ACSM's Program for Balanced Fitness (Part Two)
Material adapted from ACSM's Complete Guide to Fitness & Health by the American College of Sports Medicine. (Copyright 2011 by Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.) Excerpted by permission of Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. http://www.humankinetics.com/.
A balanced exercise program is like a sturdy three-legged stool. If one leg is weak or too short, the stool isn't stable. In the same way, ignoring one of the exercise components will put your fitness program out of balance. Each health-related component of physical fitness — aerobic fitness, muscular fitness, and flexibility and balance — is important and must be considered. Although you may have a slightly different focus than someone else, to meet your own personal health or fitness goals, you need to address each one of these components.
Muscular fitness training is typically referred to as resistance training and addresses both muscular strength and muscular endurance. Muscular strength is the maximum amount of force a muscle or muscle group can produce. Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to exert a force repeatedly over time or to maintain a contraction for a period of time. Most activities involve aspects of both.
Muscular fitness can be improved with resistance training. In general, your program should include exercises for the major muscle groups — chest, shoulders, arms, upper and lower back, abdomen, hips, and legs. You should also train opposing muscle groups to maintain balance, which will help you avoid injury (e.g., include both low back exercises and abdominal exercises.)
Your resistance training program consists of repetitions and sets. A repetition refers to the act of lifting a weight one time; lifting the weight multiple times in succession is called a set. Each muscle group should be trained in sets. You can repeat a given exercise, or you can select different exercises that target the same muscle group. The number of repetitions and sets will depend on your goals.
In addition, the relative intensity of the resistance training session is another factor. To improve muscular fitness, you have to apply an overload, or stress beyond typical use, to the muscle or muscle group.
Getting Started With a Resistance Training Program
1. Make a commitment.
- Exercise will take time and effort. Expect to resistance train 20 to 45 minutes, two or three times per week.
- You may be a little sore initially or when adding a new activity, but it will pass.
2. Find a good resource.
- Learn 8 to 10 different exercises to strengthen all the major muscle groups.
- Seek the help of a professional or a good book to learn the appropriate body position and lifting technique for each exercise.
3. Develop a routine.
- Perform 8 to 15 repetitions for each set, and complete two to four sets of each exercise. If you cannot do at least eight repetitions, the weight is too heavy.
- Breathe once for each repetition; inhale when relaxing and exhale when lifting.
- Always move the weight slowly.
- Rest approximately two minutes between sets, or do an exercise focused on a different muscle group.
4. Progress as you improve.
- If you can exceed 15 repetitions, the weight is too light; gradually increase the resistance. Initially, you will make more frequent adjustments.
5. Rest and grow.
- Do not do resistance training of the same muscle group on two consecutive days.
- Rest to give your body time to recuperate.
- You will become stronger — typically 25% to 100% stronger in each muscle group.
- Research shows that the biggest improvements are in the first few months.
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