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Strength Basics

Explosivelyfit is focused on the development of pure strength and the various methods used to obtain it. The intent is to help all drug free athletes reach their true strength potential.

Keep training smart, and strong.

Danny M. O'Dell, M.A. CSCS*D


Tips are added on a semi-regular basis. Before you start training always check with your primary health care provider  first.

If you are just beginning your journey toward a stronger body then here are a few tips to start you off on the right track. You will find out how to lift safely and become stronger in the process.

There will be NO drug tips on this page-ever.

I am also not a believer in the supplement of the month club as so many magazines shout with every edition. However, good nutrition is essential to progress, regardless of your sport or activity.

Key words to remember: Read, study, learn, apply and succeed.

Table of Contents
(Topics added as time permits)

Adaptations to strength

A beginning resistance training routine

A start up routine

ABC's of life

A few suggestions

A guide to determining sets, reps and rest periods for the beginner

An introduction into strength and power training for all ages

Attack the weak points of your strength development

Avoiding a training injuries in the weight room

Balancing out your exercise program

Basic exercise routine strength training instructions

Beginning fitness and health exercise guidelines

Beginning a strength training program

Between training days

Body proportions

Body weight physical fitness standards

Conjugate training

Energy system training

Exercise form

Exercise suggestions for those with limited equipment

Fat-the good and bad of it

Fitness 101-starting out on the right track

Five steps to more muscle mass

Following a pros routine

Gaining muscle with electrical impulses, fact, or fiction

General upper torso stretches

Heart rate training

It is never too late to strength train

Keep a diary

Keeping at it

Listen to your body

Maintaining range of motion

Mental imagery

Mental and physical conditioning-the basics

Moderation is NOT the key to getting stronger

Neurons and sarcomeres

Old school vs New School

Paying attention to the red flags of pain

Picking your weights

Power production from the squat-rest intervals

Progressing towards strength training by Daniel Pare

Reasons to exercise

Rest periods per specific goals

Samo samo

Serious sport participation preparation practices

Setting up your home strength training program and gym

Sport and lifestyle activity-range of motion exercising

Squat instructions-basic edition

Strength training

Strength training isometrics revisited

Studies that have benefited strength athletes

The benefits of resistance training

Top ten training tips for athletic conditioning success

The components of physical fitness

The make up of a resistance training program

Three, ultraconservative, exercise progression systems

Train for strength and power

Train smart

Training for strength

Working out at home



An introduction into strength and power training for all ages

It turns out there are effective actions you can do to positively alter your health. They can help improve your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, help improve your mood, make you stronger and more powerful, and at the same time make your bones stronger to help ward off fractures.

These are not the only benefits these actions, not by a long shot.

They can potentially help you avoid disability, frailty and retain that precious independence we all want to have as we age.

Strength training can do all of this.

It is a well-known fact that strength training offers all of the benefits previously mentioned, in addition to many others such as are listed in the following section from the Harvard Medical School.

“Practically any regular exercise benefits your health. Strength training specifically helps in the following ways:

  • Strengthens muscles
  • Strengthens bones
  • Prevents falls and fractures by improving balance and preserving power to correct missteps
  • Helps to control blood sugar
  • Relieves some of the load carried by the heart
  • Improves cholesterol levels
  • Improves the body’s ability to pluck oxygen and nutrients from the blood stream
  • Boosts metabolism even while sleeping  and thus helps keep weight within a healthy range
  • Prevents or eases lower back pain
  • Relieves arthritis pain and expands limited range of motion
  • Raises confidence , brightens mood, and helps fight mild to moderate depression
  • Wards off loss of independence by keeping muscles strong enough for routine tasks”

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) there is now a heightened awareness of the benefits of strength training. There is also the fact that only a small percentage of the American population have actually started a strength training program. This percentage is estimated at just slightly under 22% for men and 18% of the women in our nation who are strength training twice a week on a regular basis.

This percentage figure is way below the U.S. governments Healthy People 2010 goal of 30% of the adults in America who make strength training a part of their exercise program.

If you’ve never lifted weights before or done any type of resistance training the biggest barrier to starting may be knowing where to begin. This may be your situation, if so all you need to start is a comfortable pair of shoes and clothing. Adding to this, a solidly built chair, a few dumbbells and if you’re able to skip rope, a skip rope. This is all you need to get started. There, that wasn’t so difficult was it?

Since the health benefits of strength training are founded on its ability to protect against the onslaught of frailty, while at the same time making everyday tasks easier and more manageable it is essential that you begin sooner rather than later. The longer you wait the more your muscle tissue, bone density, and strength dwindle. If you don’t do something about your strength and power abilities you will soon find it difficult to walk upstairs, get up from a chair, carry groceries, and fend for yourself as an independent person.

Not only will you find it difficult to do the aforementioned tasks but also lacking strength leads to falls and that can mean incapacitating fractures. This in turn further compromises your ability to lead an active life. Strength training has a wealth of research backing its ability to effectively slow down and possibly reverse these life altering events.

Even if you are in your 70s, 80s, 90s and above, research has shown a dramatic increase in strength, power, agility, and mobility within 10 weeks of lifting weights 2 to 3 times a week. Now you have to admit that this is not a tremendous time commitment, especially considering the benefits to your health.

Gaining muscle with electrical impulses, fact, or fiction

Periodically one sees an advertisement for an electrical device that supposedly builds muscles or helps someone to lose weight. Without a doubt, some types of electrical stimulation are beneficial, however; the gains in the muscles are miniscule. The medically approved electrical stimulation devices used in a physical therapy setting or after a surgery to control pain work well. The tens unit comes immediately to mind.

The repeated low intensity shocks produced by these electrical devices can force rapid contractions of the muscles. This repeated stimulation does cause a certain amount of growth in the muscle fibers but even the best of these devices, as used in the medical field, can do only so much. They help to partially stave off muscle atrophy during the rehabilitation.

In order to gain muscle size, strength, and to burn enough calories to lose weight, exercise is a critical part of the equation. Without exercise, these devices are practically useless, especially the ones seen on TV.

One popular, regularly advertised, model found that the stimulation of the major muscles of the abdomen, arms, and legs for up to 45 minutes, three times a week for a full two months produced no significant changes in the participants strength levels, body fat ratio to lean muscle mass, weight , or their overall appearance.

The recommendation from most astute observers is to regularly exercise and follow a sound nutritious diet because getting stronger, bigger, and losing weight does not come with an electrical machine. You actually have to be active and watch what you eat and drink.

Exercise form

Exercise is a way to live life to the fullest; however using poor form is a fast way of incurring an injury. If you are using free weights, which are highly recommended over any of the common machines, there are certain techniques to use in order to get the greatest benefit from them and avoid injury. In the next few paragraphs, we will briefly discuss some issues of exercise form to guard against.

The military press: stand tall, avoid a lower back, backward lean, and side to side lean when pressing up. Do the press in front of your face and not behind your head because this is harmful to your shoulders due to the extreme range of motion when the weight is coming down behind the head.

Barbell curls: For the most part, keep your hands close to your outer thighs. Don't lean backward in an effort to move heavier weight. Keep momentum to a minimum. Keep the weight under control on the downward phase and not let gravity take over in the hopes you will be able to lift more.

Supine lateral raises commonly referred to as flyes: Keep the weight under control and don't let it drop suddenly because your shoulders won't tolerate this for long.

Bench press: The number one rule here is to keep your feet on the floor and not on the bench as shown so frequently in the magazines or on YouTube. You have minimal balance control with your feet on the bench.

Use the five-point stance: Both feet on the floor, buttocks on the bench at all times, shoulders and head on the bench. Keep the weight over your elbows by not hyperextending the wrists. Don't allow the weight to plummet to your chest with hope of bouncing it back up.

Dead lift: Begin by squatting into the start position by pushing your hips backward and striving to keep your lower legs perpendicular to the floor. Keep the natural lordosis in your lower back. Avoid lifting a weight that overpowers your ability to keep your back in the correct position.

Good mornings: Begin with the weight behind your head and on your shoulders (this is easier done in a power rack so you aren't exposing your shoulders to an unnecessary injury-see the caution in the military press portion), flex your knees ever so slightly and bend over until your head is below your waistline. Don't go fast on the down phase as this puts a lot of shock load on your lower back at its most vulnerable position in the lift. Instead, lift with control. There is that word again. Be in control of the weight by controlling momentum. You will get more out the exercise and perhaps even avoid an injury in the process.

Squat: Contrary to what many misinformed people may say this is the best lower body exercise in the entire encyclopedia of fitness movements. The things to avoid are rapid drops into the bottom position, knees coming inward on going back up, rounding of the back, not going deep enough, and in some cases, ego lifting with too much weight.

Some people think they are protecting their knees by not going into the full squat. They fail to realize that by not going deep they are exposing themselves to a sports injury when the need to exert force at the full range of motion is necessary to prevent an injury from happening.

Secondly, and more importantly, is protecting yourself in a fall when the leg is suddenly flexed to its extreme such as frequently happens during a fall on the stairs. If the squat is not deep enough then problems start to occur with such simple things a going to the toilet. A ninety-degree squat is not even deep enough to sit in most chairs.

There is strong evidence that at ninety degrees there is a tremendous high load on the patella tendon. If damage happens to this tendon, the individual with the injury is in for a long rehabilitation period. For example, a two hundred and fifty pound person doing a squat with two hundred pounds is putting over 600 pounds of pressure on their patella for an extended period due to the reversal of motion at this dangerous spot in the range of motion.

It is far better to go through this position, go deep and then come back up, than it is doing the high squat stopping at the magic ninety-degree spot.

It is never too late to strength train

There are numerous studies showing that people who do resistance training have significantly improved their muscle strength and performance. These changes show up in as little as two months. This held true even with the frail and over age 80 population. Not only does resistance training improve strength it can also help prevent and treat sarcopenia.

According to an analysis conducted in 2010 by the Aging and Research Reviews, strenuous, intense workouts are the most effective. You can bet they did not use soup cans in these intense workouts. However, if you are seriously out of condition you probably will have to start out gradually. Find a qualified strength trainer, one with good credentials from a nationally recognized association, and get started.

In order to help prevent or treat sarcopenia, strength train regularly and make sure that you are getting enough protein and your system on a daily basis.

A basic strength program stressing the major muscle groups, consisting of three sets of eight repetitions, performed 2 to 3 times a week will show increases in strength and functionality within a short period. These targeted muscle groups should involve the shoulders, arms, upper back, chest, abdominals, lower back, the quads and hamstrings of the legs and the calves.

Begin with a warm-up with some sort of an aerobic exercise to the point where you are breathing heavier, your pulse is going faster and you have a slight sweat. Now it is time to start lifting.

Begin with the weight that you can handle 10 to 12 times. In over the course of a week or so add weight until the last two repetitions of the set are difficult. Rest 2 minutes and repeat the exercise set again. If you're able to complete three sets of eight repetitions with a specific weight then that weight is to light and more needs to be added to the bar.

On the days that you are not strength training, do some sort of aerobic exercise for 20 to 30 minutes. Keep track of what you're doing. You are going to notice improvements in your strength level and in your ability to move a lot easier in your daily life.

Keeping at it

Louie Simmons has many adherents to his methods in training his powerful athletes. One thing is certain; they don’t take many breaks in their training do they? It has been said time and again that consistent persistence counts towards becoming a superior athlete. These athletes train year round in order to remain at the top of their game.

Vacations from training are not beneficial to an elite athlete. A long break destroys physical fitness and sports performance.

Instead of a vacation from training, take an active rest by doing something else than your normal routine.

Three, ultraconservative, exercise progression systems

Strength training has lived and breathed progressive overload for many, many years. Today, strength coaches may use any of the three following methods for just a few days out of the year. Even used during this limited amount of time, they serve their purpose and that is to recover from an injury or to act as an active rest in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

In 1948, DeLorme and Watkins devised the first progressive strength training system. This protocol was used for quite some time with the rehabilitation of military personnel. In 1951, Dr. Zinovieff, working in England’s United Oxford hospitals revised the DeLorme program and then renamed it the Oxford technique. Both of these overload systems were still being into the latter 1900’s, in this case, 1985. In that year, the Daily Adjusted Progressive Resistive Exercise (DAPRE) technique arrived on the scene.

The DAPRE is a more complex way of exercise programming when compared with the other two. It is also a highly effective method of strength training for the dedicated new trainee.

An obvious difference between the previous two strength progression programs and the DAPRE system is a number of repetitions used for the three sets. DeLorme and Watkins and the Oxford technique both use 10 repetitions for the three sets. The DAPRE begins with 10 repetitions on the first set at 50% and lowers the reps to six on the second set at 75%.

The reason for bringing this up is the percentages for a 10-repetition maximum are on a continuum between 30 and 75% with a heavy intensity of effort expected on each set. Since there was no mention of the length of the rest periods between each of the sets, common sense would lead one to believe that thirty to one hundred and fifty seconds would be appropriate.

You might notice that none of the reps or set combination recommendations coincides even in the slightest to Prilephin’s table. Therefore, these three program designs may best be used during an active recovery phase for probably not more than two or three days. Once these three days have passed then it would be best to get back onto a powerful strength-building program.

Three, ultraconservative, exercise progression systems

Let us look at each of these programs in a little more detail.

DeLorme and Watkins

DeLorme and Watkins developed their strength program by using a 10-repetition maximum (10RM) as the final goal of the trainees. This is a pretty simple set up. They recommended doing three sets of each exercise and then doing 10 repetitions each time. By today's standards, it would be difficult to develop maximum strength using the system and you will soon see why.

After an overall body warm-up, you do your first set at 50% of the 10-repetition maximum. The second set follows at 75% of the 10-rep maximum. The final set is another 10 repetitions at 100% of the 10-repetition maximum.

