I recently completed the second talk in a 3 part series for Cornell Fitness Centers discussing program considerations based on goals. Each component could easily be its own article, so I am going to focus on the general considerations and leave the specifics for another time. This is one of my favorite topics, so I really enjoyed the talk! When putting a program together for an individual or team it is important to consider their goals for training, their personal history and comfort with exercise and explaining the commitment it takes to achieve success.
In order to be successful in a fitness program it is vital to not only do the exercises at the appropriate intensity, but to also make an effort for the recovery. True progress is not solely made in the gym, but by adopting a lifestyle that will lead to recovery, adaptation and long term success. Your body will adapt to the stress that you place upon it and the goal of exercise and training is to get it to adapt based on your goals. You will apply a load greater than where you are now then recover from that training and then apply a load greater than where you are now. This is the sequence that is used to achieve success. It may seem very simplistic, and it is. It really is a matter of applying a sequential load in an organized manner that creates adaptation. What load we choose to apply, and in what manner, is what will dictate the adaptation to our program.
For every goal, we will manipulate the program in an effort to create the adaptation that we want. In addition to the programming, it is essential to get enough rest to recover from the training. It is also important to have the proper nutrition that will provide both the fuel necessary for training and the nutrients necessary for recovery. Without having the basics covered, the program cannot deliver ideal results.
In order to build strength heavier weights must be lifted. Setting up a 4-6 week training block for each repetition range can help build a foundation that allows for strength development. Strength can be improved by lifting 2-3 times per week with multi joint compound exercises doing 3 sets of 8 repetitions or fewer. This heavier load recruits more muscle fibers leading to strength gains. Exercises include squats, deadlifts, lunges, chest presses, rows, shoulder presses and pull downs.
Power is the ability to produce force quickly and is achieved by combining strength and speed. In addition to getting stronger following the programming outline above, you also need to be faster. The two ways to gain power are to lift using maximal loads of 1-3 repetitions or to use light weight for maximum speed up to 6 repetitions. This combination of training will improve strength and speed leading to more power. This is very beneficial for athletic settings where the ability to produce force quickly is necessary.
Muscular endurance is not the same as cardio respiratory endurance. Muscular endurance is the ability to contract the muscle repeatedly to delay failure due to fatigue. Lighter weights with more repetitions help achieve this goal. Continue to use the same compound exercises to build more global muscular endurance or choose single joint isolation exercises to improve certain motions. This is also very beneficial for injury rehabilitation and recovery.
Muscular hypertrophy (size):
We used to think that gaining muscle meant performing 8-12 repetitions per exercise, but now know that size can be achieved by alternating heavier lifting days with lighter lifting days. The key is to work at maximal intensity. The intensity of the exercise performed for the repetitions is what leads to success. In addition to large movements, smaller isolation exercises can be used to increase size. Workouts can be total body in nature, or broken up to alternate the muscles worked.
What leads to sustained weight loss is a lifestyle change. A recent study that evaluated long term weight loss success versus failure identified that those who maintained the weight loss ate fewer calories per day, fewer calories from fat and moved more. In addition to exercise, their movement was generally more throughout the day. They would walk more, take the stairs and generally be more active. This greater activity during the day coupled with a healthy diet is what allowed them to maintain their weight loss goals.
Conditioning is very event driven. If your training is based on a team sport then performing intermittent sprints and recovery periods like interval training is very beneficial. This training can also be helpful for long distance events, as well. But for those, it is also necessary to do longer duration slower speed. For those of us who condition for health, doing more circuits and intervals are more beneficial since they are time effective and build muscle in addition to keeping your heart rate up. The occasional long, slow day is good for recovery if you’re sore or in need of some mental relaxation.
As you see, there is a lot that goes into programming, but by remembering that the outcome is dependent on the work performed, you can make your program work for you. This is one of my favorite topics, so you can expect future articles that dive into the specifics of each goal.
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*This site is for educational purposes only, it is not meant to diagnose, treat or replace medical advice. Before starting an exercise program always make sure that you are healthy and able to do so safely.*