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Strength Training Guidelines

In response to my recent article on strengthening muscles, I received the following guidelines from Dr. Richard Winett, a respected professor at Virginia Tech who has done extensive research on resistance training, and I am sharing them with his permission.

1. People need to learn a correct range of motion for each exercise that is within their capability and practice that with lighter resistance.

2. There is not a lot of convincing data on repetition duration, but what there is including work we have done here, suggests for each exercise taking about three seconds for the concentric part of the rep, and three seconds for the eccentric part. The reps are done smoothly as are the "turn arounds" from positive to negative and negative to positive.

3. Train to the point where the last repetition in good form is performed which will usually represent a high degree of effort which is the goal. This is often called "training to failure" but a better point is saying that this is "successful training."

4. The stimulus comes from the degree of effort and not a specific weight per se. There is no need to ever use heavy resistance. This isn't based on 1 RM [the heaviest weight you can lift for one repetition], again an unnecessary concept. Simply after a number of sessions of learning good form, pick a resistance for each exercise that is challenging anywhere from eight to 15 repetitions at the 3, 3 rep format. Train to the last good rep and stop.

5. When people pay attention and train in this way, performing one set per exercise provides about the same benefits as any number of multiple sets. A whole body protocol can include about 12 exercises and overall take about 30-40 minutes. Besides a short general warm-up, warming up for the first exercise of the day is a good idea. Starting with lower body also is a good idea, though any order can be effective. Take about a minute between sets. Pay attention to the exercise, your ROM [range of motion], and the effects of the exercise. No talking while doing a set.

6. The process of adding strength and muscle hypertrophy is really not based on "repairing damage." It is learning to train in ways that do not create a lot of damage so the body can focus on muscle protein synthesis and not on damage repair.

7. Progress is made by small increments in repetitions and resistance over many workouts, but there is only real progress if form does not change.

8. One does not train the same muscle group on consecutive days. So, if on a Wednesday, eight good repetitions were performed in the chest press with 100 pounds, on Thursday, you would NOT do the chest press for eight repetitions with 50 pounds. Rather you would take a walk or do some other kind of exercise. But resistance training is a powerful stimulus providing numerous cardiometabolic benefits, and in order to improve in resistance training while you can effectively also do endurance or interval training, you can't overdo the latter two kinds of training and expect to see gains in resistance training.

Thanks to Dr. Winett for allowing me to publish these guidelines. His CV is at https://www.psyc.vt.edu/users/rswinett and his website is www.ageless-athletes.com

July 17th, 2016
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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