Even a casual glance at this schedule reveals the difficulty in achieving a true 10-repetition maximum on the third set. Nevertheless, in a therapeutic setting this was years ahead of what they had been doing prior 1948. Dr. Zinovieff identified the inherent disadvantages of the DeLorme and Watkins progressive system and modified it. He renamed it the Oxford technique.

The Oxford technique

As could be expected, once a trainee who was following the DeLorme and Watkins program reached the third set they were in a fatigued state and were probably unable to finish the repetitions. Dr. Zinovieff reversed the number of required repetitions and the percentages by starting at 100% with 10 repetitions for the first set. He then followed with the second set at 75%. The final set was 50% of the 10-repetition maximum.

This seems to make much more sense in that the first set of 10 is done when you are in a rested state. As you progress through the following two sets, with fatigue beginning to set in, the percentages are lowered to accommodate the declining physical ability.

Three, ultraconservative, exercise progression systems

Daily Adjusted Progressive Resistive Exercise (DAPRE) technique

This system is now more frequently used than either of the prior two. It is a complex program of exercising six days a week. This may seem like a lot but it is designed to meet each person's ability to bear the increased resistance based upon which set is being performed in the schedule.

The important part of this program is realized in sets three and four, but before getting there, we still have to do sets one and two. Set one is 10 repetitions at 50% of the anticipated 100% 10 repetition maximum. The second set is six repetitions the 75%.

The third set is as many repetitions the individual is capable of making at 100% of the 10 repetition maximum. The fourth set is again as many reps as possible. This is based on an adjustment determined from set number three.

The adjustment guidelines are somewhat complicated so here is a brief chart for you to look at and decipher at your leisure.

Guidelines for the fourth set

Number of repetitions from the prior set

Fourth set load based upon set three repetitions

Next day training load adjustments based upon the fourth load set


Lower the weight and redo the set

Lower the weight and redo the last set performed


Lower the weight by at least 5 pounds

Keep the same weight


Keep the weight

Increase the weight by 5 to 10 pounds


Increase the load by 5 to 10 pounds

Increase the weight 5 to 15 pounds

More than 13 repetitions

Increase the load by 10 to 15 pounds

Increase the weight 10 to 20 pounds

Three, ultraconservative, exercise progression systems

As can be seen by looking at the chart it is not as simple as just performing 50, 75, and 100% of the 10 repetition max load. To me this repetition scheme makes sense, especially if you are coming back from an injury. This program is both conservative and aggressive at the same time.

The determining factor for improving strength rests solely upon the trainees’ shoulders. Highly motivated trainees are going to do as many repetitions as possible in sets three and four, whereas the less motivated will do just enough to get by. The latter will pay a price later on for not pushing themselves to get the strongest possible during the process.

Research conducted in 2003 , compared DeLorme and Watkins with the Oxford technique, concluded that it was unclear which technique was more effective at developing strength. However, there was no mention of active recovery, which each of these three programs could do very well at fulfilling.

Adapted from Therapeutic Exercise for Athletic Injuries and chart based on Knight, 1985

Comparison of DeLorme with Oxford techniques. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2003;82:903-909.

Studies that have benefited strength athletes

As far back as 1985, scientists were examining the force velocity curve and its effect on maximizing muscle power output.

In one such study scientists in Finland examined the neural activation relationship between isometric force and relaxation time of the human muscle fiber characteristics in eleven males who were accustomed to strength training.

Beginning with a baseline test these eleven males started the training protocol. The intensities varied from 70 to 120% 1RM of the leg extension. I know I can hear you all saying "what a useless exercise", but for scientific purposes, it has its place, so bear with me on this.

The first twelve weeks of intense training

The fast twitch fibers became larger during this period and the athlete's strength grew by 26.8% over their tested 1RM. This strength increase correlated with higher electromyography[1] readings indicating greater neural input into the active muscle fibers.

The second twelve weeks of detraining

There were no hypertrophic changes to the muscle fibers during this phase of the experiment. However, there was a slight tapering effect noticed for a short time after beginning the detraining portion of the study. This was short lived and the usual after effects of detraining soon became apparent.

It was found during the time span that maximal strength declined greatly as did the EMG readings. In retrospect this should have been expected because the cross sectional area of the muscle fibers decreased during the twelve weeks of detraining.

The scientists concluded that strength improvements may be attributed to neural factors during high intense training. Even though a certain amount of hypertrophy took place the conclusions were this greater muscle mass may have limitations in the long run for highly trained athletes.

[1]Electromyography (EMG) is a test that checks the health of the muscles and the nerves that control the muscles

Paying attention to the red flags of pain

Pain is your body telling you something is not right. Maybe it's simply a little ache that quickly goes away, but what if it is excruciating. Some pain signs are serious red flags that need to prompt attention by a medical professional. Carefully consideration of these signs may be the step that is necessary to prevent further deterioration of a manageable condition. An emergency pain signal, one that should get you moving to an emergency department, is one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A sudden onset of severe pain that is unrelated to an accident or some other situation that commonly would constitute an accident
  • Upper abdominal area or chest pain or pressure
  • Having difficulty in breathing or suffering from shortness of breath that is not normal to your situation
  • Dizziness, fainting, weakness, particularly if the dizziness and weak condition comes on suddenly
  • Sudden severe headache or a change in your vision
  • Difficulty in speaking or understanding others
  • Confusion or sudden changes in your mental status, a loved one or someone close to you may be the first to notice this change
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Persistent and severe vomiting or diarrhea
  • Coughing blood
  • Vomiting blood

The major categories of pain-acute and chronic

Acute pain is normally the result of an illness, some sort of injury or occurs after surgery. This type of pain causes the body to automatically stop what you are doing in an effort to protect the body from further harm. This is due to the tissue damage that causes the pain receptors to respond.

Unlike chronic pain, acute pain can be pinpointed. You know exactly where you hurt and can put your fingers in the area where it hurts. Fortunately, this kind of pain generally subsides with time and gradually goes away.

Chronic pain by definition usually lasts six months or longer. It may stem from a chronic joint condition caused by arthritis, peripheral neuropathy or it could be the residual effects of an accident, infection, tumor or surgery that has damaged the nerves. In other cases, the cause of the pain is not understood because there is no evidence of a disease or damage to the tissues that would trigger it.

Changes in pain

Typically, your pain will gradually subside over time with the proper treatment. If this does not happen then a revisit with your doctor is in order just as it would be if the pain changes in character. For instance if your pain moves up the scale from mild to severe or greater then call your care provider and follow their suggestions. A more serious change would be an onset of new symptoms such as tingling or numbness; both demand a consult with your doctor as soon as you can get in to see them. Your doctor should revaluate these changes in the pain characteristics. They will conduct an examination and either eliminate a possible serious threat to your health or change the directions of the present care program.

Low back pain (LBP) is one of the most commonly reported health issues.

Throughout one's life, there more than likely will be at least one episode of low back pain. The cause can be muscle strains, deconditioning of the body brought on by a sedentary lifestyle, spinal disk damage from accidents and the degenerative diseases of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. In some cases, the pain escalates into an unbearable situation and must be aggressively dealt with by the medical professional.

In the present case of low back pain, serious red flags that appear need to be heeded and promptly attended to by a medical professional. If you experience the following, it is time to seek outside help.

  • Fever or chills and or night sweats
  • An inability to empty your bladder
  • Incontinence of your bladder or bowels
  • Weight loss that you cannot explain
  • Pain that cannot be relieved with rest and relaxation
  • If you are awakened at night by your pain
  • The inability of positional changes to alleviate your pain symptoms
  • Numbness, pain weakness in your legs, either one or both of them

These signs or symptoms could indicate an undiagnosed condition such as an infection, compression fracture of the spinal column due to osteoporosis, nerve root or spinal cord compression, a kidney stone or stones, an abdominal aortic aneurysm[1], spinal cancer or a tumor that may have started elsewhere and spread to the spine. In the case of the latter, these are especially true in the case of prostate, breast and lung cancers. Pay attention to what your body is telling you and don't let these signals pass without an examination by your doctor.

Reasons to exercise

The benefits of regular exercise are well known in today's society. It has been consistently demonstrated that it leads to a healthier more productive life. Being active lowers your risk of developing heart disease, adult on set diabetes, sometimes referred to as type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis. It's not only these benefits that result from exercise, others fall into place as well.

Those who are regular participants in moderate to vigorous activities have the ability to deal with the stresses of daily life and are less likely than non-exercisers to suffer from anxiety and depression. Longevity has a direct correlation to being active. The more active you are throughout your life the greater your chances of staying healthy and living a longer life.

Following a plan of regular exercise and eating healthy foods and fluids can lower the actuary[1] predictors of coronary heart disease and stroke. Exercising regularly often times means your critical health numbers will become lower. These numbers include your blood pressure, body weight, fat composition, blood triglyceride levels, and low-density lipoproteins (LDH).

The numbers indicating good cholesterol (HDL) rise with good exercise and a healthy diet.

Blood sugar tolerance, also known as glucose tolerance, is the ability of your body to regulate the level of sugar circulating in the blood. When this tolerance becomes lower, the amount of sugar in your blood becomes higher, which may lead to diabetes. Currently, about one in four older adults are at risk of developing type-2 diabetes in the US. The studies are clear in their findings: physically active people are less likely to develop this disease then those who are sedentary. Exercise improves the ability of the body to use insulin, which is a hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in the blood. This process maintains the blood sugar at the recommended levels.

The benefits of exercise far outweigh the time spent working out. Just of few of the reasons to exercise, include stronger bones and better mental health.

Improved bone density

Osteoporosis, a disease where the bones become fragile and fracture easily, is of concern to many older adults. This affects more women than men even though men still suffer from the disease.

Once osteoporosis has progressed to a dangerous level, even a small slip and fall can cause a broken bone, especially in the hips and wrists of a female.

Weight bearing exercise has been well documented in both medical and scientific literature to be of value in strengthening the skeletal bones. Strength training and impact exercises have a direct positive relationship to building stronger bones, particularly the long bones in the body. These types of exercises can help prevent further skeletal bone loss in those with osteoporosis.

Mental well-being is enhanced when you exercise. The release of natural chemicals into your body helps improve your outlook on life. They make the minor momentary pain of exercise feel good all day long. That's not all there is to the role of activity and exercise in making your life batter. An added outcome of regular exercise is the ability to control your weight.

Less body weight means less stress and trauma on your lower torso joints, i.e. the hips, knees and ankles. It makes sense that the more you weigh the more these joints have to work to stay healthy. Too much bodyweight can damage the cartilage, which in turn fosters the onset of arthritis and osteoarthritis and leads to joint implants.

Remember you will never exercise your way to more lean muscle mass through a high calorie diet. Eating or drinking too many calories will not be exercised away, contrary to what the machines are telling you about the caloric expenditure for X-amount of time on them.

Avoiding training injuries in the weight room

1. Keep the room clean and neat.
2. Maintain the equipment in excellent working order
3. Make certain to dynamically warm up before beginning to lift
4. Do not allow maximum weights to be used by beginner.
5. Pay attention while using the free weights
6. Provide close and correct spotting to those under maximum weight
7. Avoid doing only mirror muscles by following a balanced strength program

Serious sport participation preparation practices

Serious sport participation demands following specific preparation practices. The principles that follow have a well established pedigree that will ensure success if adhered to in the program design.

Athlete involvement in the process

To be the best does not mean blindly following a coach or trainers advice. The absence of ignorance in an athlete regarding their training sessions and the overall protocol indicates increasing motivation to read, study, learn, and practice a collaborative relationship with the coach. By making outside learning materials available to the athlete the coach is fulfilling the part of the teacher.

Taking advantage of these opportunities to increase their knowledge is up to the athlete.

A beginning resistance training routine

A beginning routine is made up of large muscle group exercises featuring balanced applications of sets and repetitions for both agonist and antagonist groups. After a movement specific warm up where each exercise is performed ten to twelve times do eight to twelve repetitions at your workout weight for two to four sets. A set is one group of eight to ten repetitions.

Follow each set with a rest period of sixty to ninety seconds, depending on your present conditioning status and then begin the next set of the same exercise. Move through the list at a steady pace. You should not be in the weight room much longer than forty five to fifty minutes.

The decision to do them all at one time will be a personal matter, one that takes into consideration the time you have to exercise. The full body workouts are good at helping to improve your general physical conditioning. This schedule would be done on alternate days so you have a recovery period inter spaced between workouts.

If you make the decision not to do them all in one session then consider doing the upper and lower body exercises on different days. Following this exercise schedule allows you to exercise five days in a row with the weekend off for active recovery activities.

These are the essential ten and form the foundations of any strength program regardless of how you decide to do them.

  1. Military presses
  2. Chin ups or pull downs
  3. Bench presses
  4. Barbell rows
  5. Squats
  6. Dead lifts
  7. Curl ups or full range sit ups
  8. Back extensions
  9. Laterals
  1. Calf raises

Using the big ten exercises in your training program.

Start out with one set of eight to twelve repetitions and after a week or two add an additional set. Several weeks later add one to two more sets until you reach four to five sets of each exercise. Begin with sets of eight and as you get stronger and can tolerate the stress of lifting gradually add more reps until you’re at twelve repetitions for four to five sets.

After three to four weeks have elapsed on this schedule begin to dramatically increase or decrease the repetitions on one of the days each week. This will shake up your body and make it realize that every day will not be the same. This is how growth takes place.

Once at the five sets of twelve it will be time to drastically change your entire program. But that is not what this article is about so I won’t address it now. Suffice it to say this will be the time in your program that new exercises, new reps and set schemes and different work to rest ratios will be needed to up the intensity necessary to continue your steady progress towards greater physical fitness.

After the exercises have been completed it’s time to start the cool down phase of the session. This period allows your body to readjust back to its normal temperature, pulse and breathing rates.

