There is a wide range of health benefits from regular participation in strength training, some of these include: Increased muscle mass, muscle strength, bone density and quality of life. As well as this, it can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease & type II diabetes 1. So to attain these benefits, it is important to exercise regularly and train smart. So in this blog 3 methods will be discussed that may help you to get the most from your session.
The speed at which you do a repetition of an exercise is known as the ‘tempo’. Controlling the tempo of each exercise is essential to achieve your performance related goals whether it be strength, power or hypertrophy. Typically, if you increase the tempo of an exercise you will increase the potential power benefits while a slower tempo rate will have more benefits to strength gains. There is a wide variation of tempos that can be used during resistance training but a common one would be the 3-0-1 tempo. This means there is a slow controlled eccentric phase (contraction of muscle while lengthening) of 3 seconds, no pause phase and a fast concentric phase (contraction of muscle while shortening) of 1 second. A good example of this would be the bench press. The eccentric phase is lowering the bar towards the chest. While, the concentric phase would be extending the arms and moving away from the chest. This slow eccentric phase will increase the time in which the muscles are under tension making the exercise more difficult but can lead to a decrease in muscle strain injuries and increased muscular endurance 2.
2: Full Range of Motion
There are many positive implications from completing full range of motion during strength training. By doing so, a person will improve their flexibility across all joints and muscles as well as having an even distribution of muscle fibres. Research has shown that resistance training alone can improve flexibility by stretching the muscle fibres eccentrically 3. In contrast, when full range of motion is not met, it may lead to restrictions and tightness across numerous joints due the consistent shortening of muscles. This then may lead to increased risk of injury and poor circulation of blood.
3: Rest Periods
To maximise performance during each training session, sufficient recovery intra-workout is needed. During exercise, muscular fatigue will occur which will cause a decrease in performance of that exercise. Example of this would be doing push ups, after a certain number of repetitions, the chest and arm muscles will become tired. If we begin their exercise too soon after the first our performance will been severely reduced. To combat this and help sustain the quality of performance, it is important to use appropriate rest periods to their specific exercise. Keeping with the example it is recommended that a rest period of 2/3 minutes between resistance exercises is needed so a person has a reduction in muscular fatigue to begin their next set of push ups.
So to conclude, training harder is not the only way in which improvement is made. Being more efficient in each session can also lead to progress. So using these tips to make little alterations in how we approach each exercise may lead to greater adaptions in the long run.
Jonathan Hannafin is a full time personal trainer working with Online PT Clients and leading sessions at the Nisus Fitness Training Club. He holds a BSc. in Exercise and Sports Science from the Unniversity of Limerick.