What’s the most overlooked factor in your workout program? The amount of weight lifted, the number of total sets performed, the various exercises you can throw in the mix? If you’re serious about building muscle, none of these is likely to be an afterthought.
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Why Rest Is Important
What you probably don’t focus on is your rest period. You know, when you usually wander a bit, grabbing a drink of water or putting the moves on that hottie on the treadmill. Well it’s time to flip things around, and put the rest period at the top of your list.
I’m serious: Knowing how to progressively manipulate your rest periods can help you almost triple the number of reps you can do with a given weight (from 3-4 to 10). And in this case, more reps mean more muscle. Follow this program and you’ll be lifting more on any exercise you choose. Now all you have to do is decide which muscle groups you want bigger and stronger.
Getting bigger has alot to do with getting stonger. For an individual with at least six months of lifting experience, any muscle that gets stronger also gets bigger. Yet look around at the local gym crowd. You probably see a bunch of guys pushing the same amount of weight they were pushing a year ago, and they’re all about the same size they were a year ago. Why? They simply aren’t overloading their muscles properly to make continual progression.
Unfortunately, getting stronger isn’t as simple as slapping on extra plates and going for it. You need to take an indirect route to get from, say, 225 pounds for six reps to 275 pounds for a set of six. And one indirect route to more strenghth and size that you likely never thought of is rest, or lack of it.
Gaining muscle size and strength is all about the structural and biochemical changes within the fibers. For a muscle fiber to contract (or flex), it needs the machinery that performs the work (known as myofilaments), and it needs the energy to perform that work (namely food substrates, like glycogen and phosphocreatine). For the dedicated boybuilder, the biochemical adaptations that come with lifting are particularily more important, because we do more reps and take shorter rest periods than other strength athletes. We usually express strength in terms of how much weight we can lift for how many reps, rather than a one-rep max like a power-lifter would gauge himself with.
A bodybuilder’s strength can be compromised by the muscles’ ability to produce energy, fast. Phosphocreatine levels drop and more muscle glycogen is burned as the reps increase. This produces more free phosphates from energy breakdown and hydrgen ions from lactic acid, which reduce the mucles abililty to produce energy, fast. Phosphocreatine levels drop and more muscle glycogen is burned as the reps increase.
this produces more free phosphates from energy breakdown and hydrogen ions from lactic acid, which reduce the muscles’ ability to contract yet with the bad comes the good: Higher lactic acid levels also cause more growth hormone (GH) to be released. And GH is very important for muscle growth. There may also be fatigue of the nervous system, particularily the motor nerves that stimulate the muscle to contract. Acetylcholine (ACh), the neurotransmitter that signals muscle contraction, may be depleted or compromised at some level.
Doing 10 sets of one rep with the same weight, is the same amount of work as doing one set of 10 reps with that weight . Doing the work as a single set ,however, is harder due to the fatigue that sets in, partly from the increasing levels of lactic acid, hydrogen ions, and free phosphates.
That’s why you can take a weight with which you could get only 3 or 4 continual reps and do 10 sets of one rep, for a grand total of 10 reps, and to better deal with the lactic acid and other accumulating metabolites.
Ultimately this forces the muscles to grow stronger and bigger. How this method works is very simple, when you consider that you can already lift the weight for 10 reps, just not 10 reps in a row without rest. By training your muscle fibers to slowly deal with the shorter rest periods, increasing metabolites and higher acidity, they’ll adapt their metabolic pathways to handle this demand and lift more weight for more reps. Finally, biochemistry pays off big.
Drop the Rest
You can use this program on any one exercise for any one muscle group. Just be sure to train no more than three muscle groups this way, on separate days. To start, find a weight with which you can do 3-4 reps of your chosen exercise. You should be able to complete 10 sets of one rep with this weight. Start with 90-second rest periods between each of the 10 one rep sets. In successive workouts, drop 15 seconds from each rest period between sets, until you get to 15 seconds of rest. Then shave off 5 seconds from the rest periods in successive workouts until you’re doing one continuous set of multiple reps.
Get Started Working Out with One Set of Dumbbells
Beyond muscular strength and endurance, weight lifting has also been shown to improve lower back pain, blood pressure, osteoporosis, and even psychological well-being. It is important for people of all ages to incorporate some type of resistance exercises into their daily routine. Starting with just 10 minutes a day and one set of dumbbells, anyone can begin to achieve optimum health with a weight training program.
It is unnecessary to join a gym or buy many expensive fitness products to have an effective training program. Start buy going to your local sporting goods store to find the right set of starting dumbbells.