Midway through this cool down process do one or two static stretches for the various areas you’ve just worked out. Avoid, if possible, doing the same stretches each time by selecting a different one from any of the vast movements that are available.

Several of my favorite books are the Stretching Handbook by Brad Walker, Stretching by Bob Anderson, The Whartons’ Stretch Book by Jim and Phil Wharton, Stretching for Athletics by Pat Croce and Sport Stretch by Michael J. Alter.

After you have cooled down then it’s time to replenish your muscles with fuel. Eat a protein and high glycemic carbohydrate snack to help get your muscles back into the positive growing zone.


Start out by learning how to do the exercises correctly, be consistent in your exercise sessions, maintain the intensity, stick with the basics and eat well.

There you have it; a full schedule to get you into shape safely and effectively. But don’t get in a hurry to leave the gym just yet because you still have to cool down

Strength training

Working out with weights does more than just build muscle and increase your bone mineral density. It decreases your chance of injury and helps promote better agility, balance and coordination.

Stronger bones help to forestall osteoporosis and decrease the risk of fracture if you happen to fall. Not only will strength training help make you better in your chosen sport or favorite recreational activity it also strengthens your ligaments and tendons thereby making your joints less susceptible to injury.

The development of greater strength makes daily life easier by helping to eliminate muscle weakness and muscle strength imbalances within your musculoskeletal system. Being stronger makes carrying the groceries and working around the house less strenuous.

Resistance trained legs will make that daily walk or those recreational runs you may have planned to enter this year more pleasurable to accomplish.

For those of you who have recurring back, neck or shoulder pain a strength training program can be a God send. Simply getting stronger in these over worked and over stretched muscles can often time alleviate chronic pain symptoms.

Where to begin?

Start out by exercising the major muscle groups at least twice a week. These groups include the shoulders, upper back, chest, lower back, arms, abdominal, legs hamstrings and calves.

Do two to three sets of eight to ten repetitions with rest periods of thirty to sixty seconds between each set of exercises.

Adaptations to strength

Positive adaptations to strength and thereby power accumulations will take place with workouts scheduled twice a week. Day one should emphasize the development of strength through the use of heavy weight loads and low repetitions.

On the second day of training concentrate on increasing your power output by the use of alternating loading. Set up the equipment so there is a light and a medium heavy station for each piece of gear. The light spot will be loaded with weights in the 30-45% one rep max range. The heavy will be set at 60-75% one rep max.

Go from one directly to the other for one full set. The rest for three to four minutes before beginning again.

Or use the second day as a speed day with weights in the 45, 50 and 55% 1RM. For the squats do them in eight to nine sets of two reps, benches eight to nine sets of three reps and for the dead lift do them in ten to twelve sets of one rep.

Attack the weak points of your strength development

"Avoid what is strong and attack what is weak" (Sun-Tzu, The art of war, 500 BC). The same can be said for strength training: Keep your strong points strong but hit your weak areas with high intensity until they are the strong ones.

Train for strength and power

Train for strength and power by challenging your CNS to actively engage with the heavy weights. Develop strong tendons by using weight loads that will not allow more than 1-3 repetitions before failure. Focus on myofibrilar hypertrophy rather than sarcoplasmic. Work the muscles to be strong instead of just looking strong.

Working out at home

It’s nice to walk into a well equipped gym and be able to hit your session with unbridled enthusiasm. Normally the costs are within reason and if it has highly qualified trainers all the better. But what if you don’t have the money, the transportation or even the time to go to one of these places for your daily exercise? The solution can be found right in your own home.

If you are just starting out you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to get into shape. And you certainly don’t have to have the latest in workout clothing. Sweats and an old Tee shirt complement one another perfectly. I would recommend, however, investing in a good pair of cross trainer or basketball style of shoes.

Next, start saving a few plastic milk containers. These make ideal adjustable weights and setting them up is easy just put a ruler along the sides and measure and mark out inches all the way to the top.

Before you exercise add water or other material up to any of the marks and weigh it. Both containers should weigh about the same. Now you’ve got a set of dumbbells.

I’d suggest getting a skip rope. Buy a length of half to three quarter diameter sized nylon rope at the hardware store. The right length is about twice your height off the spool. It’s long enough when you can stand in the middle and each end comes up to your shoulders. Cut it off and then have the ends sealed to prevent it from fraying. You’re all set to go for the cardio portion of your exercise program.

If you have the inclination, then buy a set of exercise tubes. An alternative is to go to a medical supply store and get a few lengths of different sized latex surgical tubing. Make certain you aren’t allergic to latex.

Grab a big juice container of plain water and get started because every day wasted is one you’ll never get back.

Exercise suggestions for those with limited equipment

Make a space to work out in that is easy to get to. Get all of your gear in one spot so it is available for immediate use without moving a lot of stuff around each time.





Stability ball

Set up the dumbbells in 5, 10, 15, and 20 pound sets. Make sure the collars are on tight and the weights are centered on each one.

The warm up

Begin on the treadmill or your bike at the low end of each of the times. Start out at a walk for 1-2 minutes. As your pulse becomes faster increase the speed and work up to a fast walk or slight jog for another 2-3 minutes. Now slow to a walk for another 1-2 minutes. As you become stronger these times will seem awfully low, once that happens then add 10-25% more to each of them. At some point you will find the ideal warm up time that just feels right for your needs.

Leg rotations

Move your legs in giant circles, forward and backward and then out to the sides. Hold onto something sturdy if you are unsure of your balance. Gradually you’ll want to do these without support to enhance your balance capabilities.

Shoulder series

* Do each one of the following 15-20 times each.

* Wide clockwise circles with outstretched arms.

* Wide counter clockwise circles with outstretched arms

* Arms straight to the sides with palms facing the body moving out front and back over head without bending them

* Arms bent at 90° and then extended rapidly to the front and back to the 90° starting position

The exercises This is just a minute fraction of the ones that are available.

Column one

Column two

Column three

Column four

* Dumbbell Military presses

* Chin ups or pull downs

* Dumbbell floor presses

* Dumbbell rows

* One arm dumbbell rows

* Dumbbell bench Squats

* Wall squats

* Dumbbell dead lifts

* Dumbbell good mornings

* Dumbbell side bends

* Leg Raises

* Straight leg/stiff leg dead lifts

* Dumbbell curls

* Dumbbell Triceps extensions

* Dumbbell Wrist curls-flexion and extension

* Thors hammer wrist deviations

* .

* Dumbbell Calf raises

* Abdominal exercises of your choice

The schedule

Work out five times a week for fifteen to twenty minutes a day. Each day will be a different series of exercises that you choose to do. Start out by doing two sets of eight repetitions with a rest of 30 seconds between each set. Gradually increase up to four to five sets of eight as your conditioning improves. Work quickly but without throwing the weight around. Let your muscles do the work instead of momentum.

Keep your pulse up in the 70-80% target heart rate (THR) range as you exercise. This is found by taking your age from 220 and multiplying the result by 70-80%. Although this is a very common method of finding your THR it is also somewhat inaccurate because the outcomes may be off by as much as 10 percent plus or minus.

Begin your exercise session with the warm up, move onto your choice of exercises from columns one, three and four and then cool down with a few selected static stretches.

The second day of exercise begins again with the warm up and your selections from columns two and four. Follow this with your cool down and you are done for the day. The week ends can be days off or walking for fun sessions. Add weight as these become easier to do each day. The heavier you lift, the stronger you’ll become. The greater your muscle mass the higher will be your calorie expenditures each day.

Schedule sample

Day one from column one, three and four

* Dumbbell military presses

* Dumbbell curls

* Abdominal exercise

* Calf raises

Day two from column two and four

* Dumbbell bench squats

* Dumbbell good mornings

* Abdominal exercise

* Calf raises

Day three from column one, three and four

* Dumbbell military presses

* Dumbbell curls

* Abdominal exercise

* Calf raises

Day four from column two and four

* Dumbbell bench squats

* Dumbbell good mornings

* Abdominal exercise

* Calf raises

Day five from column one, three and four

* Dumbbell military presses

* Dumbbell curls

* Abdominal exercise

* Calf raises

Week end off

Day one from column two and four

* Dumbbell bench squats

* Dumbbell good mornings

* Abdominal exercise

* Calf raises

Day two from column one, three and four

* Dumbbell military presses

* Dumbbell curls

* Abdominal exercise

* Calf raises

Day three from column two and four

* Dumbbell bench squats

* Dumbbell good mornings

* Abdominal exercise

* Calf raises

Day four from column one, three and four

* Dumbbell military presses

* Dumbbell curls

* Abdominal exercise

* Calf raises

Day five from column two and four

* Dumbbell bench squats

* Dumbbell good mornings

* Abdominal exercise

* Calf raises

You will notice that each week emphasizes more of one part of your body by doing either upper or lower torso exercises three times instead of two sessions per week.

Samo samo

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over then expecting a different result each time. This may not be the actual definition of insanity but the concept certainly fits those who are exercising the same way and not seeing the results they want to achieve.

We had supper the other night with a long time friend of twenty three plus years who mentioned she was working out. When she told me what she was doing it turned out to be a pretty aggressive combination of cardio and strength training with a heavy emphasis on the cardio portion.

Most people who know me realize that once the fitness and strength topics come up I will have a comment or two about the subject. My wife just rolls her eyes most men would take this as a clue but being a bold person who can stand the wifely heat I plunge right in and put in my dollars worth of opinion.

In some cases the person may actually be on a good program but most of the time the program has far outlived its usefulness. The reason for this is your body demands a challenge. If this isn’t present then there are only two directions it will go; stagnate or slip backward, neither of which is what any fitness enthusiast want to see happen to their hard earned gains.

In order to make good progress each session a change is needed to your routine. And one of the ways to make these changes is to keep track of what you’re doing every time you exercise. It is really easy to fall into a pattern of doing the same thing every time you hit the gym. By looking at your logbook you’ll soon see these patterns developing.

Your body physiologically adapts to the stresses of exercise in this manner. First to the repetitions, next to the sets performed, then to the exercise itself. A variation in any of these three will create a whole new exercise experience, one that will keep you on the positive track to successfully achieving your fitness or strength goals. 

Energy system training

% max power

Primary system

Exercise duration

Work to rest ratio

90-100 %


5-10 seconds


75-90 %

Fast glycolysis

10-15 seconds




1-3 minutes




> three minutes


Rest periods per specific goals:


2-5 minutes


2-5 minutes


30-90 seconds

Muscular endurance   

< = to or up to 30 seconds

Depending upon your training goals these charts provide a guideline to the systems used in your training and the ways to implement them. It should be kept in mind that training one system at a time is the correct method if you expect to see results.

Information from Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning by Baechle and Earle

Beginning fitness and health exercise guidelines

Often times an activity requires specific equipment be available in order to participate. Advanced fitness and strength training methods fall into this category. However a beginner with the desire and motivation to get moving will do well without any specialized gear. Just the basics are necessary.

Clothing that is comfortable and even a bit loose fitting, paired up with a quality cross trainer athletic shoe can be a beginning. Place the accent on quality when making your purchases; they last longer and in the long run you get more for your money. Once you've got the clothing it's time to begin.

Start out with an overall general warm up prior to any intense exercise, the exception may be for those of you who like to jog. In your case just start out on your run but go slower until you are warmed up sufficiently to move faster. Notice that I am not advising you to stand like a stork and pull the other leg up to your buttocks. This is a waste of time and can cause injury to a cold muscle.

Exercise at an intensity level high enough to produce results. Aerobic benefits appear shortly when exercising within your target heart range. Stay away from the low intensity nonsense-get going. And for you strength athletes lift in the two extremes of your one repetition maximum. One day will be at the 30-60% for speed and the other at 85-100%.

Train at a level of intensity that allows you to carry on a conversation with your friends. If not, then you’re overdoing it a tad unless you are getting ready for a contest.

Keep yourself hydrated. The days of toughing it out without water are long gone.

The cool down is as important as the warm up. One of the most effective cool downs is to simply walk around until your breathing and pulse return to near normal levels.

If you happen to be a little under the weather, health wise, it's best to skip your session for the day. Get well and then hit it again.

Having a good time while you exercise means you'll more than likely stay with it longer and staying with it means making steady health progress.

Basic exercise routine strength training instructions

General warm up three to five minutes before each session consisting of one of the following:

Skip rope for two to five minutes-alternate high speed with moderate speed skips. Ride your bike/treadmill (if your bike an inside stationary one) in the same way as you skip.

Area specific warm up for ten to fifteen reps each movement.

Upper body

Four shoulder exercises

Lower body:

Body weight squats followed by body weight good mornings

Exercise specific movement

Begin with fifty percent of your anticipated workout weight for ten reps.
Vary the schedule from upper to lower starting out exercises each time you lift. Lift three to five sets of eight to ten reps with a work to rest ratio of
1:4-5. For example, if you lift for ten seconds then rest for forty to fifty seconds. You can go from one arrowed exercise to the next without much rest due to the agonist and antagonistic muscle actions. Rest a bit longer between the numbers sets.

Begin with 70% 1RM and after two to three weeks move up to seventy-five percent. At six weeks lift with eighty percent of your one rep maximum.

The workout schedule:

  1. Military presses   Chin ups or pull downs

  2. Bench press        Barbell rows

  3. Sit ups with weight-Cobras with a hold for thirty to forty seconds in the up position

  4. Squats       Stiff leg dead lifts (Hold off on these until I can watch you)

  5. Good mornings

  6. Calves-high reps of twenty to fifty for two to six sets

The cool down

End with static stretches for the exercised areas; allow your breathing and pulse to return relatively close to normal. Eat fifty grams each of a high glycemic carbohydrate and a good quality protein within ten minutes of finishing the session. Keep a logbook.

Body weight physical fitness standards

Males should work toward accomplishing one set each of the following exercises.

