WHEN EXERCISING DON’T FORGET THE BASICS. - Peak Performance Physical Therapy
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Dec31st 2012

Everyone has a new exercise that will target a certain muscle better or a new workout system that will make you drop inches on your waistline. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in all of it and to forget the basics. With January just around the corner millions of us will be trying to exercise more and eat healthier. If your new years resolution includes working out more than let’s review some exercise basics.

When getting back into the gym and exercise many of us often rush through our exercise without taking adequate break times when strength training. When you are trying to get stronger the rest is just as important as the exercise for your muscles to recover.

The LOWER your repetitions and the HEAVIER the weights, the LONGER you need to rest between sets.

All muscles are not created equal. When you lift heavy weights, your recruit your type II, or fast-twitch, muscle fibers. These fibers have the greatest potential for growth, and kick in when a task utilizes more than 25 percent of your maximum strength.

However, these fibers also fatigue the fastest. With heavier weights, you target your nervous system more than with lighter weights. This can take up to 5 times longer to recover. If you don’t wait long enough when working these fibers, they won’t train at their maximum ability during the next set. Rest too short, and it becomes a cardio session and the load you can lift will decrease.

The HIGHER your repetitions and the LIGHTER the weights, the SHORTER your rest.

Type I muscle fibers, also known as slow-twitch, offer endurance. They come into play during aerobic activities or when you lift lighter weights for higher reps. These fibers don’t require as much energy to contract as type II, so you don’t have to wait as long between sets.

So how do you figure out the right amount of time?

Follow these guidelines:

  • 1 to 3 reps: Rest for to 5 minutes
  • 4 to 7 reps: Rest for 2 to 3 minutes
  • 8 to 12 reps: Rest for 1 to 2 minutes
  • 13 reps or more: Rest for 1 minutes

Circuit training is one way to get around having to wait so long between sets of exercise. This involves doing multiple exercises in a row with minimal rest break while training different muscles groups with each exercise therefore allowing an adequate rest to the muscles you just fatigued. Here is an example:

  • lunges x 15 reps
  • overhead press x 10-15 reps
  • rows x 15 reps
  • push ups x 15 reps

Repeat this circuit 3-4 times. You can have less than a 30 second rest break between sets. You should be able to get your heart rate elevated this way. If you are doing circuit training I DO NOT recommend trying to repetitions less than 8. When you try to train for maximum strength your type 2 muscle fibers and nervous system need the adequate rest before you try the next set.

The American College of Sports Medicine has it’s own set of basic recommendations.

The basic recommendations – categorized by cardiorespiratory exercise, resistance exercise, flexibility exercise and neuromotor exercise – are as follows:

Cardiorespiratory Exercise

  • Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
  • Exercise recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week).
  • One continuous session and multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are both acceptable to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise.
  • Gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended for best adherence and least injury risk.
  • People unable to meet these minimums can still benefit from some activity.

Resistance Exercise

  • Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment.
  • Very light or light intensity is best for older persons or previously sedentary adults starting exercise.
  • Two to four sets of each exercise will help adults improve strength and power.
  • For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise, and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance.
  • Adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions.

Flexibility Exercise

  • Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion.
  • Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds to the point of tightness or slight discomfort.
  • Repeat each stretch 2-4 times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch.
  • Static, dynamic, ballistic and PNF stretches are all effective.
  • Flexibility exercise is most effective when the muscle is warm. Try light aerobic activity or a hot bath to warm the muscles before stretching.

Neuromotor Exercise

  • Neuromotor exercise (sometimes called “functional fitness training”) is recommended for two or three days per week.
  • Exercises should involve motor skills (balance, agility, coordination and gait), proprioceptive exercise training and multifaceted activities (tai ji and yoga) to improve physical function and prevent falls in older adults.
  • 20-30 minutes per day is appropriate for neuromotor exercise.