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Vary exercise routine, strength training

Stop by the Health 1st Wellness Wednesday table between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. May 20 and talk to an MUSC Wellness Center trainer about improving your fitness routine.
Basic strength training guidelines suggest targeting the major muscle groups of the body with at least one exercise for each muscle or muscle group two to three times per week. Additionally, one to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions per exercise are recommended for attaining strength gains. Strength plateaus, injury, overuse, fatigue and even boredom can set in after a period of training causing lack of progress, discouragement and failure to achieve goals.
To vary an exercise routine and efficiently produce gains in muscle strength and conditioning, the American Council on Exercise recommends:

  • Circuit training: Ideally, one would perform 10-12 exercises that move quickly through working from the larger to smaller muscle groups of the body. Circuit training can help you develop strength, improve overall conditioning and time management. Complete at least one to three full circuits.
  • Split-routine training: Helps vary your training frequency. Instead of training the typical two to three days per week for a full body work out, one would train at least four days per week with a split routine, which would focus on specific muscle/muscle groups per day of training and shorten the total exercise time.
  • Pre-exhaustion training: This involves isolating the given muscle for a set and then performing another strength exercise including that muscle group. Pre-exhaustion training works by enhancing the training stimulus to the isolated and assisting muscle groups thereby stimulating strength gains.
  • Breakdown training: The benefit of breakdown training is the recruitment of additional muscle fibers during the exercise set. This increases the intensity of the exercise without increasing the original amount of weight or force being applied. For example, if muscle fatigue is typically experienced on a given exercise after 10 or 12 repetitions, immediately decrease the resistance by five or 10 pounds, and continue for another two to three repetitions. This process may be repeated, but the goal is to reach momentary muscle failure within a couple of repetitions. Apply this type of training once a week to your strength routine.
  • Assisted training: Comparable to breakdown training in that rather than decreasing the force being applied, a partner assists with the lift allowing the trainee to reach another level of muscle fatigue that could not be accomplished on their own. Example: While performing an overhead press, the trainee reaches momentary muscle failure; the partner assists with the concentric muscle contraction or lift while the trainee slowly lowers the weight on their own. Continue until the lifter again reaches muscle failure.
  • Negative training: While eccentric or negative training is effective in stimulating muscle strengthening, heavier weights may be applied with the help of a partner or simply by accenting the lowering portion of the exercise by several counts. Work with a spotter to reduce risk of injury from increased resistance. Movements should be slow and controlled.
  • Periodization training: This requires one to push oneself, i.e. overload, through a variety of preplanned components to optimize gains in strength while preventing overuse, staleness, overtraining and plateaus. Characteristics of this training would include: regular program changes; scheduled rest or active recovery periods; and a methodical reduction in the exercise quantity when increasing intensity. Components that can be manipulated to bring about strength gains  include: number of sets and repetitions; the exercise order; speed and type of muscle contractions; amount of rest between sets or strength exercises; and training frequency.

Friday, May 15, 2009

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