80 push ups
20 chin ups
20 one leg squats
40 dips
20 pull ups

Females should work toward accomplishing one set each of the following exercises

40 push ups
10 chin ups
10 one leg squats
15 dips
5 pull ups

In my opinion the previous standards are set far to low and should be raised as suggested here.

53 push ups
15 chin ups
15-20 one leg squats
26 dips
10-15 pull ups

A start up routine

Warm up: Skip rope or jog in place on the black mats.

Gentle over all body stretches.

Each exercise will require a movement specific warm up, generally 50%-60% of your projected peak weight for the day. Example if you bench 100 pounds your warm up should be in the area of 50-60 pounds. Thus, your weight sequence would be along these lines of progression. Keep a log.

  • Warm up 50-60

  • 75

  • 85

  • 95

  • 100

Maintain good form and technique on all repetitions. Technique first, increased weight addition next. Add in intensity on each set and you have a winning combination for success. If you have questions at any time ask a certified trainer.

Do the exercises one after another. Number 2 immediately follows number 1. Then rest 60-90 seconds and begin the sequence again, continue until the particular series of exercises have been completed.

Military presses 8 reps for 3-4 sets, increase weight on each set, followed immediately by…

Lat pull downs same reps/sets as military press. Now rest for 60-90 seconds as you change weights for the next set. Complete 3-4 sets and move on to the next double combination series of exercises.

Bench-press 8 reps for 3-4 sets. Keep both feet solidly on the floor, buttocks, shoulders and head all on the bench; this is referred to as the five-point stance. Follow this with the…

Bar bell or dumb bell rows 8 reps for 3-4 sets. Same rest period as in 1 and 2 above. Keep a good solid arch in your back.

Barbell curl 8 reps for 3-4 sets followed by…

Crunches on a bench or floor mat. Place your arms on your chest, curl your head up to your chest continue by curling your upper back and shoulders off the mat until up about 4-5 inches then slowly uncurl back to the mat and begin again until you reach the required number of repetitions. Same rest period as above.

Squats “the king of all exercises”! 8 reps of 3-4 sets. Use perfect technique; make certain you and your spotters know what to do. Maintain a solid arch in your lower back at all times. Begin with your buttocks and set back to slightly below parallel then back up again. Follow this by doing…

Stiff Leg dead lits 10 reps of 3-4 sets.

Standing calves 10-15 reps for 4 sets followed by

Seated calves 10-15 reps for 4 sets.

Cool down by walking around doing gentle over all body stretches.

The benefits of resistance training

A lifestyle of activity provides ongoing lifelong benefits for many people. Amongst these favorable side effects are reductions in high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Using our muscles helps in staving off osteopenia and osteoporosis by engendering positive changes in bone mineral density. This, along with a higher level of lean body mass leads to healthier body composition figures, i.e. more lean muscle and lowered adipose or fat tissue in the body.

For those who are finding it difficult to stay at a healthy body weight, strength training may be another method of control. It has been noted that muscle is more metabolically active than fat which means more calories are burned if you have more muscle mass compared to fat tissue.

A greater percentage of lean muscle mass brings with it increased feelings of self esteem, greater self confidence and certainly contributes to a much more positive body image.

Now that a few of the recognized benefits have been listed, it’s time to get started planning your strength training program.

Misguided, but well intentioned, people go out and buy an expensive, supposedly multipurpose machine. Those who do generally find that it doesn’t fit them, is uncomfortable to use, is too big, too cumbersome or worse yet hurts them. Simply put they would have been better off spending their money on a set of free weights, a bench and knowledgeable coach to guide them along for a few months. A small set of weights consisting off a couple hundred pounds, a sturdy bench and coaching sessions would set them back less than the high priced ineffective machine that ultimately will end up in the garage or basement and then in a garage sale.

Free weights provide endless opportunities to exercise. They create greater strength gains because of increased muscle fiber recruitment brought on by having to maintain the movement of the bar in its path instead of allowing the machine do it for you. Using free weights permits full range of movement during the exercise. This motion is unencumbered by the limitations of a machine and makes for unimpeded progress. Using free weights increases the range of motion helps to maintain flexibility in the joints.

Additional benefits of free weight set ups are greater personalized accommodation to individual body structure differences such as height, weight, torso types, limb length and joint mobility. Free weights mandate greater skill development in balance and coordination which are vitally important to leading an active life.

Probably one of the most important reasons to strength train is the fact that it will help to decrease fatigue brought on from daily living activities.

As we age the sense of balance gradually diminishes along with our agility, coordination and overall body awareness. All of which are leading causes that contribute to falls, injury and fractures. A healthy body plays a significant role in preventing injury and if injured then in the rehabilitation of that injury.

Many individuals who participate in sports find the stronger and more physically fit they become, the better their athleticism on the field.

If the choice is made to buy your own weights and get started, then it incumbent upon you to get a medical check up and discuss this exercise option with your doctor before starting out on your own to greater fitness.

Remember to have a spotter for over head, on the back or over the face lifts such as the military press squat or military press exercises. Of course if you decide to perform heavy lifting then a spotter should also be an essential part of your lifting program. Always use correct technique, lift safely, sensibly and smart.

Fitness 101-starting out on the right track

"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." St. Francis of Assisi

For many years now it has been the experience of fitness trainers that certain steps must be taken in order to ensure a successful transition from a sedentary life style to a more active healthy one. These progressive measures include ensuring the fitness program considers the individual’s medical background.

Once the background information is gathered it’s up to the trainer and the individual to sit down and map out a plan that will meet the expectations of the trainee. This will include, at a minimum a cardiovascular component, a flexibility piece and a strength element. Not all will be worked each session; instead they will be incorporated over time as adaptations to the regimen take place.

Many a person has started out training with a bang, only to drop out because their enthusiasm overwhelmed their body’s ability to keep up. Discouragement sets in and pretty soon one session after another is skipped. It doesn’t take many of these missed sessions before the person gives up.

On the other side of the coin is the person doing too little to make much of a difference. Each exercise session must be challenging enough to elicit positive physical and mental adaptations; otherwise it is simply wasted time.

A person who exercises far below their capacity, regardless of training experience, will only generate frustration with the lack of progress.

The degree to which your central nervous system is involved in the training plays a big part in determining the success or failure of achieving your goals. The more stimulation, up to a point, the more you get from the training.

Intensity and persistence are the keys to achieving your fitness goals.

Sport and lifestyle activity-range of motion exercising

Your joints and muscles are meant to function within standardized degrees of movement, commonly referred to as the range of motion (ROM). The stronger you are within these ranges, the better protected you will be in preventing injuries from occurring. Therefore when doing your exercise routine keep in mind the following two guidelines:

1. You gain the most strength within the range of motion (ROM) at which you exercise.

2. The smaller the range of motion you in the joint, the less will be the carry over strength throughout the rest of the movement.

The basis of every quality strength training or fitness program relies, in part, on these two premises. As an example, let’s look at the squat while explaining these principles.

Many lifters do short range squats, known as high squats, in the gym. They get into a machine or in rare cases under a bar and drop down a few inches and call it good. In many instances this isn’t even to a parallel position, let alone below parallel where they should be before starting back up again. Depending on the load of the bar or on the machine, strength may be increased within this small range of motion but its unlikely this will happen.

This range of movement is too little and does not support normal living activities such as sitting down in a chair and then getting back up. If the strength is not developed within a range that is vital to living an active lifestyle then it is not useful. This group of fitness enthusiasts would be better served by going deeper in their squats, thereby getting a transfer of useable strength into their daily lives. This naturally leads in to the second principle.

An individual or strength athlete will become stronger when training the full range of motion. This expands the strength curve and transfers more useable muscle activity across greater degrees of the joint angle. Greater degree angles of strength protect the joint from injury, especially at the far ranges of motion.

The take home message is don’t cut yourself short with limited range of motion exercises.

Progressing towards strength training

You have been working out for a while and you need a change of pace!  You have heard about strength training and you are wondering what it will do for you!  My objective is to help you make gains relatively quickly.  

Most trainees are involved in a regular exercise program and or in a bodybuilding-type training program.  Not too many are involved in strength training.  Let’s go through some basics first.  There are 2 different kinds of muscular hypertrophy.  One is for muscular size and the second one is for muscular strength and size.  We are going to focus on gains in muscular strength and size or strength training.   

High repetition sets relate to muscular size and low repetition sets relate to muscular strength and size.  You have been training for years or you are just starting out and you are regularly doing sets of 10 to 15 reps per set.   

One question that arises is how can I get results with fewer repetitions?  Let me explain.  For example, let’s take the bench-press.  You are used to doing 10 repetitions per set.  You are training towards becoming bigger and not necessarily stronger.  Why is that?  You chose a weight that will permit you to complete 10 reps with proper form and technique and you are going to repeat that for approximately 3 sets.  That is very good, except that you are training to increase size and strength suffers.  Now let’s take the same exercise and let’s focus on a maximum of 5 reps per set with proper form and technique.  The muscles remain strong and this brings good strength gains and this is followed by good quality muscular size.  This is a win-win situation. 

If you have been training for a while with sets of 10 you will need a little bit of time to adjust to this.  You are a beginner!  Right from the start you will build a strong foundation accompanied by good strength and size.  Remember that in order to get long lasting results in your quest to sports performance, enjoy daily activities, weight loss or whatever your objective may be, you need to train at the level at which you remain strong. 

Daniel Pare, NCCP, CSO, CSPS, CSTS.
Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach,
St. Thomas, 519-633-0771,
Fax 519-637-1210,
Email or
Web at

Old school vs new school

Are you still living in the dark ages when it comes to figuring out your maximum heart rate? You are if you're still subtracting your age from 220.

A knowledgeable trainer knows the resulting answer can leave you with a reading that may be ten beats off, high or low, in either direction . And if that is off, then so will be the target heart range percentages.

The most accurate method uses the revised Karvonen formula:

206.9 - (0.67 X your age) = Maximum heart rate (MHR)

Working out within the target ranges of 65-85% of your MHR is the recommendation for enhanced cardiovascular health. Once you determine your MHR then multiply it by any number between 65-85% to find your target heart rate number (THR).

The THR is where you need to exercise for best cardio effect. Keeping your pulse within the range your decide upon for five to six sessions a week for 30-45 minutes will get your aerobic capabilities up to par.

Neurons and sarcomeres

In the neuromuscular system the neuron provides the link between the nervous system and the muscles. Without this interaction no activity would take place.

The sarcomere is the smallest and most basic muscle unit. It contains all of the contractile and regulatory mechanisms necessary to function as part of the muscular system.

Muscle fibers contain hundreds to thousands of sarcomere. The muscles themselves are made up of numerous fibers.

Moderation is NOT the key to getting stronger

Moderation in all things in life has been the advice of many a parent over the years. It is almost a certainty that you have been exposed to this as you grew up. In most cases the saying has merit but not when it comes to getting stronger. When it comes to getting stronger, throw moderation[1] out the window. Your muscles don’t act in a moderate manner, so why should you?

Now just because I said to throw moderation out the window I did not say to throw caution out with it. Use your head while you train or suffer the consequences of your imprudent actions.

The all or nothing theory of muscle activation

Before we move on let’s review the all or nothing theory of muscle activation. This states that when a specific set of muscle fibers within a motor unit reaches its threshold of activation either all of the fibers in that unit fire or none do. There is no such thing as a ‘maybe firing’. This is similar to a woman being pregnant; she either is, or is not…there is no middle ground.

Once this concept is understood it’s time to consider what happens when the motor units are all firing to move the weight. Without something to protect the body from excessive loads it would be possible to damage the integrity of the joints. 

The protective joint sensors

The body has built in feedback loops to help protect it from harm. The most significant are the Golgi tendons and the muscle spindles. Both of which are ultra protective of the joints. Resetting the levels of activation for these protective mechanisms may be the key to greater lifting achievements.

The muscle spindles are located, actually intertwined within the muscles themselves and can sense when the muscles are being stretched (lengthened) rapidly. When this happens a signal is sent to the spinal cord which then tells the motor neurons to tighten up, i.e. to ‘reflexively contract’. (Strength Training, Brown, L. E. et al 2007). This helps prevent the muscle from being over stretched to the point of injury. However this only works during rapid lengthening of the fibers. A fiber that is slowly stretched doesn’t receive the signal to contract and is thereby susceptible to damage. The opposite reaction to the muscle spindle comes from its counterpart in the joint protective association; the Golgi Tendon.

The Golgi tendon, located at the junction of the tendon and muscle fibers intersection, senses when there is high tension on the tendon. When this sensation of excess is noted a signal is immediately sent to the spinal cord to inhibit further contraction of the muscles attached to the tendon. Additionally another signal is sent to the antagonist muscles telling them to contract. Here in lies the problem of moderation.

It may be that the Golgi tendon response is set too low. Readjusting this could be the answer to greater strength outputs. But this is dangerous territory as injury is just around the corner if the limits are pushed to far upward and the joint is damaged by a disproportionate, in relation to training experience, weight. The question before us now is how can we make these two seemingly incompatible protective devices work for us, and not against us, in our training.

The relationship between strength training and muscle activation

Since we know that the smallest and lowest threshold muscle motor units activate first we have to figure out a way to bypass this process. Secondly we have to figure out how to reset the Golgi Tendon response so more weight can be lifted. Is this a possibility? Yes to a certain extent it is. The answer is through proper training practices.

Periodization of the training load intensity, volume and rest to work ratios will allow this training effect to take place. Remember only those motor units that are recruited to lift the weight are trained. If they aren’t activated they won’t be exposed to the stress of the training. Recruitment of the type two fibers is the goal for the strength athlete.

The order of recruitment is thought to be genetically fixed however this may be altered by using heavy weight and/or placing a high power demand on the muscles. Variations in the recruitment order and small changes in fiber type composition are also thought to be possible through a well designed training program.

