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Basics of weight training

Training, nutrition and recovery - the basics

M. Stefano | 2002

Japie Jordaan
There are about as many theories on training as there are people involved in it. Numerous discussions revolve around what weight should be used, how many sets and reps, how often to train each muscle group and so forth. The basic truth is that controlled damage to muscle induced by resistance training will result in muscle adaptation and growth. The key word is controlled, because over training will result in muscle-loss, rather than gain. Most serious athletes follow their own variation of the basic training rules that suit their body and lifestyle. It is also important to add diversity to your schedule, which adds renewed stimulation to the muscles and gets rid of the comfort zone. You must shock the muscles with different routines and new exercises.

Whichever program you follow, always ensure that you follow the following fundamental principles:

 Training:  Technique Intensity Concentration
 Nutrition:  Eating Plan Supplementation
 Recovery:  Sufficient Sleep

If you follow the above principles religiously, your training will bear results far beyond your normal state, or those people that "only pop into gym for a quickie".

General Guidelines and Tips

1. Choosing your Training Facility
Make sure you choose the right training facility before you join. Never pay up front for training time; gyms frequently go bank and the client always looses. Only pay for one month ahead, nothing more, even if the long-term memberships are extremely lucrative. Any gym selling 5 year, 10 year, or lifetime memberships has a short-term money making plan, and they definitely don't plan to service you for the rest of your days. Before you join, they should allow you to train for a week or two without charge to ensure you like it, just like test-driving a car before you buy it. Make sure that the music is up to scratch, never join a gym that plays a radio station, if they cannot even do the basics right, they surely cannot run a proper facility. Don't believe empty promises about new equipment, improved sound systems, and better air conditioning, they almost never realize in time. Specific clubs in major gym groups also vary like day and night, make sure that the specific gym you will attend most frequently, is up to scratch. Unfortunately these groups are sometimes more useless than private gyms because they are not run by the owner, but by a manager receiving a minimum salary for doing as little as possible with his lack of experience in the field.

2. Training Journal
Write down the daily routines and weights you used. Pick a few every week to improve on, not only in weight, but in any of the above training principles. Routines that put unnecessary strain on weak areas, like the back, can then be eliminated.

3. Eat several small meals per day
Glycogen production and supply depends heavily on the constant supply of carbohydrates, and a constant supply of carbohydrates boosts the metabolism. Constant flows of amino acids ensure nitrogen retention and muscle repair. Water-soluble vitamins constantly leave the body and need to be replaced to fulfill its synergetic function. A good exercise routine will not counteract poor eating habits.

4. Avoid distractions
Limit your conversations to before and after your workout. Once your session start, become self-centered, serious, and selfish with time. Not only does small talk during training waste time, it also interrupt important biological processes.

5. Vary your Program
Vary the order, and type of exercises you do, also switch the muscles you train on the same day. This created muscle confusion which leads to renewed gains.

6. Increase the Weight
Eventually, you also need to increase the resistance which forces muscle to compensate by renewed growth.

7. Train Smart, not Long
45 to 90 minutes is all you should spend in the gym, longer than that you either waste your time, or you over train. Limit time between sets so the body "thinks" the whole exercise is one long set. Rest roughly two times the time it takes you to complete a set. Focus on your form, you can rather use a smaller weight, but do it with great form, no swing, no cheat, high intensity, and work on the negatives/eccentric (going down). If your next machine is occupied, proceed to the next and come back later, don't hesitate to ask how many sets a person has left.

8. Aim at a complete physique
Concentrate more on the parts of your body that lack, and less on your strong points. Abs, calves, and shoulders are common weak points. If you have excess fat, work a cardio session into your routine, it's no use having a good physique under a camouflage of fat!

9. Isolate the applicable muscle
Do the exercise in such a way that it is not as easy as can be, but that it strain the targeted muscle as completely as possible. Like when you do a bench press, lower the weight slowly to the end of your chest as close to your throat as possible, turn the elbows as far out as possible, pause at the bottom to stretch the pectoral muscles through its full range of motion. Finish the movement at the top by pushing all the way up to fully contract the pectorals.

10. Breathing
However you choose to breath, exhale on the up or down movement; never hold your breath against force. This causes an increase in the blood pressure in the brain and poses a danger to health.

11. Do not lock
Keep constant tension on a muscle by avoiding the lock at the top of a lift. This "resting time" interrupts a set.

12. Peak Contraction and Range of Motion
Always squeeze at the point of fullest contraction, and move through the whole range of motion to the point of maximum stretch.

13. Rest
A muscle should rest for 72 hours after a strenuous training session.

14. Cross-train Legs
All of the muscles on the upper body get the chance to cross-train with other muscles, like when you do chest, you also use triceps and front delts, and when you do shoulders, the chest and triceps work hard too. The legs however very seldom get the change to cross-train, which is the main reason why most men have under developed leg muscles compared to their upper bodies. Work in an extra set of heavy lunges on another day.

15. Positive Muscular Gain vs. Negative Skeletal Strain
Each person differs, many routines may suit one person, but not another, but don't decide a routine doesn't suit you just because it is working on your weak point. There is a healthy trade-off between positive strain on the muscular system, and negative strain on the skeletal system. Routines like Squat, Dead lift, and Stiff leg dead lift must only be done by advanced athletes involved in a sport where it forms a critical part, like Power lifting, Weight lifting, Strongman etc. Otherwise the negative skeletal strain outweighs the positive muscular gain.

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