Strength Training Programs

Why do we need strength training ?

Better performances can be the product of a number of factors. This product is primarily the outcome of efficient technique, the progression of speed and the maturing competitive attitude on a sound basis of general endurance, all round strength and general mobility. The development of all round strength is best achieved via circuit training and then progressing this through strength training. Weight training is the most widely used and popular method of increasing strength.

How do we get stronger ?

A muscle will only strengthen when forced to operate beyond its customary intensity (overload). Overload can be progressed by increasing the :

  • resistance e.g. adding 10 lbs to the barbell
  • number of repetitions with a particular weight
  • number of sets of the exercise
  • intensity, i.e. reducing the rest periods

Muscle Fibre Hypertrophy

Strength training will increase the muscle size (hypertrophy). Muscle growth depends on the muscle fibre type activated and the pattern of recruitment. Muscle growth is due to one or more of the following adaptions:

  • Increased contractile proteins (actin & myosin)
  • Increased number of and size of myofibrils per muscle fibre
  • Increased amounts of connective, tendinous & ligamentous tissues
  • Increased enzymes and stored nutrients

Which strtength training exercises ?

The exercise must be specific to the type of strength required, and is therefore related to the particular demands of the event (specificity). The coach should have knowledge of the predominant types of muscular activity associated with the particular event, the movement pattern involved and the type of strength required. Exercises should be identified that will produce the desired development. Although specificity is important, it is necessary in every schedule to include exercises of a general nature - e.g.

  • Bench Press
  • Sit Ups
  • Shoulder Press
  • Chest Press
  • Lat Pull downs
  • Lower Back Extensions
  • Tricep Press
  • Calf Raise
  • Bicep Curls
  • Leg Curls
  • Leg Extension
  • Leg Press

These general exercises give a balanced development, and provide a strong base upon which highly specific strength training programs can be built.

Muscle Movement

  Pectoralis Major Decline dumbbell bench press
  Pectoralis Minor Incline dumbbell bench press
  Medial Deltoids Standing dumbbell side laterals
  Posterior Deltoids Standing dumbbell bent laterals
  Anterior deltoids Standing front dumbbell raises
  Biceps Brachii Incline seated dumbbell curls (alternate)
  Triceps Brachii Triceps pressdown (angled bar)
  Latissimus Dorsi One arm dumbbell rows (alternate)
  Rectus Femoris Seated leg extensions
  Biceps femoris Standing leg curls
  Semitendinosus Seated leg curls
  Gastrocnemius Standing one leg calf raises

How Much ?

The amount of weight to be used should be based on a percentage of the maximum amount of weight that can be lifted one time, generally referred to as one repetition maximum (1RM). The maximum number of repetitions performed before fatigue prohibits the completion of an additional repetition is a function of the weight used, referred to as repetition maximum (RM), and reflects the intensity of the exercise. A weight load that produces fatigue on the third repetition is termed a three repetition maximum (3RM) and corresponds to approximately 95% of the weight that could be lifted for 1RM.

For maximum results athletes should train according to their genetic predisposition. An athlete with a greater proportion of slow twitch muscles would adapt better to an endurance training and a muscular endurance programme using more repetitions of a lighter weight. An athlete with a greater proportion of fast twitch muscles would benefit from sprint training and a muscular strength programme using fewer repetitions of a heavier weight.

Load - Repetition Relationship

The strength training zone requires you to use loads in the range of 60% to 100% of 1RM. The relationship of percentage loads to number of repetitions (rounded up) to failure are as follows:

  • 60% - 17 reps
  • 65% - 14 reps
  • 70% - 12 reps
  • 75% - 10 reps
  • 80% - 8 reps
  • 85% - 6 reps
  • 90% - 5 reps
  • 95% - 3 reps
  • 100% - 1 rep

How Many

The number of repetitions performed to fatigue is an important consideration in designing a strength training programme. The greatest strength gains appear to result from working with 4-6RM. Increasing this to 12-20RM favours the increase in muscle endurance and mass.

One set of 4-6RM performed 3 days a week is a typical strength training programme. The optimal number of sets of an exercise to develop muscle strength remains controversial. In a number of studies comparing multiple set programmes to produce greater strength gains than a single set, the majority of studies indicate that there is not a significant difference.