A competent strength coach will be able to design strength program for you that meets the needs of the prior discussion. If you are interested and motivated enough to follow through with the plan you will reap the benefits.


Resistance training, i.e. strength training can be a valuable asset in your sports activity program. These strength cycles will generate changes in the physiological make up of the body if they are properly planned. Moderation is not what will elicit these changes. Only maximal training effort will lead to maximal change in the muscle fiber recruitment and composition. The plan should involve periodization principles for the greatest effect and outcome.

[1]] Moderation is a relevant term in this context. Don’t be stupid with your weight training or you will get hurt.

A guide to determining sets, reps and rest periods for the beginner

Hypertrophy of the muscle fibers.

The recommendations here are non specific as to sarcoplasmic or myofibril hypertrophy. However, if you want to add strength to your muscles instead of just cosmetic size then stay on the shorter end of the rep ranges for this training cycle.

Due three to four sets of ten to twelve repetitions and rest between each set for approximately one minute. A shorter rest will be more along the lines of the bodybuilding programs, i.e. a 1:1 work to rest ratio. Whereas the longer one will help the muscles recover so more weight can be used thereby increasing the strength and size of the fibers and not the fluids in and around the cells.

For the strength and power training stick with four to five sets of three to five reps with longer rest periods between each set. The rest times during this training phase will be between three and four minutes. This allows the muscles to recover nearly 100% so they can continue putting out the effort necessary to push the weights the next set.

The strength sessions involve three to four sets of between six to eight repetitions with shorter rest periods than the strength and power cycle. Rest for pure strength is between two to three minutes.

A person starting out on a strength program will realize in a short time that these suggestions are the pathways to success.

Fat-the good and bad of it

A key component in assessing an individual’s health and physical fitness is knowing the body composition makeup. Obesity (excessive body fat relative to body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or more) and becoming overweight (Adults with BMI between 25-29.9 kg/m2 or with children being in and over the 95th percentile for their age and sex) is at epidemic proportions in the United States and the trend is gathering momentum.

Right now we are at the top of the fat list compared to the majority of the nations in the world-an unfortunate but sad fact.

Being obese brings serious health consequences and reduces life expectancy by increasing the risk of developing serious diseases such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, aka the silent killer, type 2 diabetes, obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis and even certain kinds of cancer.

Just as too much fat in the body can cause problems, so can too little. Our body needs fat to operate in a normal physiological fashion. For example the essential lipids such as the phospholipids are vital to cell membrane formation. The non essential lipids such as triglycerides which are found in the adipose (fat) tissue protect the body by providing a layer of thermal insulation. Fat tissue assists in storing metabolic fuel in the form of free fatty acids.

These same lipids are also involved in the storage and transport of the fat soluble A, D, E, and K vitamins and in helping to maintain the functionality of the nervous system. The menstrual cycle in females and the reproductive systems in both male and female rely on these cells, as does the growth and maturation processes of the pubescence child.

Thus too little body fat as seen in those with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, or someone with an exercise addiction or even certain diseases such as cystic fibrosis can lead to serious physiological health related consequences.

The best option is to be in the normal range for body fat, not over or under the recommendations if you desire to have good health.

Testing the body fat levels

The previous article briefly discussed the near crisis issue of being overweight and the staggering rise of obesity in our nation. Here we are going to look behind the scenes at the testing methods that determine fat or fit.

A classification of the level of body fat relies on the standard relative body fat percentages commonly used across the world. These classifications are in turn then broken up into age, sex, and activity body fat percentages at recommended levels. Across the scale women carry more body fat than males and younger people of both sexes carry less fat than older adults. This is due to the role women have in the reproduction of our species.

What are the body composition measures used for?

Body composition measures are useful in estimating a healthy body weight and figuring out a recommended nutritional plan. Both of these components are essential in designing an exercise program that will be beneficial to the trainee. Athletes who participate in weight bracket sports such as bodybuilding and wrestling need to know their ideal weight in order to be competitive. Pediatricians and other health care professionals make note of these measurements while monitoring the growth of children and to identify those who are at risk of being under or over weight.

The population of our country is getting older and the changes in body composition are important indicators of whether the person is remaining healthy or not. In each case the assessment of body fat helps to determine the nutritional and exercise prescription intervention strategies that play a prominent role in charting a course of action to improve health and fitness levels.

Background on the measurement procedures

The body is made up of water, protein, minerals and fat substances. Most body fat identification procedures rely upon the two component model which divides the body into two sections: fat free and the fat tissue. The fat free is made up of all the chemicals and the tissues including water, muscle and the bones. The rest is fat. The testing methods separate the water, protein and minerals from the fat and then give a percentage of lean body mass to fat mass. In the next article I will be briefly discussing the various testing methods. Until then, stay active and healthy in your life.

Listening to your body

Your body tells you what is going on…if you pay attention to it. Sometimes it is obvious; a muscle tweak or worse, an injury. Often it is just a feeling that you can’t quite describe or put your finger on. In the latter case it’s the status of your homeostasis being disrupted. You know it on a subconscious, internal sensation, level.

In order to recognize these inputs you must practice paying attention to them. This observational attitude has to be developed. It is not easy, but can be done with practice. Notice how your body responds to different stimulate, or how the bar feels in your hand as you lift. How does it feel or what is your body doing during these activities that are creating these sensations?

With practice you will become more and more aware of these ambiguous signs from within your body. You’ll be amazed at the detail provided by the movement and postures that take place during the exercise.

Learn to listen to these vague signals. You will be the recipient of valuable lessons and information. This will enable you to grow stronger and more powerful, both in body and mind.

Following the Pro's Routines

by Jon Miller

I thought about all the people who go pick up bodybuilding magazines and base all they do from the information they find there. It's a very unfortunate situation. I say this because bodybuilding magazines do have some good information. However, not all the information is good.

The main items that are not good information are the pro bodybuilder's routines. You know what I'm talking about. Every single issue has more than one of these.

"Yes, yes, I know what you're talking about, Jon. But what's so wrong with them?"

To put it bluntly, the articles are full of crap. First of all, we have probably never seen one of these articles that lists a pro's real training routine. I have even spoken with a few different people who told me of their days in California where people would look at magazines and say things like, "I know that's not how he trains, I have trained with him before!"

The problem is that most of these articles are written by ghost writers. These ghost writers create the articles. Then the pro bodybuilder (who is under contract with the specific magazine publisher) is credited with the article. They throw in a few pictures, put their name at the end and voila! And the mags sell like crazy. Please believe me, I'm not making this stuff up. This is common knowledge in the bodybuilding world.

The main problem with these training routines is they will over train you big time. For example, a shoulder routine will usually consist of 12-16 sets of exercise for one muscle. Way too much! You could make it work by using 2 of the 3 or 4 sets per exercise as warm-ups, but most people do not know this. They just go into the weight room and start pumping out 12-16 hard sets (usually after too few warm-ups, if any at all). It will take no time at all until a person becomes over trained and probably injured. These routines would be able to hurt you even if you were pumping yourself full of illegal steroids.

Another problem is that now days these articles are written more to advertise some nutritional supplement products. Many times it's more like an advertisement with a little bit of horrible training advice thrown in. People see that this huge guy claims to take this product and follow this routine. "Look, he's huge; I better do it, too!" Yep, I'm sure there's not a big money industry behind all this...

So, since I have ripped on these magazines, I will say that there is some good information in them as well. Usually the diet information is good. They push the idea of eating smaller, more frequent meals. They always tell the importance of high protein and moderate carbohydrate intake. Some are even getting better about accepting fat into diets. Just get past each magazine pushing its own product and you can see good information to use.

The point is to remember these magazines' main objective. Keep a close eye on them. Remember that the articles are almost always just another ad for their products and/or their professional bodybuilder. Look past the stuff that you know is junk and absorb only the good basic information. Keep this in mind, enjoy the pictures and be on your way to a strong healthy life.

Training for Strength

The only way your muscles will ever develop maximum strength is by training them to be stronger. Training like a bodybuilder is NOT the way to do it.

The muscles need to be over loaded in such a manner that the contractile properties of the muscle fibers are increased.

Bodybuilding will not overload the muscles filaments in the same fashion as strength training. The percentage of the 1RM is lower and thus will not engage the myofibril hypertrophy mechanism of the body.

The conjugate system that is working so well in the strength field is an off shoot of the Russian coupled successive system. In fact this evolved from the multi-lateral skill development approach favored by the eastern block countries of years past.

Beginning with the premise that everyone has specific skills and these skills can be developed with proper training at the appropriate ages of maturity.

This type of selection process is valid only at the low end of the qualifications and not for the advanced athlete as their needs are much more specific in nature. Thus a multifaceted approach to training is necessary for these young athletes.

Is your heart on top of your training?

Do you know if you and your heart are training at a sufficient level to make progress by encouraging the heart muscle to get stronger? If not then the next time you train try counting your heart beats and find out where you stand. This is a quick and dirty way of finding out if you are on track to achieving higher levels of fitness.

To begin the test make sure you have the right equipment on hand. You will need a clock with a sweep hand, or a digital one with an internal stop watch or better yet an actual stop watch. As soon as you are finished exercising take your pulse. Do not wait even two to five seconds to do so or the results will be misleading. Now that this figure is noted take your pulse again in exactly one minute-not a minute and two seconds but precisely one minute. If for example you decide to count right after your exercise is done and do so for one full minute then the second minute would begin immediately with not interruptions between the two.

The next step is to subtract the second reading from the first and then divide the answer by 10. The resultant answer is then compared to the following chart to determine your level of cardio-over all physical fitness.

If your calculations come up less than the number 2 then you are in poor shape and need to work out a bit more and a bit harder by upping your cardiovascular workouts. Raise the target heart rate percentages up into the 70% HR for your age and gender.

Numbers between 2-3 indicate a fair fitness position but it definitely could be improved with higher workout intensities.

Good readings start to appear between 3-4 and get even better at ranges of 4-6. Superior fitness is indicated when the numbers are above 6.

If you are already in superior shape then the dividend number changes. In this instance take your pulse immediately after exercising as before and then again at the thirty second mark. Now rather than dividing by 10 you will divide by 5 to arrive at the answer.

If you are concerned about overtraining take your pulse three mornings in a row as soon as you wake up. If by chance you are entering the overtraining phase of things your pulse may be up higher than normal. Some of the literature suggests these higher pulse rates can be as much as ten beats more per minute than normal. If this is the case then it’s time to lower your level of training until your body has a chance to recover.

General Upper Torso Stretches

Shoulder front

Standing upright with good posture put your hands together behind your back, keeping your arms straight raise them slowly upward to the rear. Hold for a moment then lower back down and begin again.

Shoulder rear

Continue standing with good posture in an upright position. Take one arm and hold it horizontal and parallel to the ground. Now move it across your upper chest so the hand is on the opposite side. With the opposing hand hold the elbow of the horizontal arm and begin pulling in a gentle manner toward your chest. Hold the stretch for a moment and release then repeat.

Favorite shoulder stretch

Stand facing a wall with outstretched arms. Lean into the wall and rest on your hands now look between your arms and lower your head toward the floor. Feel the nice stretch in your shoulders. This can also be done by placing your fully extended arms onto a bench or chair and leaning downward toward the floor.

Floor stretch

Get on your hands and knees. While keeping your arms straight set back on your calves with your buttocks touching them. Put your head between your arms and touch the floor with your head.

Towel stretch

The old standby for working the shoulder range of motion is the towel stretch. Starting with a bath towel or dowel rod slung over your shoulder and dropping toward the floor hold the top with one hand the bottom with the other in your other hand. Now you can go one of two ways: either pull down with the back hand or pull up with the hand at the top. In both instances, the pull should be gentle as your shoulders are in a vulnerable position and easily damaged. A soft pull is what you are looking at achieving, just enough to stretch the shoulders. The ideal is to be able to touch your hands together in the middle of your back. This may be nearly impossible if you are heavily muscled.

In a standing position interlace your fingers on top of your head. Now move your elbows and hands to the rear.

Chest favorite

Standing next to the wall, a door frame or better yet a power rack, reach behind and hold onto the surface. The stretch begins as you turn your shoulders and upper torso away from the wall, door or power rack. This works really well with the power rack.

Power production from the squat

Information gleaned from the NSCA Journal of Strength Conditioning and Research by Zink, A. J., Perry, A. C., Robertson, B, L, Roach, K. E. and Signorile J. F.

Peak power, reaction forces with the ground and velocity are affected by varying the loads used in the squat. All of the squats in the research were performed by experienced lifters and were at parallel with as much explosiveness as their individual technique allowed.

The results were calculated using the barbell velocity and the ground reaction forces that were generated by the force velocity curves arrived at from the peak power, peak ground reaction forces and the peak barbell velocity established during the lift. The differences were not significant for loads used in for peak power. But it is interesting to note that the greatest peak power developed occurred with loads of 40 and 50% 1RM. Higher loads generated the greatest peak ground reaction forces and greater force at the time of peak power production. These figures held true for all loads outside of the 60-50%, 50-40%, and the 40-30% ranges of 1RM for peak ground reaction forces and then again between loads of 70-60% and 60-50% 1RM for the force at the time of peak power. Higher loads showed up in the calculations with a lower peak barbell velocity and velocity at the time of peak power, as would be expected.

The exceptions to these loads were in the 20-30%, 70-80%, and the 80-90% 1RM.


Knowing the loads that have an impact on velocity of movement, peak power or peak ground reaction forces will enable the strength coach to develop appropriate training plans for the athlete, regardless of the `sport.

Men’s muscle measurement guidelines

If you are lifting heavy and are interested in how you stand up to the next guy in relation to body measurements then here is the information you have been waiting for. It is taken from an old chart developed by the long time strong man, weightlifter, bodybuilder and physical culture icon John C. Grimek.