Have an associate lead you through the variety of weights to find the perfect type for you. Dumbbells today come in many weights, sizes, grips, colors and can be rubber coated or the weight or the grip as well to help prevent calluses on soft hands.
Which dumbbells to buy?
You should choose a weight that is light enough to press over your head and curl for at least 15 repetitions. Dumbbells are inexpensive and tend to cost $0.80-$1.20/lb depending on the extra features. Standard iron dumbbells with grooved grips are usually the least expensive choice.
Once you have the appropriate dumbbells you need to devise a workout plan that will hit every muscle group. Simple but effective exercises include overhead presses for shoulders, curls for biceps, dead lift for back and squats for the legs. Start in a higher rep range with a lower number of sets. In the beginning keep the exercises few and simple. An example routine could look like this.
- Dead lift x 12
- Over head press x 12
- Squat x 10
- Bicep curl x 10
- (Repeat 3 times)
As your muscles become more accustomed to the lifting you may want to challenge them. You can do this by adding more exercises, adding more difficult exercises, or adding more sets or reps. One simple tip is that if you are curling the weight easily more than 20 times you are probably ready for a new, slightly heavier set of dumbbells. This is a good thing but don’t rush to get to that point. The body naturally will adapt and get stronger, pushing it too fast could lead to injuries in the muscles and joints.
Armed with this primer in weight lifting you can go out and purchase your first set of dumbbells. As always, when starting a new fitness program check with your doctor first to assure that it is safe and you are healthy enough to lift weights. Now get out there and get on your way to optimum health and fitness.
Back Strengthening Exercises
After having a back injury I needed time off from my back. After some time, I was allowed back to regular use. I found my back weak and was told to start strengthening exercises for it.
There are many exercises you can do to improve the overall strength of your back. Here is a list of some of the most effective ones.
- Closed/Wide grip pull-downs: you will need a pull-down machine which has a pulley and a bar. Sit on the bench, lock your knees and pull down on the bar then back up again for one complete repetition
- Seated row: On the seated-row machine, sit on the bench and grab the handles in front of you and pull back. Return to full arm extension for one complete repetition.
- Good Mornings: Find a barbell and hold it while standing. Bend down and touch the bar to the floor then back up again for one complete repetition.
- One-arm rows: Similar to the seated row, find a bench and place one hand on the bench with your chest parallel to the floor. Grab a dumbbell with the other hand and perform the same motion as the seated row, pulling up this time and then down for one complete repetition
- Reverse-fly: Find a bench and put it in the incline position. Grab two dumbbells and with your chest flat against the inclined bench reach your arms all the way back and all the way forward for one complete repetition
Perform three sets for each exercise (15 total sets) and do about 8-10 repetitions per set. Do not train your back more than twice a week. (You don’t want to over do it).
Core Training Exercises
Core training is the best way to strengthen the body’s core; there are a range of exercises that can be used during core training.
Firstly there is the bridging exercises which will help to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles. There are a few different bridge exercises, for example there is the prone bridge in which you balance on your toes and elbows while keeping your back straight. There is also the Supire Bridge in which you lie on your back and raise your hips of the floor.
Another type of core training exercise is through the use of an exercise ball. There are a number of core training exercises that can be performed on the exercise ball. For starters the simplest exercise involves sitting on the exercise ball, this will help to contract your core muscles.
Strengthen your abdominal muscles
If you want to tighten and strengthen your abdominal muscles as well as your back muscles then use can do this using the exercise ball. You simply kneel next to the ball and roll the ball forwards with your hands still resting on the ball.
One of the most popular core training exercises is the crunch, in which you lie on the floor and raise your head and shoulders a couple of inches off the floor. You may want to vary your crunch by twisting your upper body left or right when lifted off the floor as this will help to engage more core muscles. When performed correctly the crunch can help strengthen all of your abdominal muscles.
Core training is an essential part of any fitness routine as it can be simply adapted to meet both the fitness and health needs of every person.
Follow up the 10 one-rep sets by doing three sets of the same exercise, using a weight you can handle for 8-15 reps. You can also rotate other versions of the exercise using a barbell, dumbbell, cable and machine. The higher reps will help train your muscles metabolically, to blend the 10 sets of one rep each, into one set of 10 reps. Finish with three sets of one complimentary exercise (again, higher reps are suggested), which you should change with each workout.
Be sure to allow between five and seven days of recovery between workouts for the same muscle groups. And remember, if you can’t do all 10 reps at the end, don’t get discouraged. You will still have gained significant strength, which you you can continue to build on. Keep in mind however that this is an eight week training program, at the end of which you will have to switch to a routine where you’re maintaining your strength level, instead of increasing it, before going back to this strength training workout.