Let Me Count the Ways!
Patty Torza, Certified Personal Trainer
There are many ways to go about weight training, including hitting different muscle groups and/or whole body systems. The keys to whatever way you decide to go are variety and balance. Variety means change one or more of the variables in weight training such as the variety of exercises you do, the number of sets/repetitions, the amount of weight you are lifting, the speed or pace at which you lift, the rest time in between sets, and the number of days you work out, etc. Keeping the body guessing by changing up any of the above variables will keep you from plateauing. Balance refers to keeping all muscle groups strong, flexible, and proportionate to each other. In other words, only working out your chest muscles but not your back muscles will eventually cause an imbalance. We all know the person with the huge upper body and skinny little legs. Don’t let this be you! So, what are the different ways to train? Here are some examples:
- Circuit Training: Going from exercise to exercise without rest and hitting all the different muscle groups
- Opposing Muscle Group Training: Hitting biceps, then triceps, or hitting quads with hamstrings, etc.
- Same Muscle Group Training: Doing a chest exercise, waiting a minute or two, then hitting the chest muscle again (same or different exercise, same or different weight)
- Splits: This could mean you work out the lower body one day, then the upper body another or hit a series of muscle groups one day (chest/back/arms) then another group on another day (shoulders/legs). There are many possible combos.
Once you have a good base, you could utilize techniques that help to break plateaus and allow you to get stronger without getting hurt. Here are a few examples:
- Drop Sets: Perform an exercise for a muscle group (e.g., back) at one weight, then without rest, drop the weight and do another set. You could do this two, three, or more times per exercise.
- Pyramid Training: A basic structure you create when arranging your sets and reps of a given exercise, which entails starting out with lighter weight and then stepping up the weight you use on successive sets with little to no rest in between. Reverse Pyramid Training does the opposite; start with a heavy weight, then tapering down.
It is always a good idea to change your workout every three months to avoid plateauing. Have fun with your new routines!