Friday, January 4, 2013

Getting Acquainted with Sets

Beginners should start with one set for each of the major muscle groups listed under “Previewing Weight Routine Essentials: Working all of your major muscle groups.” That’s roughly 11 sets per workout. The ACSM recommends one-set training because most of your gains occur from that first set. You’ll, of course, gain more strength and faster results with more sets, but your program takes more time. After a month or two, you may want to increase the number of sets. But then again, you may not. If your goal is to gain moderate amounts of strength and maintain your health, one set may be as much as you ever need to do. If you want to continue to increase your strength over time, studies show that trained individuals require multiple-set training of at least three or more. A trained person is someone who’s been lifting consistently for at least three months. In addition to increasing the number of sets, you should also vary your training volume and intensity over time with periodized training as explained later in this chapter. Increases in training should be gradual to avoid injury from overtraining. However, if your goal is to become as strong as you can or reshape an area of your body, you need to perform more than three sets per muscle group. Some serious weight lifters perform as many as 20. (However, they don’t do 20 sets of the same exercise; they may do 5 sets each of 4 different exercises that work the same muscle.) See Chapter 21 for more guidelines on how many sets to perform if you’re an experienced lifter. The principle of specificity of training determines how much rest you should take in between sets. Beginners should take all the rest they need because you’re just becoming acquainted with your body and want to avoid injury. New exercisers may take up to twice as long to rest as those who’re more experienced. The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends that your rest period be based on your training goal. If your goal is to increase endurance and you’re lifting 12 or more reps, your rest period should be up to 30 seconds. If your goal is to increase size, and you’re lifting between 6 to 12 reps, you should rest between 30 to 90 seconds. If your goal is to increase strength and you’re lifting fewer than six reps, you should rest between two to five minutes. People who train for pure strength are going for all-out lifts — a very intense approach. Circuit training, which emphasizes muscular endurance or what is sometimes described as cardio-resistance (see Chapter 18), involves taking little or no rest between sets.