Strength Training Basics – Part 2

Strength Training Basics – Part 2

Loading Basics: Resistance, Progression and Frequency

Resistance: People who weigh the same could have different strength capacities. It is thus important not to focus on load (in weight) but the number of repetitions you can perform with proper form. To derive strength gains for the core/big muscle groups, you’ll need to work with a resistance/load for which you do not make a lot more than 12 repetitions; and unless you’re a professional athlete, avoid a resistance/load with which you manage less than 8 repetitions. With the latter, it ceases to be fun and increases the risk of injury and in the former, more of a waste of time – since you derive less strength gains! So, a safe and productive training recommendation would be 8-12 repetitions using 70% to 80% of maximum resistance – where maximum resistance is the most weight/load you can lift with proper form one time.

Progressive resistance is the key to any well-designed strength program. This means that as your muscles adapt to a given exercise, you need to gradually increase the resistance or the repetitions to promote further gains. You should start out with a weight that allows you to do at least 8 repetitions of a particular exercise. Once you can complete 12 repetitions with that weight, you increase the weight by about 5 percent. Now, you’re doing 8 repetitions with the slightly heavier weight. Once you’ve worked up to 12 repetitions with the heavier weight, you increase it by another 5 percent (or no more than 10%) and go back to doing 8 repetitions. The idea is to keep alternately increasing repetitions and resistance, so that you continue to see results. 

Frequency: Increases in muscle size and strength don’t occur while you’re training, they occur during the rest period between workouts. This is when your muscles recover and rebuild, gradually becoming bigger and stronger. The recovery process takes at least 48 hours. For this reason, strength training sessions should be scheduled no more frequently than every other day. If you prefer to train more often, you should avoid working the same muscle group on consecutive days. 

Programming Elements: Sets and Reps

A set is a group of successive repetitions performed without resting. A rep or repetition is the number of times you repeat the move in each set. Therefore, if your instructions were to do N sets of 10 (N x 10) biceps curls, you would curl the weight 10 times in a row to complete the first set. Then you’d put the weight down, rest between 30s and 5 minutes and do 10 more in a row to complete the second set, and so on until you’ve finished the prescribed number of sets for that exercise. 


Mr. Douglas Bamweyana is an Assistant Lecturer, Sports Science, Department of Biochemistry and Sports Science. He has a BSc. Sports Science (Mak), MSc. Sports Biomechanics (Loughborough University - UK), an MBA (Univ. of Nicosia) and is currently a PhD Student. His research interests include optimizing human performance, human movement variability and engineering and computer simulation modelling. He is a CAF A Licensed Coach and FUFA 1st Division Licensed Coach. He is President - Uganda Society of Sports Science and Physical Education (USSSPE).

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