Strength Training 102
Alright, ladies, last week we talked about the different types of strength training out there, and you’ve no doubt chosen your favorite method. Now, we’re moving on to the issue of reps, sets, and weights (oh my!). If this is your first rodeo, you’re probably scratching your head and wondering where to start.
First, it’s important to understand that the number of sets and reps you perform, and the weight you lift, can have different results. According to Nerd Fitness, different rep ranges can affect your gains in the following ways:
Reps in the 1-5 range help build super dense muscle and strength
Reps in the 6-12 range help build somewhat equal amounts of muscular strength and muscular endurance
Reps in the 12+ range affect muscular endurance and size
Nerd Fitness goes on to say that many beginner weight workouts will have you do five sets of five reps each in order to optimize your progress - since you’ll see your most dramatic gains when you first start exercising with weight. If training with weights intimidates you, feel free to stick to that 5/5 guide until you feel comfortable moving up in either reps or weight.
If you want to do more than what the 5/5 guide outlines, you can start with Daily Burn’s recommendations: use weights light enough to perform 2-3 sets of 12-17 reps each. If you’re just starting out, you probably won’t be doing the full 12-17 reps - and that’s okay! The idea is to choose a weight that would allow you to do the full set, if you had to. Most likely, you will probably be doing around 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps each. Follow this guide for eight weeks, increasing weight as you feel comfortable (around 2%-5% increase in weight each week).
The reasoning behind starting out with lighter weights is that it prevents injury (duh) and trains your neurological system (brain, spinal cord, motor neurons) to do the exercises properly (a good way to tell if your neurological system has had enough is when you’re starting to compromise on your form).
After the eight weeks are up, you should start lifting heavier in order to keep making progress. Daily Burn recommends 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps each, as lower reps force the muscles to adapt to the heavier weight. Should you plateau (and you will plateau at some point), tweak your routine. Switch up your weight, reps, and sets until you find a combination that allows you to start seeing progress again. If, after weight training for some time, you want to focus on a specific area (glutes, arms, etc.), tweak your routine to focus on those areas. Just remember to not neglect the other parts of your body as well - balance is key.
Do any of you seasoned weight lifters have any advice for newbies when it comes to sets, reps, and weight? What was your favorite combination when you first started out? Leave a note in the comments!