These are figures that he came up with for determining the ideal measurements for the average trainee. They not based on the steroid bloated aberration of physical fitness so often depicted in the magazines sold on the newsstands. Take each listed body part and multiply by the co-efficient as directed to see where your physique compares to his standards.

Note: All of the measurements are taken at the smallest part on the knees and wrist.

The normal trainee measurement figures

Biceps-the co-efficient 2.10 inches is multiplied by your wrist size
Chest- 5.62 multiplied by your wrist size
Waist-equal to at least 64% of girth of your chest
Thighs-the co-efficient is 1.44 multiplied by the measurement taken around the small part of the knee
Calves-67% of the thigh size taken at the largest part
Bodyweight-2.55 is multiplied by your height in inches. This particular one seems really, really low. So take it with a grain of salt as you compare yourself to the figures. You may also want to take a long look at yourself in the mirror especially if you think you’re buff but in fact are carrying an excessive amount of body fat.

The measurements for the serious trainee

Biceps-the co-efficient 2.32 inches is multiplied by your wrist size
Chest- 6.42 multiplied by your wrist size
Waist-equal to at least 71% of girth of your chest
Thighs-the co-efficient is 1.63 multiplied by the measurement taken around the small part of the knee
Calves-72% of the thigh size taken at the largest part
Bodyweight-3.1 is multiplied by your height in inches. Now this is more like it, at least for the body weight.

Maintaining range of motion

Strength training and stretching go hand in hand towards increasingly better fitness levels. A loss of flexibility brings with it a loss of functionality in daily living activities as well as in the weight room.

Stretching is not meant to hurt-unless you are in the active stages of recovering from a surgery to one of your joints or muscles. In which case the stretches will hurt; but a successful outcome depends on regaining the lost range of motion.

This involves loosening up the areas around the surgery and daily motion of the joint or muscle. It should not swell afterwards because if it does then you have pushed it too far, too fast. Back off and get the swelling under control and then work the movements again being careful not to cause swelling again. Ice and compression are important tools to use after surgery and after exercising the area.

Prevention of the loss of joint range of motion depends on following a pattern of stretches that follow these minimal guidelines.

1. Static or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation general stretching programs involving the major muscle and tendon groups such as the shoulders, chest, upper and lower back, and the legs.
2. Do your stretching two to three times a week or after each strength training session.
3. Hold each stretch to a point of mild discomfort unless working past a surgery limitation then it will be a bit tougher and deeper into the discomfort zone.
4. Each stretch needs to be held a minimum of ten seconds for each static stretch and up to six seconds for each PNF contraction which are immediately followed by the assisted stretch.
5. Perform each selected stretch for three to five times each.

A little bit each day will produce amazing results in a very short time.

Rest Intervals Between Training Days

It is a well established fact that training days separated by two non training days is effective at restoring the muscles ability to produce force. The two day split is significantly more effective than the normal one day break so commonly seen in the weight rooms.

Balancing out your exercise program

It is well established that exercise benefits us in many areas such as increased self confidence, improvements in our moods, and longer healthier lives. Simply being able to do what you want to do physically and mentally may be made easier by engaging in a long term pattern of running, weight training, stretching/balance, and recreational sporting exertions.

During spring time the runners start hitting the road, especially those who are getting ready to run Bloomsday here in Spokane, Washington. While running is an admirable endeavor, it is not enough to keep your body in top physical condition. Our body needs physical and mental stimulation which is only achievable through the use of a variety of methods.

Cyclic exercise, similar to running, stresses the cardiovascular abilities thereby increasing the capacity to engage in lengthy activities through enhanced oxygen transfer to the working muscles. However, exercising in this manner will not increase the lean muscle mass composition of our body. In order to do that resistance training is necessary.

Weight training helps build strong bones.

Bone density responds directly to increases in intensities of load and site specifically to the greater pressures required to move the load. Adaptations take place within the structures of the bone that make it more resistant to the imposed loads and thus stronger.

Women in particular need this load bearing weight on their long bones, the spine and hips to stave off and help prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis from occurring. Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease that progressively decreases the bone density which in time leaves them weakened and vulnerable to fracture.


Getting stronger helps in other ways too. The strength to recover from a slip may prevent a bone damaging fall. Postural muscles that are strengthened through weight training inevitably lead to improved posture and a reduced potential of lower back problems. Even though strength training is high on the list of maintaining a strong fit body other pieces of the equation are important too. For instance being flexible enough to tie your shoes or even scratch your back is an important part of living a full and healthy lifestyle.

Work the joints normal range of motion each day by following a stretching program. But be cautioned that static stretching performed before a strength training session has been found to lower the power output by as much as 8%. If you are a sprinter, thrower or recreational handball or tennis player stay away from these at the start of your activity. The proper place for a static stretch is at the end of the workout when the muscles are warm and receptive to change. Doing so before hand, is an invitation to injury.

Find a good stretching book; read up on the proper way to stretch and start applying these to your exercise program. Brad Walker’s ‘Stretching Handbook’ or Bob Anderson's‘Stretching’ are two of the premier ones on the market and each one has stood the test of time. Even though flexibility is important it is not the end of the line. Maintaining your balance becomes harder as we age.


Beginning around the fourth decade, we start to lose a small percentage of the ability to keep our equilibrium . Losing your balance leads to falls and possible fractures, or other injuries if not prevented.

Prevention begins with daily practice. Standing on one foot or with heel to toe for multiple seconds at a time (60-120) will help stave off this decline in balance. Leaning toward the floor on one leg with arms to the side or rear will change the center of gravity and will change the feel of the exercise. In each instance it is important to have the ability to catch yourself on something solid to prevent a dangerous fall from happening in the event you do lose your balance while doing these.

Balance is critical to our daily living activities. Without balance, we would be constantly reaching and grasping for stable objects to prevent falling, stumbling or injuring ourselves.

Here are several variations of a basic exercise to help develop and maintain your sense of balance. Once you are able to do one exercise example for up to one minute without movement, then progress to the next example.
Make certain you are standing near a sturdy chair, or wall, to help catch your balance, if need be, in the following sequences of movement.

Basic example:

• Stand with your feet touching one another in a side by side or heel to toe fashion.
• Hold your hands at your side and close your eyes.
• Maintain this position, without swaying side to side or backward to front, for several seconds up to one minute.
Novice example:
• Assume the same position with your feet as the basic example above.
• Move your arms to the sides in a random fashion, still maintaining your balance.
• Tip your head back and continue to move your arms.
• Now close your eyes and continue the arm movements.
Intermediate example:
• Maintain the feet in the same pattern, side to side or heel to toe.
• Reach down to the front, side and the rear with one arm then the other.
• See how far you can reach down before losing your balance.
• Remember to keep your feet together and don't sway as you reach, just reach, keep your balance and then reach in another direction.
Advanced example:
• Keep the feet in the same position as the rest of the examples.
• Tip your head back and now close your eyes.
• Move your arms in a random fashion, one arm at a time.
More advanced example:
• Feet are still in the side-by-side or heel to toe position.
• Head tipped back and eyes closed.
• Lift one leg off the floor and maintain your balance for 10-15 seconds, gradually build up your ability to remain in one position without moving about to stay upright.
Another advanced example:
• Set up is the same as the more advanced example with the simple change now of adding the reaches as mentioned in the intermediate example.
• Or you can move your head from side to side in a rapid manner while maintaining your balance.

Of course there are many other ways to practice balance training but this article is not being written to list them all. Suffice it to say balance is a critical part of living a healthy life.

Before engaging in any exercise program, check with your primary care provider.

Strength Training Isometrics Revisited

Holding a maximum isometric contraction for longer than six seconds may cause injury to your muscles, ligaments and tendons. A better way to incorporate isometrics into your program is to use the dynamic method. This involves stopping at various points in the movement for several seconds then continuing on with the exercise.

Picking your Weights

Enthusiastic method – finding the weight that is within your capabilities will be found within one to three sets.

Start with a general warm up for one to three minutes: skip rope, ride a bike, or row.

Specific warm up of a light weight that you can do an easy full range of motion for 12 reps.

Pick a weight that you think you can do for 8 repetitions.

Now do 2-3 reps. Does it feel easy, if so add a bit more to it. 5-10 pounds for an upper body exercise and 10-20 for a lower body one. If it felt hard then decrease the load by the same poundage’s as listed in the previous sentence.

Do a set of 8 reps. Did it feel right, if not add or subtract according to the recommendations above.

Repeat for one more try at selecting the right weight load for your next workout.

Write down your weight for the next time you lift.

Slower method – the workout weights will be figured out within two to four workout sessions.

Start with a general warm up for one to three minutes: skip rope, ride a bike, or row.

Specific warm up of a light weight that you can do an easy full range of motion 12 reps.

Pick a weight twenty to thirty percent heavier than the specific warm up work out weight.

Do this weight 10 times. Does it feel easy; if so add a bit more to it. 5-10 pounds for an upper body exercise and 10-20 for a lower body one. If it felt hard then decrease the load by the same poundage’s as listed in the previous sentence.

Write this weight down in your log book for the next exercise session.

Repeat this sequence for the next several exercise days until you have a weight that is difficult but not impossible to do for 8-12 repetitions. This is your weight load until you are able to add two more reps to the last set over two consecutive sessions.

Once arriving at this point you are ready for some serious resistance training. Add weight accordingly by increasing the load 5-10 pounds for an upper body exercise and 10-20 for a lower body one.

The ABC's of Life

Agility, Balance and Coordination

Remember a time in the past when you had to learn the ABC’s. It was something you had to do before you could read. The ABC’s are still important but they take on an added meaning when it comes to what they stand for now-Agility, Balance, and Coordination.

Losing the ability to maintain agility, balance and coordination does not have to be the inevitable outcome of getting older. However, an increase in age brings with it a decline in these three characteristics while at the same time increasing the risk of injury. But, practicing the ABC’s each day will help to stave off the natural loss of these capabilities.

The ABC’s of Living

Agility is the ability to perform movements by making graceful and fluid, well-coordinated changes with the entire body, quickly. Balance is the ability to maintain the center of gravity and still be able to continue with the task at hand. These two are fairly well understood processes.

Coordination, or the blending together of agility, balance, sense of rhythm, spatial orientation, kinesthetic differentiation, and reactivity to sound and visual signs is the most complex and the least researched of these essential functions. This is the component that needs work.

The physiological roots of coordination reside in the neurological synchronization of the muscle fiber motor units excitation sequences. These neurological signals must direct movement in one part of the body and not ‘spill over to other motor units directing other parts of the body.

Try this simple test of coordination and see how you do:

Make big circles with one leg as you simultaneously move each arm in opposite directions.

Squat down as you move your arms up and as you raise up from the squat move your arms down.

By the time you are reading this article, the sensitive times that are the most effective in training coordination will have passed, as these times are from the ages of 7-14 in the majority of us. But, it’s not too late to begin.

Each day do a coordination movement, practice it until it’s easy to do then add in another one. You don’t need to be at the level of a circus performer, you just need to do it each day for one or two minutes.

Notice the use of circle moves, circles tend to disrupt the natural flow of the senses, especially opposing directions limb to limb.

Here are a few more to try; feel free to expand on these with ones of your own.

Get on your hands and knees, now move one leg and the opposite arm in circles

Sit on the floor, raise both of your legs off the floor, now pedal and at the same time move your arms up and down.

Jump up and down as you spin in a circle and move your arms vertically in opposite directions

Jump backward and raise your knees to your chest at the same time

Jump in place and as you are in the air turn 180 degrees before landing again

The Components of Physical Fitness

Every person has a different idea of what constitutes physical fitness. Some believe if you are able to run a mile or lift a heavy weight you are fit. But are you?

There are many aspects to consider when discussing physical fitness and each of these may change with time, place, type of work being done and the presenting situation. However, all of the physical fitness pieces are a result of everyday activity, and the encoding of the genetic potential of the individual. How you make use of what you have been given depends on how dedicated you are to the increasing your personal level.

Physical fitness is the achievement of motor tasks such as speed, strength and endurance and the physiological responses to the imposed stress placed on the body during physical activity. Thus fitness is both dynamic, (motor achievements) and static, i.e. medical fitness. Top performance is a combination of the two and is attainable only through the reaching of peak physical fitness.

Looking at the concept of fitness a bit closer will reveal that it is the ability to perform everyday living tasks willingly and with enough energy left over to then enjoy other physical activities during the remaining free time. And to have enough energy left in reserve to meet unexpected physical and mental demands. Put another way it’s the state of the person’s level of ability for activity.

Fitness enhances the performance of significant agility, dexterity, strength, speed, or other motor qualities or the development of these abilities that are then measurable by testing that requires no proficiency of a particular sport technique.

Another way of looking at the issue is to determine the shape or condition of the organs and their specific level of functioning as expressed via the solving of versatile motor tasks. This helps to determine the developmental degree of the individual’s motor abilities.

In many cases, physical fitness can be seen as the ratio of effectiveness of the total complexion of the body to its predisposition toward success in the sport. Furthermore, it can also be stated as a realization of life style and/or the system of values expressed in how a person lives their life every day.

It has even been equated to the biological value of the human and is the entirety of the person’s ability and skill to perform all movement activities.

As can be seen from the few paragraphs above fitness is defined in many different ways. This fitness ability is not given to a person in one dose nor is it permanent or dispensed in equal amounts to all people. Fitness has to be sought after and relentlessly pursued if it is to be obtained. It is never given out on a silver platter.

