spotter when you are working with heavy weights or to ensure that your form is correct when trying out a new exercise is a good habit for avoiding injury. This is especially true when you are working yourself to the point of failure. Once fatigued, having a spotter present to help you finish your reps and rack the weight will not only help you feel more comfortable pushing yourself to 100% but will also increase your safety in doing so.

Tip #7. Work at 100% Intensity:  Make sure to pick weights that force you to reach muscular failure within your desired rep range. Reaching failure should be done while using good form and without the need for a spotter to force out additional reps. However, having a spotter will promote your confidence in reaching muscular failure since someone will be there to assist you in replacing the weight if you cannot complete the last repetition.

** If you are new to fitness and/ or resistance training, begin working at a load that is 60-70% of your maximum intensity and work your way up towards 100% (reaching failure) over a period of a few months. This will help to prevent excessive muscle soreness and decrease your chance of injury. **

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Tip #8. Use the Overload Principle: During your workout, match the reps in all sets of a given exercise. By reaching muscle failure at the same rep total in every set, you will be able to maximize your results and evenly track your progress.  Rest enough between sets so that you can hit the same number of reps for each consecutive set. This will ensure that you are giving your muscles time to recover fully before you deplete them again. Every set will then work towards increasing your strength. For instance, if you are working in the 12-15 rep range and you are able to complete 14 reps to failure during your first set of squats, you want to aim to reach 14 reps in each subsequent set before reaching muscle failure. Once you are able to complete 14 reps during every set, try to complete 15 reps to failure the next day you perform squats.

Once you are able to complete 15 reps during all sets of a given exercise, increase to a weight that allows you to only complete 12 reps until failure. Make sure that you give your muscles enough time between sets to recover to the point that you are able to match those reps during each set.

This concept only works if you are working at 100% intensity during every set. Reaching failure before hitting your matching rep count is a sign that you did not adequately rest your muscles.  Improvements in strength come from pushing your muscles to the point where each muscle group is slightly damaged therefore you reach muscular failure. With proper eating and rest, your body will repair the damage and become stronger in order to adapt to the weight you introduced during your workout.

Tip #9. Eat. Eat. Eat: Food is fuel for your body. If you do not fuel your body properly before and after workouts, your progress will surely suffer. Without the proper nutrients, your muscles can not repair themselves. If you find that you are unable to increase your weights or reps during each workout, you most likely are either are not giving that muscle group adequate rest between workout days, or you are not eating enough for your body to maintain normal bodily function while simultaneously repairing the damage done to your muscles. See our nutrition guide for more on this topic.

While Resistance Training may at first be intimidating, it is a highly beneficial aspect to add to any fitness program. By utilizing the concepts in the above principles, you can ensure that you safely introduce and implement strength training into your exercise regimen, maximizing your results, while minimizing the chance of hitting plateaus in your progress or suffering an injury.

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