The Basic Terms of Weight Training Program Language. To get the most out of your workout, you need to understand the basic language of lifting weights. Like any activity, knowing the basic terminology will help you plan your workout better and reach your goals sooner.
Reps and Sets
The repetition—the execution of a movement in both directions—is the foundation for improvement and the basis for each exercise. A single repetition (rep for short) consists of an eccentric contraction (the negative portion of a movement in most cases) in which the muscle lengthens and a concentric contraction (the positive portion of the movement) in which the muscle shortens. For example, with a simple dumbbell curl for the biceps, flexing your arm while pulling the weight up toward your shoulder from your waist is the concentric action, while lowering the weight back down (opening up your arm) is the eccentric action.
Performing repetitions in succession without a break between them is considered a set of repetitions. However, what truly defines a set is the break taken between each grouping of consecutive repetitions. A set may be prolonged with a momentary pause that may last even a few seconds to catch your breath, helping you get a few more reps, but the full set is the point when the weight is finally put down. That break, or rest period, indicates the set has ended. Rep and set notation is written as X sets of Y reps. For example, three of 10 means three sets of 10 repetitions.
Before you begin to exercise, however, you need to understand that the manner in which you perform reps will have an impact on how your muscle develops. Probably the single most important thing to remember is that every rep needs to be done properly. For success, you must strive to execute the perfect rep on each and every attempt. This prevents you from developing bad lifting habits, reduces your chances of injury, and improves your chances of developing quality musculature. This most basic concept will come back to haunt you if you are not careful. Once you have perfected your technique, it is important to understand how a simple change in how much or how often you lift can make a huge difference in your rate of achieving your goals.
Load and ResistanceLoad and resistance are the scientific terms to describe an externally applied force that the body must overcome. The term weights has been used as the catchall term for all resistance and is often confused since there are so many ways to create resistance to challenge the body. Thus the term resistance training is more accurate than weight training in that it refers to any and all external ways of creating a load for the body to lift. The term load itself is more accurate as it refers directly to the work required to perform a task.
Furthermore, the word lifting as part of weightlifting is also a bit of a misnomer in that, unless you are referring specifically to an external weight that moves against gravity, not all exercises require lifting. Some are pushes, and some are pulls. If this all sounds a bit complicated, don’t worry; in the
exercise chapters you will see how many different ways an external load can be applied. Many programs in today’s training routines use medicine balls, resistance tubing, and your own body weight in addition to the plate-loaded barbells, dumbbells, and fancy resistance machines.
RestWe all know what rest is, so to include it in this list of terms may seem unnecessary. However, rest is essential for building an effective program, determining the amount of resistance you need, and seeing your hard work pay off through proper recovery. Chapter 15 further discusses the importance
of rest, but for now, know that when you need to rest helps determine if you’re working at the proper intensity. If you don’t need a rest between your three sets of 12-rep exercises, then you are not working hard enough.
Rest is crucial between sets for recovery to go on to the next set, and simply by manipulating a few seconds here and there, you can completely change your workout.
VolumeAnother important concept is how much work you are going to do per set, per exercise, and per workout. The total amount of work you perform can actually be measured, and it is kind of neat to see how much you really lift. It is not uncommon for the average male to lift the equivalent of the amount of furniture in an entire house during a workout! You can calculate volume using the following equation:
weight × reps × sets = volume
You simply multiply the weight lifted by the number of reps by the number of sets. For example, someone who uses 100 pounds (45 kg) for a bench press exercise for three sets of 10 reps lifts 3,000 pounds (1,350 kg) of weight (100 × 10 × 3). Volume is a relative piece of information, though. Coaches use total volume for developing specific programs as well as helping with tapering (the gradual reduction of total volume in a workout to help with recovery)for competition. But for the average person, volume is a cool number that gives you an idea of how much total work you did in a training session. Since volume really depends on the person and the type of exercise and rest periods that are chosen, it is a difficult tool to use at first. In general, the greater the volume in a particular program, the faster you will see results, assuming your body can recover effectively. If your body cannot recover, then your volume is too high.
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