Handling heavy weights in the pursuit of strength will require a recovery of 3-5 minutes between sets, but only minimum recovery should be taken if strength endurance is the aim. The majority of athletic events are fast and dynamic, and therefore this quality must be reflected in the athlete's strength work.

Muscular strength is primarily developed when 8RM or less is used in a set. How much load you use depends upon what it is you wish to develop:

  • 1RM to 3RM - neuromuscular strength
  • 4RM to 6RM - maximum strength by stimulating muscle hypertrophy
  • 6RM to 12RM - muscle size (hypertrophy) with moderate gains in strength (Fleck & Kraemer, 1996)
  • 12RM to 20RM - muscle size and endurance

Rest Interval between sets

The aim of the recovery period between sets is to replenish the stores of ATP and Creatine Phosphate (CP) in the muscles. An inadequate recovery means more reliance on the Latic Acid (LA) energy pathway in the next set. Several factors influence the recovery period, including:

  • Type of strength you are developing
  • The load used in the exercise
  • Number of muscle groups used in the exercise
  • Your condition
  • Your weight

A recovery of three to five minutes or longer will allow almost the complete restoration of ATP/CP.

Rest Interval between sessions

The energy source being used during the training session is probably the most important factor to consider. During the maximum strength phase, when you are primarily using the ATP/CP energy pathway, daily training is possible because ATP/CP restoration is completed within 24 hours. If you are training for muscular endurance (muscle definition) then you require a 48 hour recovery as this is how long it takes to fully restore your glycogen stores (Piehl, 1974; Fox et al, 1989).

As a 'rule of thumb' 48 hours should elapse between sessions. If training strenuously, any athlete will find it extremely difficult to maintain the same level of lifting at each session, and the total poundage lifted in each session would be better to be varied (e.g. a high, low and medium volume session) each week.

What sort of weight lifting equipment ?

There are variable resistance machines and free weights. Variable resistance machines are effective tools for building strength and muscle tone and are designed to work the target muscle in isolation, without the assistance of the surrounding muscles. Free weights (barbells, dumbbells and machines that provide the same equal resistance to a muscle) allow you not only to target a particular muscle group but to engage other muscles that assist in the work. Once they are conditioned, these assisting muscles help you to increase the weight you use in training the target muscles in order to stimulate the most growth in muscle fibres. The assisting muscles help stabilize the body, support limbs and maintain posture during a lift. Lifting free weights improves your co-ordination by improving the neuromuscular pathways that connect your muscles to the central nervous system.

Training Systems

Simple Sets e.g. 3 x 8 with 70% - meaning three sets of eight repetitions with a weight of 70% of maximum for one repetition. This is the system that all novice lifters should work on, because the high number of repetitions enables the lifter to learn correct technique, and thereby reduce the risk of injury.

Pyramid System Here the load is increased and the repetitions are reduced (e.g. 100kg x10, 120kg x 5, 130kg x 4, 140kg x 3, 150kg x 2, 160kg x 1). Pyramid lifting is only for experienced lifters who have an established good technique.

Super Setting This consists of performing two or three exercises continuously, without rest in between sets, until all exercises have been performed. The normal 'between sets' rest is taken before the next circuit of exercises is commenced.

Strength Training Programs

Use the above notes to assist you in the preparation of a general strength training program, to develop your general strength, and a specific strength training program to develop your specific strength to meet to the demands of your event/sport.

Safety in the Weight Room

Strength training is safe when properly supervised and controlled. Every weight room should have a set of of rues and regulations pertaining to safety and they should be on public display. Rules may vary from one weight room to another but some very basic rules apply to them all:

  • Train only when a qualified coach is present
  • Follow your training schedule
  • Work in pairs - one lifting the other spotting
  • No horseplay
  • Wear the correct clothing and shoes
  • No eating, drinking or smoking
  • No personal stereos with headphones
  • Help and respect other athletes
  • Only athletes who are working out should be in the weight room

Make sure you and your athletes are fully aware of the safety rules applying to the weight training room(s) you use.

Remember

Weight training requires supervision to ensure sound technique in pursuit of safety and efficiency.

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