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The Eight Rules of Resistance Training
By Rick Morris
We have developed a set of training rules that, if closely followed, will improve the efficiency and results of your training program. These rules were developed using many years of experience and research. While some rules are made to be broken, these are not.
The eight rules of resistance training are:
1. Mechanics first – then resistance.
2. Rule of balance.
3. Goal oriented training.
4. Rule of specificity.
5. Rule of periodization.
6. Rule of rest and recovery.
7. Rule of variety.
8. Rule of consistency.
Mechanics First - Then Resistance
Before you add heavy resistance to an exercise, make sure that you are using the proper mechanics. Improper form will decrease the efficiency of the exercise and can increase the risk of injury.
Read the article entitled Principles of Exercise design. You will find tips on how to properly design an exercise for any muscle or movement.
When you are sure you are using proper mechanics you can safely add weight to the exercise. Try adding a moderate amount of resistance first, to insure that there are no unforeseen problems with the motion. If all goes well with a moderate amount of resistance you should be able to safely use the appropriate weight for the exercise.
Rule Of Balance
Muscle balance refers to the strength or endurance of one muscle or muscle group in comparison to another muscle or muscle group.
The rule of balance means that each opposing muscle group (i.e. the muscles on the front versus the back of a body segment or the muscles on the right side versus the left) are exercised at a level to keep them at an appropriate balance.
In the early days of resistance training it was thought that each muscle group should be developed proportionally. Since then research has shown that there is a different ratio that should be maintained for different muscle groups. An example is the front and back of the thigh. The muscles involved are the quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh and the hamstrings on the back. If the hamstring muscles were as strong as the quadriceps muscles there would be an improper pull on the knee joint. The quadriceps muscles should actually be approximately one and one half times as strong as the hamstrings.
Some activities will cause an imbalance of a muscle group to occur. For instance sprinters will often develop their quadriceps to a greater degree than the hamstrings. A baseball pitcher will strongly develop the muscles that rotate the shoulder of their throwing arm which will result in muscle imbalance. In cases such as this, the athlete should take care to exercise the opposing muscle group to keep the muscles in balance.
For most of us it is not necessary to undergo any extensive muscle testing to determine muscle balance. Just make sure to exercise opposing muscle groups. Do not exercise one muscle group and ignore the opposing group.
Below is a list of general guidelines for ratios between opposing muscle groups. Keep in mind that this is a general guideline only; they are not exact ratios and may not be the appropriate ratio for everyone. The ratios refer to the amount of power each group can produce. For instance, the ratio between the quadriceps and hamstrings is 3:2. This means that for every two pounds that your hamstrings can move, your quadriceps should be able to move three pounds.
Ankle – Plantar flexion/dorsiflexion
(calf muscle/front of lower leg) 3:1
Knee – Extension/flexion
Elbow – Flexion/extension
Shoulder – Flexion/extension
(front of shoulder/back of shoulder) 2:3
Goal Oriented Training
Training without a goal is like wandering around an unfamiliar city without a map. You will get some exercise done but you won’t get anywhere.
Set a goal so you have something to work towards. Your goal can be to improve your running times or endurance, just to tone your body, improve the distance of your tee shot or to win a body building competition.
Having a goal will improve the intensity of your exercise and help motivate you to consistently work out.
Rule of Specificity
The rule of specificity means that you should perform exercises that are specifically designed for you to meet your goal. If you are a distance runner trying to improve your performance, you should complete exercises that are specific to that event. If you are a sprinter, you will do more explosive strength training.
Every event has specific motions and movements that are used repetitively. Each of these motions requires the use of specific muscles, moved in specific ways. When you design a resistance-training program, you should mimic these motions as closely as you can. This will insure that your goal will be met.
If body building, rather than improvement in a specific sport, is your goal, you should specifically target each individual muscle and use periodization and other body building techniques.
Rule of Periodization
Periodization is a cycling of volume, intensity and type of training. The cycles can be as short as days or as long as months. The purpose of periodization is to “peak” or to achieve a top level of fitness for important competitions or events.
Engaging in an periodized strength training program will allow for a rest and recovery phase as well as strength building, speed, power and maintenance phases.
Rule of Rest and Recovery
During bouts of intense exercise, the muscles being used incur very small micro-tears in the fibers of the muscle. This breaking down and repairing of the muscle contributes to strength and fitness gains. It is necessary to rest the muscle for around 24 hours for full recovery to take place.
For resistance training activities you should rest each muscle being exercised for 24 hours. To do this you can alternate between upper and lower body. For instance you may work the upper body on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; and the lower body on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. You can split it up any way you want, as long as each muscle gets 24 hours rest between sessions. Some athletes will exercise the entire body every other day.
For cardiovascular training, such as running or bicycling, you can alternate hard and easy workouts. You may do intense workouts on odd days and easy workouts on even days.
Rule of Variety
When you perform the same exercise, in the same way, at the same intensity, all of the time, your muscle “learns” the motion. When the muscle learns an exercise, it becomes more efficient at the motion. Becoming more efficient is good for skill events such as hitting a baseball or shooting a basketball. In terms of resistance training it is not good. You will not get the strength gains that you would like out of muscle that has “learned” an exercise.
You must continually “shock” the muscles with new motions or intensities in order to keep up the efficiency of the exercise. You should change the intensity, motion, technique, volume or body position often.
You may alternate between free weights or resistance machines. You could alternate body position (i.e. sitting-standing, incline-decline) or intensity and volume. During one workout do 12 reps of a moderate weight and the next workout do 7 reps of a heavy weight.
Adding variety to your workout will also keep you from becoming bored with your routine and will help keep you motivated.
Rule of Consistency
The rule of consistency is an important rule to follow if you want long-term benefits. Consistent training will allow you to make progressive improvements in your performance and fitness levels.
Consistency is especially important for beginning exercisers because it allows exercise to become part of your everyday routine.
Lack of consistency is a leading cause of the abandonment of an exercise program.
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