Starting a resistance training program can be confusing. There is so much information out in the world about what to do and what not do at the gym. You hear the guys with the big weights say one thing, that girl who looks like a model says to do something else, and each person in a group fitness class blindly follows what he or she has heard other people say.
You can’t believe everything you hear. I have done copious amounts of research and worked with hundreds of people. Here is what really works. These are the dos and don’ts of resistance training.
Do focus on progressive overload
Lots of people say it is best to change your workouts often, while others say you need to stick with a handful of compound movements to really build strength. You actually need to do both. Create some sort of workout schedule that has you doing different movements in your workout day to day. Then you can do those same workouts every week, and you could repeat those workouts every week for quite some time if you are smart about it. Progressive overload means you gradually increase the volume, intensity or frequency of the workout. So, say on Monday’s you like to do squats, rows, push-ups, lunges, and leg press. You can continue to do those basic movements but change the amount of weight you are lifting, the number of reps you do or how many sets you complete. You do this to make the workout progress as you progress and get stronger.
Don’t lift to failure
Back when Arnold was making bodybuilding cool, many people would train until failure. Training until failure means doing one set of an exercise where you complete how ever many reps you can until you literally can’t move anymore. This is an old school way of training that many gym-goers still think works. Occasionally it can be useful to train until volitional failure, or right before your form starts to break, but even this should be used sparsely. Training until failure exhausts the body, in a bad way. This way of training will leave you sore and tired for days, meaning you can’t work the muscle groups again for a while. A successful training program is high volume (reps, sets, weight) and has you work every muscle frequently. If you reduce the number of reps and focus more on volume and your form, I guarantee you will see results faster.
Do train at every rep range
This goes along with that old school way of thinking. Many athletes laugh at the idea of doing over 15 reps of an exercise, while many bodybuilders do not see the point of doing fewer than 5 reps of an exercise. You should not limit yourself in the amount of reps you do. Some days it’s good to increase the weight and go for fewer reps. While on other days you should try working with extremely light weights and try doing sets of 50. Better yet, try both in the same workout. This will confuse your muscles and allow to the change more rapidly.
Don’t zone out during reps
During every single rep you should be focusing on what muscles are contracting, what muscles are relaxing, connecting your breath to the movement, standing up tall and counting. This takes so much concentration. Do not space out during your workout, be aware of what you are doing every second.