Creating a plan and sticking to it important for fitness
It's not necessary to have a workout plan to get health benefits from going to the gym, but knowing how to best work towards what we want to achieve can really maximize results.
Questions such as, "How many sets and reps should I do?" are very common, and the answers depend on our goals.
Everyone goes to the gym for a different reason, and our workouts can leave a lot to be desired if they aren't tailored to our specific goals.
The principle of specific adaptations to imposed demands states that the body will adapt in different ways to different forms of exercise. This means we can use certain repetition ranges and numbers of sets to get certain results.
Common resistance training goals include improving muscular endurance (the ability to lift weight repeatedly), hypertrophy (size) and strength (the ability to lift a maximum load once). Though these adaptations can and often do overlap, focusing on one at a time can help deliver the results we want to see.
In addition, athletes may need to focus on one adaptation in particular. For example, a powerlifter wouldn't need to achieve outstanding endurance capabilities, and a soccer player probably wouldn't be interested in achieving crazy levels of hypertrophy.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) provides scientifically researched suggestions on how to best achieve these different goals. The organization recommends sticking with each of the following methods of training for a minimum of 4 weeks.
According to NASM, endurance can best be achieved by performing 1-3 sets of 12-20 reps per exercise. It's recommended to do 1-2 exercises for each muscle group trained, and to train 2-4 times per week, allowing each group to recover before working it again.
Three to five sets of 6-12 reps are recommended when working for muscle hypertrophy. NASM suggests doing 2-4 exercises per body part worked and working out 3-6 times per week, designating specific muscles to be worked each day.
Wait times of 0-60 seconds are recommended between sets for both endurance and hypertrophy.
Strength training, on the other hand, focuses on lifting heavier weights and taking extended rest breaks lasting 1-3 minutes in between sets. Whereas higher rep ranges force cellular muscle changes for endurance, lower, more intense rep ranges primarily force the nervous system to adapt and more efficiently recruit muscles for use.
NASM recommends performing 4-6 sets of 1-5 reps for each exercise and choosing 1-3 strength exercises per muscle group in each workout.
Training frequency is suggested to be 2-4 times per week, and lifters are encouraged to perform each lift as explosively as possible as long as proper form and control is maintained.
While these parameters may not be the best for everyone, they provide a great starting point to build a workout plan around.
Experimenting with these numbers can easily reward more gains than simply guessing about what would be best to do each time we go to the gym.
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