Ok…so you’ve finally broken down and realized the benefits of adding resistance training to your workout routine. Good for you!! You’ll increase bone density, increase tissue strength, increase metabolism, endurance, power and decrease body fat. Wow!! Sign me up! But the problem is, beginners aren’t really sure where to start. I mean c’mon…reps, sets, intensity, tempo, training variables…what’s it all mean? And, more often than not, most people will grab some weights and start doing what they see everyone else doing…or worse, what they’ve read in a magazine….BAD!!!
Like any other form of training, resistance training needs to have a plan, needs to be specific to your goals, progressive and periodized (that is, change every so often) So, resist the urge to grab the heaviest weights at the gym and stop training as if you were trying out for the biceps team right out of the gate. Instead, I’ll show you what a really good 2-phase resistance training plan looks like if your goal is fat loss.
You want to start off slowly. I really recommend having a movement assessment done to see if you have muscle imbalances, as most people do. This generally takes the form of an overhead squat assessment with the trainer observing any movement compensations. Any skilled trainer at your gym should be able to do this for you…or contact me and I can do the assessment for you if you don’t have access to a gym. A good program design will address your imbalances by stretching your tight muscles and strengthening your underactive muscles. Correcting these imbalances will improve posture, improve your performance, decrease your chance of injury and align your muscles the way they were designed to be thus helping out with that low back pain or knee pain you may be struggling with.
PHASE 1: The first phase of your weight training you will want to increase your muscular endurance, joint stability, coordination and prepare the body for the heavier loads of the next phase of resistance training . To this end, you would select one exercise per body part such as a biceps curl for your biceps, a shoulder press for your shoulders and so on. You want to pick a weight that you can lift for 12-20 repetitions. Set a goal within this rep range (say 15 for example) That is, if your goal was 15 reps, then pick a weight that you would only be able to lift 15 times…you just couldn’t do the 16th because it’s too hard. The tempo should be what is called a 4/2/1 count. Example, lower the weight in a biceps curls counting to 4. At the bottom, count 2 then curl the weight up with a 1 count. So lift-1 second; lower—4 seconds---hold the bottom---2 seconds. After each exercise, rest from 0-90 seconds. (little rest between exercises if you are performing them in a circuit fashion---more rest if you are using weights for the first time)One more important component of this phase is you want to increase instability when you can. For instance, do shoulder presses on 1 leg or triceps extensions while lying on a stability ball. This increases your body’s stability AND recruits more muscle fibres with every move…you end up burning more calories. CAUTION…you won’t be able to lift as heavy of a weight while in an unstable condition so check your ego before you start! Do a full body routine twice week, 1 to 3 sets and stay in this phase for 4 weeks. So, to summarize Phase 1…1 to 2 exercises per body part, 12-20 reps, 1-3 sets, resting 0-90 seconds between sets, perform at a 4/2/1 tempo (SLOWWWW) and do the exercises in an unstable environment (1 leg…on stability ball etc. perform it twice a week with at least 48 hours between the workout and stay in this phase for 4-6 weeks
PHASE 2: The next phase progresses from phase 1 and it will increase your strength in what I call the strength endurance phase. Here, you will continue to increase your stabilization, increase your muscular strength and increase lean body mass. The key elements in this phase are moderate weight and reps and the introduction of supersets (two exercises back-to-back) You will perform two exercises per body part, before moving on to the next, back to back with the first exercise in a stable environment and the second in an unstable environment. For example a seated push press or bench press (stable environment) followed by a stability ball push-up (unstable). Or, a seated shoulder press followed by a 1 leg straight-arm dumbbell raise. During the stable exercise (eg. Bench press) the reps should be between 8-12. Again, pick a weight that you can only do that many times…one more would just make you explode. The tempo is a little faster here as well. A 2-count on the lifting portion and a 2-count on the lowering portion. The unstable exercise done immediately after should still be 12-20 reps and still a 4/2/1 count. Do a full body routine twice week, 1 to 3 sets, rest from 0-60 seconds between “supersets” and stay in this phase for 4 weeks.
If your goal is to lose weight and increase strength while increasing lean body mass then you can cycle back and forth between these two phases throughout the year. There are other phases of resistance training you can enter into if your goal is for muscle growth (hypertrophy) maximal strength or athletic power and performance but for today I’ll just address the goal of fat loss.