Understanding Weight Training Principles as a Proper Training Guide. If you are to derive any real benefits from training, you need to understand the underlying principles of weight training. These principles provide guidance and a foundation for any well-designed training program.
Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type (FITT)
FITT is the guiding principle by which all exercise programs are created. The variables of frequency, intensity, time, and type refer to the number of times you exercise, how many times you perform specific exercises, the length of the workout, and which exercises you perform. When developing your exercise program, almost everything you do within the program itself and during your day and week as a whole will have an effect on the outcome of your training program. If you exercise too frequently, you will not make the proper gains and may succumb to overtraining, a physiological term for your body’s inability to recover properly. And if you work out too few times, you likely will not see any results from your efforts because your body hasn’t been stressed enough to adapt.
On average, the weight training portion of your workout should last no more than one hour, and you should choose 10 to 12 exercises per workout. Training three times a week is ideal; however, any number of times a week is better than no times a week. Although a more advanced lifter may train four or five times a week, it is important to respect your body’s ability to recover. Take at least 24 and preferably 48 hours of rest between workouts training the same body areas. As you will see in the exercise chapters, you can use a variety of equipment for resistance, including dumbbells, plate weight barbells, machines, resistance tubing, and even your own body weight.
Gradual Progressive OverloadGradual progressive overload (GPO) follows two individual principles: overload and progression. The overload principle states that the body must receive a stimulus greater than it is used to in order to gain any major benefits. That doesn’t mean the body will not benefit from using a lesser stimulus; however, greater adaptation takes place when the stress is larger than normal. Overload can be in the form of increasing the resistance (or intensity level), duration (length of time) of activity, frequency of activity, and type of activity, or a combination of any of these variables.
Now wait a moment. Don’t just rush off to the gym, load up the bar with a ton of weight, and try to lift it. Remember, your body isn’t prepared to handle a lot of weight, especially if you are a beginner. The principle of progression says to start gradually and add a little to each workout. That means either increasing the weight used by a small amount, usually 5 to 10 pounds (2.5 to 5 kg), or trying to perform a few more reps (with perfect form, of course).
The most common reason for injury is progressing too fast, so before you make any increase in your workout, be sure that you have truly mastered the previous weight and are really ready to move on. The decision to increase either weight or reps depends on your desired outcome.
Individuality and SpecificityOkay, so you’re ready now. Or are you? Let’s say you want to go exercise with your buddy. Is your friend the same age, height, weight, and build as you? If not, then you must realize that there will be some differences in how much weight you use, how you perform the exercises, and the benefits you each receive. This difference is known as individuality. The principle of individuality simply recognizes that everyone is different and that exercise programs should be designed with these differences in mind.
Before you begin to exercise, you need to understand that everyone has different physical attributes, abilities, interests, motivations, and improvement rates. All of these factors should be considered when developing a training routine.
In addition to individualizing your workouts, you need to choose equipment and techniques that will help you achieve the results you want. This is called the specificity principle. Your body will respond and make improvements that are specific to the type of stimulus placed on it. In other words, to see specific results, you must target the muscle you want to develop or the sport-specific skill you want to improve.
The body is an amazing piece of machinery, and it responds to how it is treated. Individual muscles or groups of muscles adapt specifically to the type of training done. For example, if you want to increase the size of your biceps muscle, you should do arm curls. Although this sounds like common sense, it is often not practiced in the weight room. If you walk into the typical weight room, you will see people doing all kinds of crazy things, many of which do not follow the principle of specificity. If you can’t see a direct benefit from an exercise, then there probably isn’t one.
Although the recommended exercise prescription is one to three sets of 8 to 12 reps of a variety of exercises covering all your muscle groups, specific individual goals need to be considered. If one set program worked for everyone, we would all be doing it and there would be no need for different training programs. In chapter 16 you will find programs for specific goals, but those too may need tweaking to fit your exact needs.
AdaptationYou have a great chance right now to help yourself for the rest of your life. Because your body will adapt to the weight training you do, you can obtain several benefits. Resistance training offers lifelong benefits. You can expect improvement in muscle strength and endurance, increases in muscle size, stronger bones, and improvement in your overall appearance and feeling of well-being. Lifting weights will even help you burn more fat. Your body will make these specific adaptations in response to your properly progressed weight training routine. Adaptation is also the reason why people gain weight and lose strength and flexibility when they do nothing.
When you weight train, the adaptation your body undergoes is directly due to the application of the FITT principle and the specific nature of how you apply it. This concept is often called SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demand). Your body will improve only in the areas that you try to develop.
So if your program does not address all of your body parts at least some time within your workout week, only the parts you train will show results. If you have ever seen guys with large upper bodies walking around on what appear to be popsicle stick legs, you can see that they missed a few exercises, and so their legs don’t show any adaptation or improvement.
RecoveryOne of the most important exercise concepts is often the most overlooked and underplanned. Your body will need a break, but only if you work out hard. For those who work out here and there, trying to hit a workout in between several off days, this doesn’t apply to you. But for those knocking it out of the park every time, you will need some rest. Your ability to do the next set is a function of how hard you work on the set before and how you want your body to adapt.
If you are looking for endurance, you want short breaks, but if you are looking for strength, your rest between sets should be considerably longer. Beyond the sets is the entire workout. How much time you need to recover is again a function of the intensity you work at and the overall volume. The greater the work, the longer the rest you will need. The 24 to 48 rule is more a generalization as it has been known to take super heavy lifters 96 hours to a full week to recover from an intense training session.
The exact amount of rest is still unknown; however, a few symptoms can tell you whether you should have taken a break sooner. The telltale signs that recovery is not working for you are much like those of being sick: weakness, tightness, general uneasiness, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and inability to focus and function as normal. In other words, if the quality of your workouts is decreasing, you are not recovering.