Fundamentals of Weight and Resistance Training - Part 2

Weight Training Principles 2

Concentration Curl
Concentration Curl. (c) Paul Rogers / Cooloola Fitness

This is Part 2 of the Fundamentals of Weight Training and Resistance Training.

Weight training, strength training or resistance training, whatever you like to call it, builds the foundation for strength, power, bulk and muscle endurance for the following activities and sports.

  • Bodybuilding specializes in body shaping and muscular definition, particularly for competition purposes. Hypertrophy programs predominate here.
  • Sports-specific programs utilize exercises that support and enhance, as far as possible, the muscular actions of the sport. An example might be training swimmers with exercises that simulate the pull through the water, targeting shoulders, arms and back muscles. Strength-endurance and bulk and power programs are useful yet highly variable for particular sports and need to be designed so that they do not interfere with the skill set required for the sport.
  • Weight loss and fitness includes exercises that provide an all-round exercise program for adding muscle and losing body fat. Bodybuilders just wanting to look good at the beach are included in the category.
  • Olympic weightlifting is a specialty weightlifting sport that utilizes only two exercises, the clean and jerk and the snatch, although there are many training exercises. Each lift is highly specialized and technical, requiring much training and practice.
  • Powerlifting competition requires only three lifts, the squat, bench press and deadlift. Again, strength and technique are the basis of Powerlifting.

Training Frequency and Overtraining

How often and how much you train depends on your goals, experience, age, health, fitness and other factors such as equipment accessibility and time availability for training. A trainer or coach should take all of these factors into consideration and design a plan that suits your circumstances and goals.

The fine balance in weight training is the balance between muscle and nervous system stimulation, adaptation and recovery. Too much intensity, volume and frequency too quickly, and overtraining syndrome can destroy your progress. Here are some signs of overtraining:

  • Ongoing fatigue, poor performance
  • Viral and bacterial infections
  • Unintended loss of weight
  • Regular musculoskeletal injury
  • Cessation or irregularity of periods
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Bone density loss
  • Poor sleeping and eating patterns

Training three times per week is a sweet spot for optimum progression for beginners although twice per seven-day week will suit some people better. A usual recommendation for novices is to allow at least 48 hours between weight sessions to allow for recovery. For experienced and professional trainers, six days a week training is not unusual, although split systems – training different muscle groups on different days – is often practised. If you feel you're getting into trouble, back off, rest and get some good advice.

Types of Exercises

Many hundreds of exercises exist to target many muscles and muscle groups and it can get more than a little confusing for the average beginner to choose. Exercise variations come with free weights, machines, racks and frames, body-only exercises, bands, balls and more. So the type of exercise can be classified by equipment type, muscle target or even fitness goal, for example aerobic or strength exercise, treadmill or lat pulldown machine.

Compound exercises. Compound exercises are those that involve more than one joint, and often several large muscle groups. Examples: squat, deadlift, seated cable row, lat pulldown.

Isolation exercises. An isolation exercise is one involving only one joint and which usually targets an isolated muscle group. Examples are the dumbbell arm curl for biceps and the leg extension machine for quadriceps.

Which Exercises Should You Do?

It’s not avoiding the question to say that it depends . . . on what your goals are, what equipment and facilities you have available, your age, strength, weights experience and commitment.

Let’s say you want to build strength and muscle mass, or perhaps muscle firmness and definition. There is general agreement that the ‘big three’ lifts -- the powerlifting lifts -- squat, bench press and deadlift -- are the core lifts for building bulk and strength. They are technical, and perhaps even dangerous, done with free weights near the limit of your maximum, so guidance and a spotter are useful if not essential. Even so, you can start off with dumbbells and, or light weights until you get the gist of it and then progress from there.

If you’re training for a good balance of body composition and strength you could add additional back, abdomen and shoulder exercises and more specific work on the front of the arms. Take a look at the basic strength and muscle program that I put together. This includes squat, bench press, deadlift, arm curl, triceps pushdown, lat pulldown, seated cable row, crunch, overhead press and leg press. Chin-ups, pull-ups, bent-over rows, cable crossover flyes, incline bicep curl, tricep dips and calf raises should round it out (but not all at once!). This list is fairly standard and most gyms will have a range of equipment for doing these exercises.

For the more experienced, total-body exercises like hang-cleans and push-pulls would benefit. Obviously there are many more, even hundreds of exercises, so you know the fun will never stop.

In bodybuilding, where muscle definition of even the smallest muscle can be important, a wider range of isolation exercises is usually practised. Olympic weightlifting requires specific strength and technique training.

See also: The Fundamentals of Weight Training and Resistance Training - Part 1 and Part 3.