Five Steps to More Muscle Mass:

3500 calories equals one pound therefore:

1. EAT
2. EXERCISE the major compound muscle groups
3. EAT
5. EAT

The Make up of a Resistance Training Program

Starting a training program shouldn’t be more complicated than just throwing on a pair of shoes or heading off to the gym for a few sets of squats or bench presses. As long as your body is receiving a positive stimulus it will attempt to overcome the stress that is placed on it. If you are sedentary and have never exercised before then this may work; for a while at least. After a short time though the body adapts to the stimulus and stops making positive health gains as it accommodates to the new level of activity.

Well designed exercise programs contain these nine parts-does yours?

1. Before beginning any new exercise program discuss your plans with your health care provider. After the consult with your doctor get a fitness evaluation by a certified strength and conditioning specialist. If the gym you are joining doesn’t have these nationally certified trainers then perhaps the fees they charge to join aren’t worth the risk of being there in the first place.

2. The choice of exercises will determine the outcome. If all you do is barbell curls then all that will adapt will be the biceps. What about your heart, your flexibility and your strength? Those are important wouldn’t you agree.

3. How often you engage in physical activity will govern your fitness level. If you are an elite athlete then you will be able to exercise more each week and in some cases more times each day. As a recommendation start out slow as you build up your tolerance to exercise.

4. There are many trainers who religiously follow the principle of exercising the largest muscle groups first and then the smaller ones next until the session is completed. However if the smaller ones are holding your back then they need to be first on the list. At the beginning of the session your energy levels are high, so that is the time to do your priority muscles. Which ones you choose is up to you. Just make certain both sides of the joint are worked.

5. The load on the bar for each exercise will be guided by the goals. If massive strength is the desired outcome then heavy weights with low repetitions will be the order of the day. If being able to run miles at a time without stopping is what you want then it will be a vastly different schedule.

6. The total volume of sets and repetitions varies as much as the goals of the individuals who work out. Many sets of many repetitions will cause muscle hypertrophy or an enlargement of the muscles. Heavy weight and low repetitions go hand in hand.

7. Rest periods are an essential part of designing a program, for without the correct rest between each set the proper energy system will not be called upon to react.

8. Staleness sets in with the same sequence performed day after day. The inevitable result is the dreaded plateau where progress stops.

9. Progressive load management, in an undulating periodization fashion, leads the way in modern program design.

Mental Imagery

Mental imagery as used by many athletes of the world, works. This skill often referred to as visualization, mental practice, and mental rehearsal skill development.

The premise asserts there is a connection between the mind and the subsequent neuromuscular reaction. Taking the thought further this process happens without conscious awareness between the conception and the execution of the act. This concept of the mind muscle connection is evident in the Electromyographic (EMG) analysis of muscle engagement and movement.

Four groups of athletes were studied. The first did the task, the second group imagined the task through to completion, the third performed eye movements only while the last passive control subjects received no training at all. After the tests of speed accuracy were completed it was determined that mental training promotes the skill of the visualized physical movement.

The research has demonstrated and produced data that shows the brain can initiate motor movement without actually moving muscles. So clearly the link is there. But just what is mental imagery and how can it help you become stronger?

Simply put it means using your imagination to create powerfully realistic perfect scenarios of future athletic events as a rehearsal for the actual competition. It can also be used to recreate past successful activities to either promote a higher level of emotional engagement or to lessen prestart energy nervousness. Imagery provides the athlete with extra intensely focused training time-in their head.

Your athletes, or maybe even you, probably already use mental imagery. It comes naturally. What doesn’t come naturally is doing it in a systematically purposeful fashion.

Skills develop through practice by perfecting precise movement patterns.

Mental training is much the same. It has to be trained in a systematic and correct manner if it is to become productive. Some athletes shy away from these types of exercises because it’s too hard or they don’t believe in its effectiveness. Either way these individuals are not living up to their physical potential.

Mental imagery training is useful to an athlete in a number of ways:

Seeing success
Managing energy levels
Learning and perfecting the sport skills
Preparing for an event

Seeing success

Perfect visualization of a technique, skill or of achieving goals instills confidence in the person that these are attainable. Expansions of limits and greater expectations of the possibilities that exist are made feasible through the mental pictures. Perceptions of what it feels like to succeed, by executing perfect movements, pre program the brain and neuromuscular apparatus of the organism to then accomplish the tasks.


Long periods of training sometimes induce a lack of motivational intensity within the athlete. Imagining past successes and high level competitive results can be a help in maintaining the persistence to continue the programs present cycle.

Managing energy levels

Use calming images to relax and high energy ones to raise or psych yourself up.

Learning and perfecting the sport skills

Perfecting a sport skill through mental imagining allows an additional form of practice and this practice can be made perfect; in your brain. This training helps correct technique mistakes or errors of skill execution during the competition by going over step by step every movement.

Reducing these patterns and slowing them down into manageable parts allows analysis and corrections to be made of the various segments.


Distractions surround an athlete both in training and competition. Minimizing those that come up allows for a more complete focus on the task at hand. Developing a reference point will often get the trainee back on track by gently reminding them of what is important at the moment.

Preparing for an event

Mental preparation is a vital as the physical conditioning. According to Dariusz Nowicki ‘when two athletes of equal physical skill and ability compete with each other, the one who is better mentally prepared is the winner. It even happens that an athlete perfectly prepared physically loses against a physically weaker but mentally stronger opponent’.

In the case of preparing for a meet visualization allows the athlete to be in the environment, rehearsing the moves, techniques and skills necessary for success and then reinforcing the key elements that will take place during the contest. Even unexpected situations that may appear in the meet can be prepared for by imagining what to do at these moments to successfully deal with them.

Training your visualization skills

Find a quiet place to practice, later on you can go into different situations and continue to develop these skills under varying conditions. To begin with follow these suggestions in order to get the most from your mental training sessions.

Take these training suggestions one at a time until they become second nature to do.

See yourself performing a skill or movement from start to finish in a precise and perfectly clear manner. These images should not be fuzzy or be seen with gaps in the execution of any of the activities.

Control the images so they are performing exactly right each time for the entire length of the skill. Doing so helps to ‘set’ the tone for the visualization to become successful in real time and motion.

Engage all of your senses while imagining. The more sensations you are feeling during this session the greater will be the transfer to real live experiences. Feel the knurling on the bar; acknowledge the weight and how it pushes into your palm or shoulders. Can you hear the announcer calling you to the platform, or are you ‘in the hole’ about ready to lift? How about the smell of the ammonia or the sight of the chalk in the air, on the floor and on the bar when you lift? You can almost taste it if you are in the zone of mental imagining.

Premeet jitters or premeet lack of involvement will affect your performance in a negative way. Deal with them in your mind. Practice seeing success by envisioning yourself as being full of energy and lifting to your full capability. If you are a bit nonplussed then imagine something energetic and bring yourself up.

Continue to mentally practice your craft at practice and during the meet.

Beginning a Strength Program

Often times a person thinks long and hard before beginning a strength program. Along the way these questions invariably arise:

How do I start?
Where do I begin?
What do I do?
What exercises should I be doing?
How do I do them?

Women generally ask how do I flatten my stomach and get rid of the flab on the backs of my arms. Men are asking how to get a six pack and want to know how to bench press more weight.

These questions can be answered by a certified and competent trainer. Notice I did not say just a certified trainer but a competent one as well. A certification from a recognized source such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association implies the trainer has demonstrated superior knowledge, is competent to coach and is well up to the training task. Competency and results are the ‘proof in the pudding’ as the saying goes.

A needs analysis from each participant starts out the process in helping to identify health issues, goals, and previous exercise experience. Next will be the first strength training session. During this phase each individual is shown the exercises in the correct fashion. The trainee will practice the exercises with little to no weight until the technique is correct.

Properly designed exercise protocols start with a dynamic warm up; not static stretching. Static stretching, as seen with many runners standing on one leg while pulling the other up towards the buttocks, is NOT the way to begin an exercise session. Static stretches relax the joints and the nervous system. This is exactly the opposite desired outcome of a strength program. Engaging in static stretching before any explosive sport such as gymnastics, sprinting or wrestling is even worse. It opens these athletes up to injury due to the neuromuscular confusion resulting from the relaxation and opening up of the joints.

Dynamic warm ups, on the other hand, involve moving the body and its limbs around the joints range of motion, getting the pulse up and raising the respiration rates in preparation for the resistance exercises. Skipping rope is an excellent way to start because it helps develop coordination and endurance with the use of minimal equipment.

A beginning routine is made up of large muscle group exercises featuring balanced applications of sets and repetitions for both agonist and antagonist groups. After a movement specific warm up where each exercise is performed ten to twelve times do eight to ten repetitions for two to four sets. A set is one group of eight to ten repetitions. Follow each set with a rest period of sixty to ninety seconds, depending on your present conditioning status and then begin the next set of the same exercise. Move through the list at a steady pace. You should not be in the weight room much longer than forty five to fifty minutes.

Not all exercises will be performed each session but these are the essential ten and form the foundations of any strength program. Consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.

1. Military presses
2. Chin ups or pull downs
3. Bench presses
4. Barbell rows
5. Squats
6. Deadlift's
7. Curl ups or full range sit ups
8. Back extensions
9. Laterals
10. Calf raises

Mental and physical conditioning-the basics

Tips to increase your mental and physical well being

It is good that you have made the decision to get moving again

Develop your brain

Not only do you need to be in excellent physical condition but your mind has to be operating at peak efficiency at all times. Read something everyday that will make you a better person, not just your career information but gather in knowledge of all subjects so you can converse and be on top of what is happening in the world. Subscribe to a weekly news magazine and read them cover to cover each time they arrive in your mail box. Read your daily newspaper. Get a college education. Learn something new every day. Don't be a dumb person.

Developing your physical conditioning:

Get a complete physical examination that includes your eyes, heart and joint conditions

* Find out if you have any correctable conditions that could cause you concern as you exercise.

Begin to exercise slowly and work up from there

* Keep a daily log of your physical activity

* Start out with a program that you will adhere to by gradually easing into it. Don't go whole hog right off the bat as you probably won't follow through. Set a daily goal of ten to twenty minutes of exercise for the first two weeks. Increase this time by ten to fifteen minutes every two weeks until you are at the ideal of around 45-50 minutes work out time per day.

Alternate strength days with cardio days, develop your ability to sustain lengthy outputs of medium to high power by working on your strength, strength endurance, and isometric (holding) strength. Take the week end off by taking it easy on what ever days your week end falls on. Strength Training Secrets is an excellent resource.

Increase your cardiovascular capabilities* Run various distances and at various speeds. Fartlek, sprint and endurance training methods are great ways to improve your endurance and not get totally bored while doing it.

Improve your strength and power production

* Strength train with a purpose which is to stay alive and win the physical battles you encounter in life. Stick with the basic large muscle group exercises: Military presses, pull downs or chin ups, bench presses, barbell rows, squats and more squats, deadlift's, weighted abdominal work to include laterals and back extensions. Work on getting stronger in every one of these.

Stay away from the so called isolation exercises-you want to develop over powering full body useable everyday strength. Do each one for four to five sets of eight to ten repetitions with a work to rest ratio of 1:2 or 3.

If you are not certain how to do these exercises then get a good book or speak to a qualified strength coach and learn how to do them right.

Watch your dietary intake by maintaining good eating habits. I used to pack my own food in a grocery sack because I wanted to know what was going into my body everyday. Eat five to six well balanced meals a day. Don't get screwy with diets; just eat well and consistently.

Good luck, you are starting out on a journey that will reward you throughout the rest of you life.

Setting up your home strength training program and gym

Succinctly as possible, begin your strength training with a solid exercise routine that enhances your strength and stamina for living by exercising the major muscle groups.

It will not be designed to make you sore. The exercises will be ones that build your general physical fitness and get you ready for some intermediate type of work.

Equipment recommendations begin with:

  • A log book to keep track of your progress-$10-13

  • A good 300 pound Olympic set-$170-300

  • Dumb bells from 5-50 pounds depending on your strength level at the time of purchase. These are about $.50-90 a pound

  • A solid bench-$250-300

  • A good power rack-$400-1100

  • Various different types of balancing items such as the individual pads, balls, and platforms-the cost will depend on what you are buying

  • Tubes and jump stretch rubber bands

  • Sources of training information such as found in our Bookstore

When first beginning to weight train it is easy to get caught up in the magazine hype and start doing far too much.

Set realistic goals, learn how to do the exercises in the correct manner. Be sensible and do things right. This will lengthen your training career, help prevent unnecessary injuries and solidly develop your muscles. Work not only on the front of your body but include an equal amount of stress on those you don't see when looking in the mirror, i.e. the posterior chain groups such as the hamstrings and the upper, mid and lower back.

Be cautious in selecting so called isolation exercises like the concentration curls. More useful would be the barbell curl or the chin up. These develop a larger muscle area and in such a manner as to promote useable strength and power.

Motor ability, or the ability to move in a specific and coordinated manner while displaying power is a changing quality over the course of an athletes career. It is both a qualitative and a quantitative interdependent relationship between the different motor connections that are important to the sport.

Resistance training does not interfere with flexibility. A recent study out of Brazil demonstrated that the two are not mutually exclusive. However, it did indicate that greater gains were made with the application of specific training regimens in each area.

Practice coordination drills often, not just a few times when you think of it but schedule it into your program. Place them at the very first, after your warm up, or at the end to see how you do in a fatigued state.

Keep a diary of your training activities, write down the sets, reps, difficulty level of each one. Note the time of day you lift and whether or not it was a good effort day. If not, then consider changing the time you exercise. Some of us like to lift early in the morning around 0500-0600 others may do better in the afternoon or evening.

There are no quick cures to poor physical fitness, but there are clear guidelines to follow that WILL help you become healthier. If you would like an excellent resource to get you started go here and take a look at The Strength Training Secrets manual.

