Posted by Peak Sports
Let's Face It, Weight Training is Complicated
Most people have attempted some type of weight training before, and most of us struggle to find the right balance between extreme soreness and lack-luster results. Why is that? While there are several factors that contribute to success in weight training, most of the problem comes from lacking understanding of basic weight training principles. We know that a lot of you are breaking out the old weight sets and total gyms in your garages, so let's talk about the basic guidelines that you should follow to get the results you want. This post will cover the basics of weight training reps, sets, exercises, and workout scheduling to improve your safety and results. Be sure to comment below with your favorite workouts!
What are Reps and Sets?
A repetition or rep refers to performing an exercise motion one time, while a set describes the number of repetitions performed in sequence - several sets may be performed with rest periods in-between.
How Many Reps?
Current research and guidelines from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) recommend varying the amount of reps in a set to train different muscle functions. In short, lower rep ranges train strength while higher rep ranges train endurance. Specifically, performing 6-8 reps will train strength, while performing 8-12 reps will train muscle hypertrophy (increasing muscle size); finally, training 12-15 reps will train muscle endurance.
How Many Sets?
The number of sets you perform will determine the total volume of work performed for a single exercise. Generally speaking, performing 1-2 sets of an exercise will promote retention of current muscle abilities (i.e. "use it or lose it"), while performing 3-4 sets will typically promote improvements in muscle strength and size. While a beginner weight lifter may see progress by performing only 1-2 sets, experienced athletes and bodybuilders may perform very high set numbers (5 or more) to overload their systems and promote change.
How Many Exercises?
The number of exercises in each workout depends on several factors, including how many compound and accessory exercises are performed. A compound exercise refers to a motion that involves multiple joints moving together (e.g. push-ups, squats), while an accessory exercise typically involves a single joint (e.g. bicep curls, calf raises). As a rule of thumb, a workout should include 4-8 exercises, including 2-4 compounds exercises and 2-4 accessory exercises. This will ensure a well-rounded workout that includes both whole-body, functional movements and muscle-specific movements.
How Many Workouts Per Week?
The number of weight training workouts you perform each week will vary depending on your experience level and your workout split. A workout split refers to the way workouts are organized throughout the week, and which muscle groups are trained with each workout. Typically, individual workouts are categorized into whole-body, upper body, and lower body. Two easy split examples include three whole-body workouts per week, or two upper body and two lower body workouts per week (4 total). The APTA recommends 2 or more strength training workouts per week, which will allow maintenance of current status and slight progress for beginners - in this case, whole-body workouts are recommended.
Putting It All Together
Let's design an example for a beginner who has time to exercise three days per week and wants to increase muscle size. Based on what we know, this person would likely benefit from 3 whole-body workouts per week (this fits best for the individual's available time). In each workout, the individual should perform at least 4 exercises (allowing for both compound and accessory exercises to be performed). Each exercise should include at least 2 working sets, with 8-12 repetitions performed in each set (working toward the goal of increasing muscle size).
Easy At-Home Exercises
Examples of compound exercises that can be performed at home:
Examples of accessory exercises that can be performed at home: