When approaching a gym routine, most people will have a fairly good idea of what their time spent working out is going to entail. We’ve all heard the most common advice given to weightlifters and those trying to burn fat and we’re all familiar with the basics. In short, you’ll be doing sets and repetitions of exercises, you’ll be resting for short periods in between, and you’ll be making sure to heat each body part evenly. You’ll probably want to do some warming up, and you’ll probably want to throw in some cardiovascular exercise too which is what will burn off the fat.
These are all important factors in working out, and they’re all subjects that most of us are very familiar with. But at the same time, these are also far from comprehensive when describing everything you need to know about hitting the gym. Read on and we’ll look at some of the crucial elements that often get forgotten in favour of these common topics of discussion.
Size of the Muscle Group
Most workout programs – even those written by ‘professional trainers’ – will often have you going around the gym repeating the same number of sets and reps on every exercise. That means 3 x 10 bench presses, 3 x 10 leg presses and 3 x 10 bicep curls.
What is being overlooked here is the simple fact that these exercises are dealing with vastly different exercises and vastly different muscle groups. The bench press involves a whole range of different muscles and so is what we call a ‘compound’ movement. The leg press deals with the leg muscles which are the largest in your body. Meanwhile the bicep curl targets the biceps which are relatively small and relatively isolated muscles. Now you tell me if they deserve the same amount of sets and reps?
The Inverse Correlation Between Sets and Reps
A lot more thought should go into your sets and reps then clearly, and here’s another example of something that often gets missed in all the hurry: the more repetitions you do, the fewer sets you should do. So if you’re lifting a very heavy weight three or four times (as you would do if you were training primarily for explosive strength rather than definition) then you would want to do more sets than if you were doing 20 repetitions on a lighter weight.
Also important to think about is the speed at which you are performing the movements – which is more technically known as ‘cadence’. The typical speed a bodybuilder will use for instance when working out is 3-0-3, meaning they’ll raise the weight to the count of three seconds, use no pause at the top, and then lower it slowly for another three seconds. The more slowly you do this, the more time your muscles will spend ‘under tension’ which is the main factor that contributes to growth. So in other words, you need to concentrate on the speed of your lifting too and that means going more slowly for the most part.
Shifting focus for a moment, it’s also crucial that you think about how sustainable your workout is. This is a mistake that a lot of people make: starting an intensive workout that will hopefully get them quick results (*cough* Insanity Workout *cough*) but that they don’t stand any chance of sticking to. If it’s not going to break your back and leave you in dire need of occupational therapy , then it will probably just be too exhausting and stressful to keep up. Be realistic about what you can accomplish and you’ll get better long term results.
Finally, it’s crucial that you take into account the mental aspect of your training. Too often it is easy for us to let our minds wander while we’re working out, or to put off going to the gym at all. Your attitude is the single biggest factor that will determine your success or failure… so keep your head in the game!
About the Author: The author of this post is Jamie Weber, a part of the team at Cheshire Fitness Zone, a company that provides occupational therapy in Connecticut. An avid car enthusiast, Jamie likes to go on long drives during the weekend.