After a long winter hibernation, getting back into an exercise routine can seem the furthest thing from fun. But after spring comes summer, time for short shorts, tight tanks and the dreaded bikini.
In preparation to look your best in the hot months ahead, it’s time to hit the gym and pump some iron.
Training exercises: You should perform enough training exercises to include all of the major muscle groups of the legs, midsection, upper body and arms. The 10 basic machine and free-weight exercises in the chart below cumulatively address the major muscles of the body. Although the machine exercises are typically performed at a fitness center, the free-weight exercises can be performed in a relatively small space at home. It is preferable to begin your workout with the larger muscles of the legs and progress to the smaller muscles of the arms.
This chart presents the most prominent muscles and the recommended machine and free-weight exercise for each. The muscle group is listed first, followed by the machine exercise and free-weight exercise:
FRONT THIGHS: Leg extension; dumbbell step-up
REAR THIGHS: Leg curl; dumbbell lunge
HIPS: Leg press; dumbbell/barbell squat
ABDOMINALS: Abdominal curl; bodyweight trunk curl
LOW BACK: Low back extension; bodyweight trunk extension
CHEST: Chest press; dumbbell/barbell bench press
UPPER BACK: Seated row; dumbbell bent row
SHOULDERS: Shoulder press; dumbbell press
FRONT ARM: Biceps curl; dumbbell arm curl
REAR ARM: Triceps extension; dumbbell arm extension
Training frequency: Beginners should train two or three non-consecutive days per week. However, more advanced exercisers who train with higher intensity and heavier weightloads typically require 72 hours for muscle remodeling and building processes to be completed. Consequently, they should train twice a week, such as Mondays and Thursdays or Wednesdays and Saturdays. Performing more frequent weight workouts is less productive because the exercised muscles may not fully rebuild between successive training sessions.
Exercise sets: The minimum number of sets for each exercise is one, generally referred to as single-set training. Although there is no maximum number of exercise sets, most strength authorities recommend between one and three sets per exercise.
Because single-set training is more time-efficient than multiple-set training, it may be more practical for time-pressured people. It also makes sense for new exercisers to begin with one good set of each exercise.
Exercise resistance: Generally speaking, the exercise resistance should be sufficient to fatigue the target muscles. Most people prefer to train with about 75 percent of maximum resistance, which represents a weightload that can typically be lifted for 10 repetitions in about 60 seconds.
Exercise repetitions: If you can complete 10 repetitions of an exercise, the weightload is approximately 75 percent of your maximum resistance. As a rule of thumb, if you cannot complete five repetitions of an exercise the weightload is probably too heavy. Conversely, if you can complete more than 15 repetitions of an exercise the weightload is probably too light.
Training progression: The most common training progression is eight to 12 repetitions. You begin with a weightload that you can lift eight times and you train with that weightload until you can complete 12 repetitions. When 12 repetitions can be completed, raise the resistance by 5 percent for the next workout.
* Appropriate application of these exercise guidelines should ensure safe, effective and time-efficient strength training experiences.
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., CSCS, is Senior Fitness Executive for the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Mass., and adjunct professor of exercise science at Quincy College. He is author of 22 books on strength training and physical fitness, including his latest release "Get Stronger, Feel Younger" by Rodale Press.
author: Wayne Westcott