Three of the simplest are to

  1. Exercise everyday

  2. Eat right and get enough

  3. Sleep well and enough each night

  4. Be persistent in following your exercise program.

A few suggestions

• Strengthen the entire body with large muscle group training (squats, deadlift's, bench presses, barbell rows) 
• Increase your center's ability to resist the torque of the legs on the upper body and tire ( Pelvic tilts, hip thrusts, hanging leg raises, crunches, full range sit ups with weight, wood chops with a medicine ball if you don't have access to a heavy sledge hammer, side bends, rainbows, medicine ball sitting twists, bicycle crunches, one handed farmer walks, one arm deadlift's, back ward throws and so on)
• Develop your hip and knee flexors and extensors to a high degree
• Work on improving your ankles and calves capacity for high cyclic work loads
• Do weighted lunges along with band work on the hip/leg abductors and adductors

Follow these rules of training:
• Train regularly all year long
• Begin at a gradual pace and train in a manner that is easy on your body and mind
• Don't set your schedule in concrete
• Peroidize your training intensities
• Get as much as you can from a minimal amount of training before going to more intense methods, in other words don't run before you know how to walk really well
• Decide what you want to do and then specialize in that area
• Avoid overtraining like the plague
• Find a good strength coach and train with them
• Train your mind
• Get good rest during your training periods
• Rest well in the days preceding and the night before a big contest
• Keep a logbook, a very detailed logbook, its your diary of how your training is going and how it went
• Be holistic in your training approach, read and learn about your sport from the best coaches and athletes-bear in mind some great athletes are not good coaches and their program may not work for you

From Brad Walkers Stretching handbook archives and Alwyn Cosgrove:

Top Ten Training Tips for Athletic Conditioning Success

The IRON-ic rule of strength training for sport: The objective is not to get stronger per se but to improve athletic performance to build better athletes. If your sport is power lifting then that means improving your total. If your sport is mixed martial arts that means you must improve your ability in the ring. It's important for the coach and the trainee to focus on improving sports performance. I've seen several football teams over the years that have the 405 Bench Press Club featured on the wall but are 0-20 for the season!

Here are my top ten tips to ensure athletic success.

1. Bodyweight before external resistance
Since when has the term strength and conditioning coach been confused with weight room coach? I don't know but I'm still surprised at the eagerness of most coaches to get their athletes under the bar. Many coaches and athletes make the mistake of beginning a strength routine and going straight for the heavy weights. This usually ends up causing an injury. An athlete has no business using load if he/she cannot stabilize, control and move efficiently with only their bodyweight. If you can't stabilize your shoulder girdle and core doing push-ups then there is no way I'm going to put you under a bench press bar.

Can you sit in a full squat? What about a full range single leg bodyweight squat? Until you have mastered these exercises you can forget doing dynamic effort work with a box squat.

So your strength program in the beginning stages may actually include no weights whatsoever. And it will work better and faster than a typical program that relies primarily on weights and machines in the beginning stages. In fact in my experience I'd suggest that some athletes cannot even work with their bodyweight so we may need to modify certain exercises. Do not rush to lift heavy loads; muscle recruitment and control are far more important than maximal strength for any athlete. Without control the strength is useless.

2. Train to the 5th Power

I. Train in a standing position - GROUND BASED.
The majority of athletic training should take place ON YOUR FEET (standing) as the majority of sport takes place in that position. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but in general, we always lose something when we go from a standing position to a seated or lying position.

II. Train with free weights.
I almost feel stupid bringing this up. But I still see programs out there that include leg extensions and leg curls. Any machine limits the range of motion and controls the movement. This is fine for beginners, but athletes need to be able to stabilize and control their bodies in all three planes of motion simultaneously.

III. Use Multiple Joints
Single joint strength (e.g. leg extension machine, bicep curls) develops useless strength. A study was undertaken at Ohio State involving a knee extension test. The participants included: 3 World ranked squatters and 1 World Record holder in the squat.

The test results of the above subjects averaged 180lbs of force on the Cybex leg extension machine. However a local power lifter (ranked 15th in the state) broke the machine. He wasn't even number one in his state but he was stronger on this machine than the World ranked lifters. If there is a better example of the inability of single joint machine training to translate to real world strength then I'd like to see it. A guy who was only ranked 15th in the state can apply more single leg strength than a World Record holder. Nice; pretty; but pretty useless. If that strength doesn't transfer to athletic success then what's the point of having it? Basically, despite the strength that individual exhibited on the machine, he was unable to apply it in a real world situation like squatting. And the elite squatters weren't that strong on the leg extension showing it's not even a factor. So leg extension machines are a waste of time. Unless of course you compete in seated ass kicking leg extension contests.

"How can anyone expect to possess co-ordination in active work when his muscles have never worked together in groups?" Earle Liederman, 1924. Nearly 80 years ago and we are still having this argument today. Isolation machines have no place in the preparation of a competitive athlete.

IV. Train with explosiveness.
Explosiveness, as I see it, can be defined as; "as fast as possible with control." Some people seem to feel that explosiveness is somewhat dangerous. Sloppy training, uncontrolled movements? Now that's dangerous. Training explosively more closely mirrors what happens in sport and/or life.

V. Train movements not muscle groups.
Again, isolated muscle group training, outside of rehabilitation has no place in athletic training. An athlete should focus on strengthening specific movements. True muscle isolation is impossible anyway, so let's focus on using that body to work in an integrated fashion.

3. Train unilaterally and multi-planar
The majority of strength training programs take place in the sagittal plane with bilateral movements. However the majority of sport takes place in all 3 planes simultaneously with primarily unilateral movements. EVERY single sports conditioning program should include split squats, step ups and lunge variations. 85% of the gait cycle (walking, running) is spent on one leg. Over 70% of the muscles of the core run in a rotational plane. Does your training program reflect that?

4. Use all primary methods to develop strength
This should be of no surprise to readers of this website so I won't spend a whole lot of time on this. Suffice to say you need to focus on all three. Max Strength method - heavy loads Repeated Efforts Method - multiple sets and reps Dynamic Effort Method - using relatively lighter weights and moving them at max speed (this is STILL the least used method in most strength coaching programs). Traditional strength training programs have focused overwhelmingly on max strength or force development. More important for the competitive athlete is a focus on RATE OF force development. In the world of sport speed is still the king.

5. Variation
Everybody seems to understand that training load should be progressively increased. Few understand that the training stimulus must also be progressively and periodically varied. All programs have positive and negative aspects no matter how well designed or specific - too much time on one program and you'll habituate to the positive aspects and accumulate the negative aspects. Even the most perfectly balanced program has to have one exercise performed first and another performed last. Not being aware of the potential negatives of this (i.e. one exercise is never trained when you are fresh) can create an injury situation.

6. Avoid mimicking skills
This is a big one. Throwing weighted baseballs etc will do little to improve your strength and a lot to screw up your technique. Make sure the roles of strength and conditioning and skill training are separate. I HATE the term sport specific. I much prefer NON-specific training. If I'm working with a freestyle swimmer, sport specificity means that I'll do a ton of loaded internal rotation work. My approach? To do no internal rotation work. In fact I'd spend most of our conditioning time on EXTERNAL rotation as an injury prevention mechanism. The role of conditioning training is NOT skill training. Loading a technique tends to affect the mechanics of the technique negatively.

7. Train with Balance
Make sure you address pushing and pulling on both horizontal and vertical planes and attempt to balance the loading. If you are bench pressing 400lbs but can only do a chest supported row with 50lbs your shoulder girdle is going to suffer. If you can't handle the same loads for two opposing movements then increase the volume of the weaker movement (e.g. by doing an extra exercise or an extra set or two) to compensate. Trust me this might not seem that important now but I'm not just interested in athletic performance, I'm interested in the long term health of my athletes.

8. Get out of the Weight Room
Try some strongman training: sled dragging, uphill sprints, stadium stairs. I'm sick of hearing coaches telling me that they think outside of the box, yet they never leave the confines of their own little box - the weight room.

9. Train the antagonists
This ties in with the swimming example above. The speed of a throw or a kick or punch is determined largely by the ability of the antagonist to eccentrically decelerate the joint action efficiently and prevent joint injury. If your body cannot safely and effectively brake the motion, then it will not allow you to achieve full acceleration. If you are not training the antagonists eccentrically - you are not training deceleration. And if you are not training deceleration you cannot be training acceleration.

10. Full Front Squats
This exercise may be the single most athletic exercise. You'll get core strength, wrist, knee, hip, shoulder, and ankle flexibility in a single exercise.

Ok- as usual I can't shut up so I'll add one more.

10.5 Extension!
I'm not going to get into an article on the pros and cons of Olympic lifting, suffice to say that explosive triple extension (ankle, knee and hip) is a valuable component when training athletes. Remember though - we are training ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE. We are not training weightlifters. It is not necessary to do the complete lifts; the power and hang variations are fine. If you're not comfortable with the Olympic lifts then add jump training or medicine ball overhead throws or at the very least deadlift's (double extension) as a core lift.

Do not get caught up in the numbers game and do not confuse gym improvements with real world or sports world improvements. The greatest athletes in the world do not necessarily have the greatest bench presses in the world. The greatest athletes in the world have an ability to produce useable force on their field of play. Usable force is force that propels athletes towards the ball, knocks another athlete back or down, helps you move at full speed, or throws the winning touchdown pass. Usable force is force properly directed in an unstable real world, unpredictable environment. The weight room, in general, is a stable environment whereas a field of play or the competition ring is a constantly changing place. A good strength and conditioning coach looks to improve athletic performances, not just gym lift numbers.

About the author: For the past sixteen years Alwyn Cosgrove has been committed to achieving excellence in the field of fitness training and athletic preparation. Specializing in performance enhancement, Alwyn has helped countless individuals and athletes reach their goals through sound scientific training.

Alwyn is also recognized and certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the American College of Sports Medicine, the British Association of Sports And Exercise Sciences, Kingsports International Australia, the Society for Weight Training Injury Specialists, USA Weightlifting and the Chek Institute of Corrective High Performance Exercise Kinesiology.

Visit Alwyns site at:

Train smart, and hard when it calls for it in your mesocycles and microcycles.

Switch your repetitions and exercises around on an irregular basis. The body becomes accustomed to the repetitions faster than to the exercises, so the reps need to be altered more often than the movements.

Protein requirements are NOT what the RagMags say they are; not by a long shot! Protein is burned for energy when fewer calories are taken in than are expended in either daily living or training activities. Therefore, when calorie intake is low then protein intake must rise. A person who is dieting needs more protein calories than one who is at normal weight and is being adequately supplied with the correct nutrients. 

Protein requirements are based on reference proteins such as those found in the meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products. All of which are considered to be high quality proteins readily assimilated into the body.

Recommendations for protein intake are based on the activity levels and can range from as high as 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight for those who are endurance training at high levels. Resistance training may reach 1.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight while in an intense meso cycle.

Since most athletes do not fall neatly into either category the range of protein required is from 1.5-2.0 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. Any more than what your body needs is simply going down the toilet.

Strength on demand is what explosiveness is all about. In order to have this kind of explosive power a few training concepts must be understood and followed.

Goals and measurements on the way.

As it was so aptly put by Jim Sterne 'without clear goals, there's no need to measure anything; without measuring, there's no way to know if the work you're doing is helping to achieve your goals'. Establish your goals and set up measuring points so you know where you're at during the journey.

Squat instructions-basic edition

Stand upright as you approach the bar. Place your hands in a fibers position, at an equal distance from the ends of the bar. Center your body in the middle of the bar and slip underneath.

Place the bar in either the high or the low position on your shoulders, lifting with your legs move the weight up and clear of the hooks. Take two to three ‘small’ steps backwards to the final set up position.

Stand upright. Begin to execute the movement by unhinging first at your hips. Your buttocks should go backwards as you begin to settle down into the full squat. Maintain an erect upper body stance and keep a solid arch in your back. Keep the lower legs as vertical as possible with the knees tracking over the feet in a path that goes between the big toe and the toe next to it.

Continue to lower down in a fully controlled manner. This is not a ballistic drop to the bottom. At the bottom of the lift, begin coming back up by pushing upward on the bar with your hands and arms. Follow this move at the same time by pushing upwards with your upper back, shoulders and chest. The last move is with your legs as they begin to extend back to the upright position.

At the end of the repetitions, step forward and rack the bar.

Do not just sit down but keep moving about as you regain your breath.

Muscle fatigue

Most anyone who exercises experiences muscle fatigue at one time or another, if not then they are not working out nearly hard enough. In the latest edition of Serious Strength Training this condition is defined as “a decrease in peak tension and power output, resulting in reduced work capacity”. Fatigue is dependent upon many factors including the type of fibers and the activity engaged in for the sport.

Muscle fatigue itself can be divided up into two main areas of discussion:

The exact mechanisms of fatigue are not presently known for sure but it is thought that a combination of the central and peripheral components play a significant part in the process. Certainly the cellular aspects of cell damage may very well be a big contributor.

Listen up in the gym, talk to the other lifters, learn form and proper technique from a qualified strength coach, learn strategy, be involved with your partners progress, be a courteous lifter and wipe the gear off when you finish a set; don't leave it stinking and dripping with your sweat. Keep a log book of all that you do, drink water and eat nutritious food, spread your calories out over the space of five to six balanced meals a day, save your money on the 'supplement of the month' and buy wholesome foods.

Maintain your flexibility as any motor action is based upon the demonstration of this mobility and flexibility. It is through these two qualities that makes it possible to perfect the movements necessary to be successful in sport. Additional benefits of flexibility are increased amplitude of movement or range of motion surrounding the joints tasked with producing the power needed to overcome an external resistance either on the field, platform or in the gym.

Stay strong mentally and physically, and remain passionately committed to your hearts chosen path. Danny M. O'Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Providing medical advice is not the intent or purpose of this site. We assume no liability for the information contained in these pages if it is taken as medical advice. Always consult with your primary health care provider before beginning any new exercise program.

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