What are your goals? A familiar question for most of us. It can certainly apply to almost every part of our lives; education, vocational, relationships, and -of course- fitness. The latest craze has been, “core” conditioning. This is a concept which has been twisted every which way, and now usually generally pertains to conditioning that area between the shoulder blades and the hips. Athletic conditioning tends to emphasize, “core” conditioning, as it relates to sports-specific training. Which type of resistance training works best for the type of conditioning you’re seeking? Which is the most efficient way to get to where you want to go?
Resistance training can take on several different forms and each serves a different purpose. The different types of resistance training can also be combined (as is the case for some types of athletic training models) to maximize the overall conditioning goals of the exercise enthusiast / athlete. The types of resistance training which this series of articles will discuss are: traditional weightlifting movements with free weights and machines, kettle bell movements, and power band movements.
Resistance training using standard free-standing weights (i.e., dumbbells and barbells), as well as weight machines (i.e., cable pull machines, nautilus machines, etc.) are what most folks are exposed to when they embark upon a program of weight training. This normally the case at most fitness clubs, university and secondary school classes, and many home gym arrangements. Most free weight exercise movements tend to isolate a certain muscle group through strict adherence to proper execution of the exercise movement (i.e., standing dumbbell curls) which -in itself- normally disallows the use of other muscles to supplement the primary exercise being performed (“cheating”). “Cheating” is normally not a good idea, as this could put the body in a misaligned position, which could lead to injury. Examples of, “cheating” movements include swinging the dumbbells while executing standing dumbbell curls, bouncing the barbell off of one’s chest while executing the bench press movement, etc.
Weight machines do an excellent job of isolating specific muscle groups. Preacher curl machines, seated leg press machines, and leg extension machines are all examples of weight machines which do a particularly effective job of isolating muscle groups. “Cheating” is almost impossible to do, and most injuries associated with the use of weight machines usually center around the user’s misalignment of the apparatus (i.e., not positioning the seat correctly -relative to the body’s joints-, not being positioned correctly in/onto the apparatus while using it), or the use of too much weight while using the machine.Both free weight and weight machines also lend themselves to the phenomenon of the exerciser’s, “exercising their ego” rather than their body (using too much weight than is practical or safe for the movement).
Standard weightlifting workouts which utilize standard free weights and exercise machines are quite effective in building strength and should be used as a part of any comprehensive strength building program. The tricky part is HOW to utilize a weight training program to accomplish the goals one seeks to reach through weight training. A fairly comprehensive study, from the late 1980’s, by researchers Schmitbleicher and Buhrle, reached the following conclusions:
1. Standard bodybuilding workouts were quite effective in building muscle mass and strength, but also produced a decrease in muscle speed. These workouts entailed moderate weight loads lifted many times (three sets of 12 repetitions with 70% of personal best lift poundages).
2. Lifting very heavy weights with only a few repetitions per set (three sets of three repetitions with 90% of personal best lift poundages), caused the test subjects to gain muscle mass and strength at lesser rate as did the, “bodybuilder” workout, but it increased both the strength-to-speed ratio, and the “speed” of the nervous system SIGNIFICANTLY.
Interestingly, while standard weight training exercises admonish their subjects to perform the exercises smoothly, and with little/no extraneous movements; the subjects in the second exercise program were told to execute their movements, “explosively”.
What does this mean for you? Again, if you want nicely toned muscles and an appreciable increase in strength, then the standard bodybuilding workout is probably ideal. If you’re seeking increased power and speed for an athletic endeavor, perhaps the second workout is best for your goals.
ALWAYS get a MEDICAL CLEARANCE from your doctor BEFORE you embark upon ANY exercise program. ALWAYS seek proper instruction PRIOR TO embarking upon a weight lifting program. Please invest the money, and seek the services of a good personal trainer. A good personal trainer is worth their weight in gold, with regard to the knowledge they have regarding proper exercise technique and how to reach a variety of fitness goals.
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