Weight Training Advice:
Frequency is Key

There is a lot of conflicting weight training advice out there. This personal trainer spills the beans about what's real and what's hype!

Most beginner weight training routines call for two or three weight training sessions per week, each involving a full body workout that targets all of the major muscle groups. A common weight-training misconception is the notion that intermediate and advanced exercisers should perform “split” routines whereby they exercise each major muscle group just once per week: for example, performing leg exercises on Monday, chest, shoulder, and triceps exercises on Wednesday, and back and biceps exercises on Friday. The argument: that this allows more sets to be performed for a given body part, which will cause further development in that body part.

Popular weight training advice aside, split routines as specified above are NOT the most effective way for a steroid-free weight trainee to work out, for two primary reasons:

1.) Muscle protein synthesis (which is the time when your muscles re-build themselves and get stronger after a workout) PEAKS in the body about 36 hours after the weight training session---and then steadily declines. This means, if you weight train a given body part only once per week, your body actually spends five days in the “decline” portion, and only two days in the “building” phase. A person on steroids will have a different response—but I’m assuming that my readers aren’t on steroids, and of course I don’t recommend using on them!

2.) Again, assuming that the trainee isn’t on steroids, doing too high a volume of exercise (too many sets) for a particular body part in one day usually does more harm than help, because it typically outstrips the body’s ability to recover from the workout. Therefore, the same amount of work (the same number of total sets) spread out throughout the week is preferable. This also allows the body to be stimulated repeatedly multiple times in a week, taking advantage of that 36-hour peak in protein synthesis that occurs after a workout.

What you SHOULD do as you progress from a beginner to an intermediate or advanced exerciser is increase the weight used during your weight training. While beginners generally are best served to train with a weight that allows him or her to complete 15 reps per set, intermediate and advanced exercisers generally see best results training in the 8-12-rep range to increase muscle size, or the 6-8-rep range to maintain muscle size. If strength improvements are the primary goal, 4-6 reps may be used, and for muscular endurance needed for sports, 15-25 reps are recommended.

It is advised to choose a varied program over the course of a year, meaning that for a few months you may work in a one particular rep range, followed by a different rep range the next few months. Varying your reps every two weeks or even every workout within a given week can also be effective. Individual goals and responses should dictate the program.

Click here for more weight training advice and other fitness articles by Gina Paulhus.

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