How Workouts Work
For Newbies Only:
We will continue our series of Weight Lifting 101 posts here by introducing some new terms that you will have to become familiar with if you are going to succeed in changing the way you look. As you may have already guessed, working out with free weights is a little bit more complicated than doing steady cardio. It’s not as easy as just hopping on a treadmill for 30 minutes.
Since weight lifting is a form of anaerobic exercise, your muscles will not be able to maintain such a high level of intensity for long periods of time. Instead, you will break your exercises into a series of sets that comprise a certain number of repetitions. Let me explain what this means by defining the terms you’ll need to know.
Exercise: Your routine is comprised of various exercises. Exercises are the different movements that you will use to work your muscles. Examples of these include pushups, pull-ups, bench presses, squats, etc.
For example: let’s say that you plan on doing two exercises for your chest today. You might choose to do the bench press and the dumbbell incline bench press. The flat bench press will work your chest muscles as a whole, and the incline press will focus on the upper portion of your chest. Each of these is a different exercise.
Sets: Each exercise you do will be divided into sets. For example, if you were doing the bench press, you may decide to do four sets of 8-12 repetitions. This means that you will do 8-12 repetitions of the bench press and then stop. That is your first set. After a moment’s rest, you will do another 8-12 reps of the bench press for your second set, and so on.
These exercises need to be broken into sets because they are anaerobic. They are too intense for our bodies to continue for long periods of time. You should allow 1-2 minutes between each set, and possibly more for higher-intensity exercises, such as squats. I’d recommend using a watch at first to get the hang of the rest time between sets.
Repetitions: Each set you do will be composed of a certain number of repetitions, or “reps.” The word repetition comes from the word repeat, and that’s exactly what it means here. For example, if you’re doing bench presses, lowering the bar to your chest one time and then pressing it back up is one rep. Your sets should usually have anywhere from 5-12 reps for bodybuilding purposes – more for increased endurance, less reps for increased strength.
If you haven’t done so already, now is the best time to commit these terms to memory. You will see them used frequently as you continue to learn and apply new principles.
It’s especially important to understand these before you start a routine (also called a program)…
Routine or Program: When you put together specific exercises, in a specific order, for a specific # of reps and # of sets, and plan that out over several weeks, that is called a routine or a program.
Your workout routine, also known as your program, or training schedule, is the combination of all the exercises you will do. Most beginners should be doing a full-body routine, where you work all your muscles in the workout, then take a day off, etc. For example, you’d work your upper body and lower body all in one workout.
Intermediate people will break their routine into muscle groups. This is called a split routine, or semi-split routine.
For example, you may choose to work your chest, deltoids, and triceps one day, and work your traps, lats, and biceps the next. [Note: the “arms” should get worked from compound exercises, not isolation exercises like curls. More on that soon…]
This semi-split gives your muscles more time to rest, since different muscles are worked on each respective day.
Stay tuned for more on rest and recovery.
Do you have any questions? Post your questions here as a comment (but stay on topic please!)