This is Part II of my 3-part series on The Framework Of Fitness. Please check back later this month for Part III
The Cornerstone Question; Sustainability
Before one seeks an answer to the question, “how many times per week should I be working out?” one should first ask the question, “how much time do I really have each week to exercise?” Only after that block has been put into place, can the framework for your fitness be assembled.
If it has been suggested to you by a fitness-minded friend or coworker, a fitness expert on TV, on the web, or in a magazine, that you must work out X times per week to make progress, and you don’t have X times per week to workout, then you have lost the battle before it could begin.
However, if you can determine in advance of setting up your fitness program, how much time you realistically have to exercise each week, you can now adapt a protocol of exercise which has been suggested to you, or that you have read about, and trim it down to allow it to fit into your personal circumstances. Progress might come more slowly, but sustainability will allow that progress to continue in the long-term.
This perspective also should be applied to how much time per workout you should/can invest.
Mass Vs. Definition; The Framework Continues
The utility of strength training is vast and has many applications; conditioning for athletes, muscle toning and shaping, muscle building, retarding the aging process (which is an umbrella over many other virtues), building strength, increasing flexibility, and the list goes on.
Most will seek multiple aspects of that list. When I ask someone why they want to lift weights, among the more common answers I hear are as follows;
- build strength
- tone muscles
- shape muscles
- increase flexibility
- add muscle mass
People may seek those to different degrees, and with varying priorities, but most want some combination of these.
I hear this regularly,
“If you want to build mass, use low reps and heavy weights. If you want definition use lighter weights and higher reps.”
The single biggest crock of shit I’ve heard in my entire life.
Mass: Gaining muscle mass is the result of effectively fatiguing muscles beyond their previous capacity for managing a load, and doing so in successive workouts. This can be done with high or low repetitions, heavy or light weights. Primary to gaining muscle mass, beyond regular muscular fatigue, are nutrition and recovery.
With the (possible) exception of the first few months of a workout scheme, there is little connection between the amount of weight lifted and an increase in muscle mass. Nor is there a direct relationship between using lower repetitions and heavier weights to gain that muscle mass. High-reps, low-reps, heavy weight light weight, matter much less than muscular fatigue, nutrition, and recovery.
Definition: Creating definition within the musculature is dependent almost exclusively on nutrition. Definition – the increased visual clarity of muscles, can only be attained when the body-fat covering the muscle is reduced to a point where the muscle is clear and distinct. The shape of the muscle under the body-fat is influenced much more by range of motion under a load than the quantity of repetitions performed.
Since it is commonly accepted that spot reduction does not exist, adhering to a scheme of higher repetitions will have little impact on definition, but for the negligible increase of calorie burning in doing 20 reps over 10.
Days, Time, Sets, And Repetitions
For the more common objectives of strength training (bulleted in the section above), I suggest these simple guidelines for sets and repetitions be applied. This is not rocket science and I am not suggesting these be taken as absolutes; just offering a few beams which, when lashed together, will allow your fitness structure to continue taking shape.
Revisiting the cornerstone question; how many days per week can you workout, and how long per session, I suggest that a realistic protocol for most people is 2-3 strength training sessions per week, lasting 45-60 minutes. If your life deals you less, take what you’re delt and go with it.
I suggest attempting to intermingle 6-8 exercises, performing 2-3 sets per exercise, 8-10 repetitions per set, with minimal rest between sets. If your life deals you less, take what you’re delt and go with it.
Again, there is no magic number here. Your body will not know 8 repetitions from 15, so long as the load chosed suits the number of repetitions desired. Your body will know good form, full range of motion, and muscular fatigue – all of which can come together in the 6-10 repetition range.
“Which body-parts should I combine when I workout?”
Based on the more common objectives stated above, I’m a big believer in total body workouts. In particular, I suggest workouts that include multi-joint movements which combine upper and lower body movement simultaneously, such as SCAPs, and Deadlifts. I also suggest alternating (supersetting) between upper body and lower body exercises. An example of such a pairing might be to alternate between an overhead pull-down (lat-pulls) and a squat for several sets back and forth between the two.
There is efficiency in alternating between upper and lower body exercises in the manner stated above. While the upper body is at work, the lower body is resting, and vice-versa. This enables one to exercise with a minimum of rest in-between sets, and (possibly) establish a cardio element within the workout as well.
To be continued…
Please check back in a week or two for Part III of The Framework Of Fitness; The Weight. Please feel free to comment on how you select the poundage for a given strength exercise.
Oh, and there is this all-growed-up version of one of my favorite 80’s songs by Deacon Blue. Enjoy…