The desire to achieve the most efficient training, drove any sport or fitness trainer, any fan of training to be more concern about choosing the best training methods, the appropriate weights, the number of sets and reps needed.
There are various training methods and choosing the most efficient one is not easy. You can opt for a training with heavy weights with multiple repetitions with explosive movements, slow movements with free weights or machines, and the list goes on. But serious training do not use randomly chosen techniques, but are based on experts, coaches elite and professional athletes analysis.
During your training program you will tend to make two mistakes: either you remain faithful to a single program, eliminating the possibility of introducing new ideas and techniques, or you will constantly change programs without these having an effect on your body.
Through this article, we present a series of important training techniques, pointing out that none of them exclude the other, but each has its role and effectiveness, depending on the purpose or your training periodization.
1. Free weights or machines?
One of the most common questions is: Which one are more effective? Free weights or machines?
In the 80s, bodybuilders were almost totally convinced that free weights exercises should be included in competitions' training programs to build muscle mass and machines exercise should only be used during pre-competitive period for defining muscles. Subsequently, it was shown that this theory is wrong because the problem of defining muscles link to diet.
Exercises that include free weights allow you the use higher weights and are very effective for increasing strength and muscle mass. In these exercises, athletes print their movement trajectory and usually involve several muscle groups in the effort for a single exercise.
Suppose you do bar push-ups. The main muscle group involved in the exercise are the pectorals, which takes about 70% of the effort. But in addition to the pectoral muscles, the anterior deltoids are involved in the effort (front shoulder) and triceps, which take the remaining 30%. If you use heavy weights that allow you to do only 4-6 repetitions in a series, such mution will boost strength and muscle mass.
Machine exercise, compating with free weights are most effective in isolating a muscle group, and usually are less risky of injury, especially when using techniques such as decreasing series, partial repetitions or repetitions negative.
Both versions have their role and efficiency, and it is best to include both in your training. The most important aspect is how they are combined, depending on your training stage and purpose.
Here are the most popular exercises with free weights and machines:
Exercise with free weights:
- squats with the bar;
- lunges with bar or dumbbells;
- push-ups with bar or dumbbells;
- straightening with bar;
- rowing with bar or dumbbells;
- push the bar or dumbbell shoulder;
- lunges with bar or dumbbell curls for biceps.
- extension or flexion of the foot to the bank;
- waving pec-deck or pulleys for chest;
- pushings to the machine chest;
- pulleys row or tractions for back;
- Push-ups for shoulder;
- pulleys extensions or triceps machines;
- Curls at Scott bench.
Here is an example in which the devices are combined with free weights in an effectively training called Triset - three exercises related to three sets without a break - for chest muscles:
- choose a pair of dumbbells that you can do about 10 repetitions to pushed down and do some pushes to exhaustion on a sloping bank
- without a break, go to the horizontal bench and do some push downs with the bar that has a weight that allows you to do six repetitions so that the last 2 reps to be extremely difficult to execute.
- without rest at all, go to a Hammer machine and do eight repetition of exhausting pushes.
- take a 2 minutes break while you perfome gentle chest stretching and repeat the Triset one more time.
Therefore, both types of exercises - free weights and machines - have their role and efficiency in training and you should concern about how incorporate both into a program that will produce the desired results.
2. Long or short training?
Experts, researchers, renowned coaches and professional athletes agree on the optimal duration of training with weights - between 50 and 60 minutes. If you do weight exercises that last more than 60 minutes, and of course you are training at high intensity, you will get to overtraining, which leads to strength stagnation, increased fatigue, and an increased risk of injury.
Do strength training to cover all that you have set to work, and never neglect warming. A workout with weights for 20 minutes is too short, as one of two hours is too long.
3. Short breaks or long breaks between sets?
Breaks between series varies by weights, the type of training chosen, the muscle groups involved in the training.
If you work with heavy weights - that permits 3-6 repetitions - you will need 2-4 minutes breaks between sets and when working with small weights, breaks between 1-2 minutes. If you train large muscle groups (chest, back or thighs), breaks should be slightly longer than in exercises for small muscle groups (shoulders, biceps, triceps, calves, forearms). But, in case of circuit-training, the intervals between the series can be very short (30 seconds or even not at all).
The most important factor in choosing the lenght of your breaks, it's the most accurate time for recovery, so you'll have energy for the next series. Neither excessive recreation is beneficial because it allows the muscles to cooldown.
4. More or fewer reps?
The number of repetitions you do a series determines the intensity of their work in training.
If your goal is to develop your exclusive force, the number of repetitions will be between 1 and 5 repetitions/set. If you want muscle growth, duplication should be between 6-12 repetitions/set. There are athletes who pursue both aspects and cyclized workouts. For example, a week they do 1-5 reps/set, and the next week 6-12 reps/set. A large number of reps/set (15) will not stimulate any grownth in muscle mass or strength, but will promote endurance and stamina. Even if you want to stimulate your muscle mass and strength, you can introduce a series of occasional many repetitions at the end of training a muscle group.
Whatever your goal, the number of repetitions you choose to do determines workout's difficulty. That's why, the last repetition is very difficult to complete, providing intensive intensity.
Beyond theory, an effective training is given also by experience. All great champions have experienced different methods of training their body to realize what suits them best. There is no universal recipe. What is effectively for one athlete may be less beneficial to another, therefore, a true professional has, in addition to theoretical knowledge, experience and he reached a stage of mastering the art of training.