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Creating a Workout Program

Creating a successful training program is a matter of identifying your short and long-term goals, then designing a workout program to accomplish those goals.

But first, you need to know the definition of two simple words used in weight training, Rep and Set. Rep is short for repetition. Each rep is one lift, up and down. A set is the number of reps you do in a row without a pause.

  • For high mass, high strength and power, you should probably do 6 to 8 reps. But on some exercises such as squats or the bench press doing as few as two reps can make a difference. A longer rest of two to five minutes between sets is generally the rule for heavy weights and low reps.
  • If your goal is higher endurance, you can do as few as 10 and as many as 20 reps. To keep your heart rate elevated, you shouldn't rest more than one minute between sets.
  • If your goal is both endurance and strength, a good range is 8 to 12 reps, with a rest of one to two minutes between sets.

The ideal number of sets is different for everybody. Most experts believe that between two and four sets of each exercise is enough. But if you don't have much time, one set is better than none, as long as you're fatiguing the muscles.

For beginners, working out one hour, three days a week is a good goal. It gives you time in each workout to do your warm-up, 12 to 15 sets and a cool down with stretching. As you get more advanced, you can increase the number of workouts per week up to six.

Concentrate on working your body hard enough so that the last rep of each set is all you can do. The amount of weight you use depends on how strong you are. Don't go crazy and try to lift something so heavy you injure yourself.

If you're using free weights or dumbbells, make sure to have a spotter around. (A spotter is someone who stands by, ready to help you if you can't complete a rep.) If you find you can't complete the set in good form, choose a lighter weight for the next set. Likewise, you should increase the weight if the previous weight has gotten too light. And always record the weight, sets and reps to chart your progress.

There are three important things to consider when you're building a program.

Balance. Every muscle is balanced by another. Upper body and lower body; biceps and triceps or chest and back. Maintaining balance is essential; never neglect one muscle group for another. If you over-train one part of your body while neglecting another, it not only looks bad but can cause injury.

Recovery. Muscles grow while resting between workouts, not when you're lifting weights, so recovery time is critical. Don't work the same body part two days in a row. Give it 48 hours to recover. That doesn't mean you're limited to working upper body one day and lower body the next. You could work chest and biceps one day while working back and triceps the next.

Adaptation. As your muscles get stressed from working out, they grow stronger by adapting to the demands you place on them. If you stop stressing your muscles, they stop growing. That's why you need to change your workouts once the muscles have adapted. On average, that means you should change the program every six to eight weeks. Change your techniques, add new exercises or try cross training sessions. The one thing you shouldn't change is always work the larger muscle groups (back, chest, glutes, hamstrings and quads) before the smaller muscle groups (arms, calves and shoulders.)

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Follow these basic principles, and your workout programs will keep you fit and growing for years.

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beginning any diet or exercise program.