Muscle strength is the force your muscle can exert against resistance. As you lift and lower a weight your muscle must generate enough force to move that weight.
Muscle endurance is the ability of your muscle to repeatedly apply force to lift and lower a weight. Muscle endurance describes how long or how many times you can lift and lower a weight.
Factors that Affect Muscle Size Although some factors cannot be controlled, two factors that we can control are exercise and nutrition habits
Men generally have more muscle mass than women, mainly because men produce more testosterone than women. Strength training may increase muscle mass slightly in women; however, a common misconception is that strength training will cause women to “bulk up.” Importantly, strength training will greatly increase muscle strength and reduce the risks for injury.
FITT Principle Guidelines
Once you are comfortable with the basic training techniques for performing strength exercises, follow the FITT Principle, illustrated in the Physical Activity Pyramid to set up your routine. The FITT guidelines for strength training are:
- Frequency – 2 to 3 times per week for each major muscle group on non-consecutive days.
- Intensity – the total weight lifted or the resistance applied.
- Time – the duration of the exercise.
- Type – equipment used and the exercises performed.
Two terms you need to know are repetition (rep) and set.
A rep is a single lifting and lowering of the weight. For example, one rep of a leg curl is lifting your ankle toward your buttocks, pausing one second, then returning your ankle to the start position.
A set is the number of reps performed without stopping to rest. For example, if you perform 10 leg curls, rest for 60 seconds, followed by another 10 leg curls, you would have performed 2 sets, each of 10 leg curls. When recording the number of sets and reps performed, write “sets x reps” (i.e., 2×10 for the leg curl example).
Intensity of Exercise
Focus on the intensity of your training only after you have perfected your lifting form. The basis of strength training is to gradually increase the amount of weight that you lift during training to ultimately increase the amount of force your muscles are capable of generating. This is called progressively overloading the muscle to achieve gains in strength without causing injury.
The following intensity guidelines for general strength gains are for beginners, for people who are restarting their routines after a break, and for people learning new exercises.
Once your form is perfected, gradually increase the weight you are lifting until you reach a weight that you can lift only 12 times with good form. Finding this 12-rep weight will be trial and error at first.
Your 12-rep weight will increase as you gain strength, so increase the weight you are lifting appropriately (but no more than 10% each week).
Start a training routine consisting of one to two sets of 12 reps for each major muscle group.
A long-term strength routine of one to two sets of 12 reps is excellent for maintaining and increasing general strength. In addition, this type of routine only takes about 30 minutes to perform.
Once you have developed a solid strength and endurance base (after about eight weeks) you may be interested in pursuing more specific training goals. In general, the following guidelines apply to the various types of strength training goals:
- Muscle endurance – two to three sets, 12-15 reps with a 15-rep weight; 30-60 seconds rest between sets.
- Muscle hypertrophy (increase in muscle mass) – three to six sets, eight to 12 reps with a 12-rep weight; 30-90 seconds rest between sets.
- Muscle strength – three to five sets, two to eight reps with an 8- rep weight; at least 120 seconds rest between sets.
Note: Do not perform maximal lifts when strength training.
Type of Exercise
For maximum benefit and to decrease the risk of injury, pay attention to:
- Exercise selection – Select at least one exercise for each of the major muscle groups. The major muscle groups are the chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, lower back, and abdominals (abs).
- Muscle balance – perform exercises that target the opposing muscle groups across the joints to strengthen the major muscles and improve joint function; e.g., strengthen the biceps and triceps muscles in the upper arm.
- Exercise order – perform multi-joint exercises before single-joint exercises. In a multi-joint exercise more than one joint (per side) moves during the exercise; e.g., your shoulders and elbows move during a bench press. In a single-joint exercise one joint (per side) moves during the exercise; e.g., only your elbow moves during an arm curl. Perform lower back and abdominal exercises at the end of your workout since those muscles are used for balance and posture during other exercises. The better way to understand this concept is do the exercise which forma like is a natural action somewhere is our lifestyle. It is very rare that any natural action effects only one single muscle or one single joint.
Change the exercises you perform for each muscle group every four to eight weeks, even if you keep the same set and rep routine. Changing exercises will overload the muscles differently, increase your strength gains, and alleviate boredom. There are a variety of exercises for each muscle group listed in Figure.
Various muscle groups and corresponding exercises which can be performed in a GYM
Types of Workout
The following two routines are basic workouts to build muscle strength. Choose the routine that is best for you based on the time available, your goals, your training experience, and your fitness level. More advanced workouts should only be performed once you have a solid muscle strength and endurance base and have perfected your lifting form. For more information on these more advanced routines (such as pyramids, super sets, and split routines) see your Command Fitness Coordinator or a certified fitness professional at your gym.
- Full body workouts – All the major muscle groups are exercised during a single session. Perform one to two sets of an exercise for each muscle group and rest between sets. This should take 20-45 minutes. For general strength training purposes; workout at least twice a week.
- Circuit Training – Combines aerobic and strength exercise stations. Each exercise station takes 30-45 seconds to perform and stations alternate between upper and lower body exercises. The circuit is repeated two or more times per session. Circuit training improves aerobic conditioning and moderately increases strength when performed three times per week. This routine is good for people who have less than 45 minutes to do both aerobic and strength exercises.
Alternate exercises for each muscle group at least every eight weeks to maximize strength gains, enhance job-related fitness, and have fun!