What Is The Point Of Resistance Training?

What is the point of resistance training and do you need it to build muscle? Find out here...

During a quick break between sets, my attention is drawn to an all too common site at a local gym, dangerous lifting techniques that will most certainly result in a serious training injury. After spotting this training duo on the flat bench, my attention was peaked when an attempted 125 pound bench lift had the bar on such a severe angle that one of the unsecured plates started to slide off the bar.

The "spotter" noticed the struggle almost too late to help, but then urged his partner to continue. "Come on! You can do it!" was screamed as a source of motivation to the struggling lifter. This lifting team later moved on to shoulders where shoulder presses with far too heavy dumbbells were so shakily executed that I took cover in another part of the gym. This common scene of male training partners attempting to lift far too much weight, serves as a reminder that too many that enter the gym have missed the point of resistance training.

Women continue to be hung up on the myth that resistance training will result in too much muscle mass.

As a result, many female lifters avoid lifting heavy weight and just go through the motions of moving a light weight from point A to B without creating an environment that builds the "toned" muscle they desire. When we view these all too common sites in the gym, this baby boomer couple wonders if many lifters missed the point of resistance training.

Why Resistance Training?

The purpose of resistance training is to create a structural and physiological change in the physique. Both the change in muscle size and definition serve as indicators of the change. The amount of physiological change is determined by the volume (quantity), frequency and intensity of training.

Weightlifting serves to stress the worked muscle group to the point where it must adapt to meet the unaccustomed demands. Unless the muscles are pushed to this adaptation threshold, no effects from training will be gained. Think of muscle hypertrophy as a result of becoming bigger and stronger through stress. However, when the load is not high enough, no benefits of training will be realized.

For the male training duo that is unable to execute one rep with proper form, the choice of too much weight calls into action the antagonist muscles to aid in the lift.

In addition, rigid, jerky movements and the altered line of pull away from working the desired muscle group reduce the effectiveness and efficiency needed for the desired results. When the proper amount of weight is used in a progressive load fashion, muscles will get bigger, bones get stronger, the central nervous system grows more efficient at recruiting muscle action and motor skills become more refined and coordinated. Here's where the progressive load idea become a factor in the design of your training program.

As your body grows accustomed to the heavier loads, these loads no longer produce an environment of stress. Therefore, you need to increase the reps, increase the sets, increase the weights and/or reduce the amount of time between the sets in order to force the body to make positive physiological changes resulted from increased demands.

Certainly, each of us has a set of pre-determined genetics that affects the potential for physique development, but the willingness to put forth the effort necessary for positive changes largely determines success or failure. However, willingness is more than just showing up at the gym and using weights below or above our capacity.

Willingness to put forth effort means investing in some personal training sessions with a qualified trainer to understand proper form, alignment and how to isolate the worked muscle in a progressive overload appropriate to our strength levels at any given time.

In addition, willingness assumes a commitment to quality workouts where cell phones are left in the car and repetitions within sets are focused on the lift with no room for conversing while lifting. Gyms should be havens that provide an opportunity each week to challenge the body and quiet the mind. Leave the cells phones in the car and socialize with your friends outside of the gym.

Consider These Points For Successful Training:

  • Remember the isolation principle when training. Isolate the prime movers to the greatest extent possible to create an efficient adaptive response environment.

    • The weights should be heavy enough for an adaptive response, but light enough for control and the ability to isolate the muscle.

  • Use progressive overload techniques within an overall periodization training program.

    • Progressive overload is achieved by increasing the weights, sets or reps but not to the degree that you lose control of proper lifting technique. In addition, you can increase intensity by shortening the time between sets.

  • Time under tension must be considered.

    • Slow, continuous tension on muscles maximizes red fiber involvement. Too much weight yields little time under tension due to rigid, jerky movements in exercise execution. Too little weight is also responsible for little or no time under tension.

  • Recovery is a critical element in propelling you towards your goals.

    • Remember, muscle is built during the recovery process, not while in the gym. Properly executed lifts will fatigue muscles and require recovery time. If you are not fatigued, you may need to consider the intensity of your lifts. Remember too, that recovery time varies for individual muscles and for different individuals.

      You must be sensitive to body signs to determine your own recovery time. Thus some people can train a muscle two or three times per week, whereas others need a whole week for the muscle to recover before training it again.

      For instance, Richard's arms seem to thrive on 3 workouts per week, where as his legs, back and chest seem to do better on one or two workouts per week.

So lift smart by maximizing your training through periodization, adequate recovery time, and progressive resistance with weights appropriate to your strength levels that allow proper form.

Train hard, train smart and make it a legendary week!

Train hard, train smart and have a great workout with your partner!
Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC.
Richard Baldwin, Member. Legendary Physique, LLC.

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Copyright 2004. Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC. All rights reserved.

The advice given in this column should not be viewed as a substitute for professional medical services. Before undertaking any exercise or nutrition program, Legendary Fitness, LLC advises all to undergo a thorough medical examination and get permission from their personal physician.