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Resistance Training 101

Resistance Training 101

by: Marty Gallagher| 24.August.2021

Have a plan

70% of resistance training should be dedicated to compound multi-joint exercises using free-weights

Resistance training is widely accepted and practiced as one of the key elements in a successful fitness regimen. The other key components to a well-rounded and effective fitness regimen include aerobic training and nutrition/supplementation. Why is resistance training so important and why is there so much confusion surrounding the subject? The confusion arises over differences of opinion concerning goals, modes, tools, and protocols. Resistance training should be synonymous with strength training. a knowledgeable Personal Trainer (PT) can save a student-client time, energy and frustration by identifying the ideal protocol for the individual, based on their realistic goals, life circumstance and available training time.


Differentiation of strength types

The goal of strength training is to build and strengthen the 630 + muscles that make up the human body. Resistance training is the art and science of stressing a targeted muscle past its current capacity in some way. By exceeding our capacities on a routine and repeated basis the adaptive response is triggered, muscle is constructed as a defensive response to continual and repeated stress. The body will construct additional muscle and more muscle equates to increases in strength capacities. There are three generalized types of strength. Each should receive an appropriate portion of strength training time.

Absolute strength: maximum payloads lifted for short distances with no regard for velocity using compound multi-joint exercises

Explosive strength:moderate payload lifted for long distances with maximum velocity using compound multi-joint exercises

Sustained strength: light payloads lifted for various distances using varying velocities with vary modes

Machines versus free weights:resistance training can be done with free-weights, barbells and dumbbells, or on resistance training machines. Factually, the exercises done using machines are inferior to the free-weight exercises they mimic. Why is this? Machines eliminate the need for muscle stabilizers to fire (to any significant degree) to control side-to-side sway. The machine’s mechanical groove allows the user to devote `100% of their available strength to pushing or pulling. Free weights, barbells and dumbbells, require the user to prevent the bar or bells from straying outside the proscribed motor-pathway. From a muscle-building, strength-building perspective, a barbell or pair of dumbbells cuts a deeper muscular inroad resulting in better results. The classic strength training strategy is to use free-weights 70% of the time with machine training and cable work taking up the other 30% of available training time. Work a muscle group or body part with free-weights then augment the free-weight training followed up with a select few machine exercises. Don’t let anyone tell you that there is no difference between free-weights and machines that mimic.

Programing - pick a goal: what type of progressive resistance training you select is largely dependent on your physique goals. Are you underweight and weak and need to muscle-up and get stronger? Are you 50-pounds overweight and needing to drop weight due to health consideration? Do you want to get ripped for the beach in two months? Are you wanting to shape up for a class reunion, wedding or are you a sportsman looking to take the performance to the next level? The first step is to establish a goal. The second step is to set the goal into a timeframe, a realistic timeframe. The third step is to reverse engineer a periodized strength training program. This is called ‘linear periodization’

Frequency: strength training can have varying frequencies dependent on the life situation of the student-client. The weekly “workload” can spread out or concentrated, i.e., the trainee can train once or twice weekly in longer sessions or engage in multiple shorter sessions. The training frequency can also be altered, week to week, depending on the trainees outside the gym commitments. Frequency is also modulated to spark progress. For example, if the trainee has gone stale weight training three times weekly in sessions of moderate length, to unstick stuck progress they could shift to six extremely short weekly session or shift to training once a week in an extended session. Duration is a variable that should be periodically altered to create contrast.

Duration: session duration is dependent on content. The generalized rule of thumb is a strength trainer (depending on their degree of expertise and experience) has one hour or less (for beginners and intermediates) before exhaustion renders further training counterproductive. If a strength trainer engages in a resistance training session with the required physical effort, after 30-60 minutes, depending on the fitness and conditioning of the athlete, strength plummets. There is no point lifting weights when exhausted. Past a certain duration, that varies person to person, strength drops so dramatically that the athlete can only handle 50-60% of the poundage they could lift when fresh.

Intensity: intensity in resistance training is the degree of effort used to complete an exercise. Muscle is built and strength increased only in response to limit-equaling or limit-exceeding effort. submaximal effort is insufficient to cause the body to construct new muscle. The biggest cause for failure in resistance training is not training hard enough, not training intensely enough, not working up to and past capacity. Only by exceeding or current limits do we obtain the benefits of progressive resistance training. how does a trainee know that they have trained with the requisite intensity? One commonsense barometer: if in any exercise (and after warming up) you “rep out” i.e., push or pull until another repetition is impossible than you have given 100%.

Volume: There is a irrefutable relationship between volume and intensity: the harder and more intensely we train, the shorter the session need be – on account of muscle exhaustion. How much weight training do we do in a week? How much weight training do we do in a session? Volume in resistance training refers to the sheer amount of time and tonnage we need and how much poundage is handled in the sessions over the course of the week. Bodybuilders and Olympic weightlifters will train upwards of two hours a day 5-6 days a week. A powerlifter will train half that: two to three sessions a week for 60-90 minutes per session. If you want to engage in a long training session, the intensity must be moderated. You can go all out for short bursts or scale back the intensity and go longer. You cannot do both.

The exercise hierarchy: not all exercises are created equal: a deadlift trumps a machine row; a free-weight squat trumps the leg extension. Compound multi-joint exercises require muscles to work together to accomplish the assigned task. Isolation exercises isolate targeted muscles. At least 70% of resistance training time should be apportioned to compound multi-joint exercise with the remaining 30% apportioned to isolation exercises. The suggested training protocol is to commence training a body part using a compound exercise, then follow up with isolation exercises. If, by way of example, you were training the back, start off with a compound exercise, i.e. a deadlift, power clean or barbell row, before hitting the pulldowns, seated cable rows or a machine. Compound exercises should form the core of your resistance training regimen.

About The Author:
Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door, IRON COMPANY and now KB Fitness. He’s also the author of multiple books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others.