Monday, 12 January 2015

Plan Ex

So you read the last article and if you didn’t, read it here. My previous article looked at some tests that you can do to find out where you are before you start an exercise program. You should have a program to follow. You could pay someone to do it or you can educate yourself on how to write one. That way you can just go ahead and see if you can hit your goal without anyone else’s help. This article will provide a little bit of guidance to help you design your own program.
First thing is you need to determine your situation. You are an individual and things like age, gender, work and family life as well as medical history and even self-confidence will determine what your plan will look like. Your goal/challenge will play a huge role as well, you wouldn’t write a plan to swim a mile then take up boxing and not swim at all.

So let’s get to some variables of the plan. This includes repetitions, sets, rest, frequency, intensity, tempo, progressive overload and types of exercises/activity. Repetitions (reps) refers to how many times you do a particular exercise or movement e.g. 12 reps bicep curls. Repetitions will have a relationship with intensity. Generally the heavier the weight (intensity %1Repetition Max) the less reps you will be able to do. If you are trying to improve strength without putting on to much muscle mass you would use 1-5 reps with an intensity of 85%-100% of your 1RM. If you are trying to get bigger muscles use the 8-12 rep range with intensities of 60-85% of your 1RM. Now if you want to increase your endurance use 15-20 reps with greater than 40% of your 1RM. Now I am aware that I am using resistance examples but you could use cardio based exercise. Cardiovascular examples include 3 repetitions of sprints or running 1 repetition of a mile. These examples can be linked to intensity as well. Cardiovascular exercise intensity is often measured as heart rate BPM (beats per minute) or percentage of maximum heart rate. These are measured by a HRM (heart rate monitor) For example 3 sprint reps at 80-90% of maximum HR or 1 mile of running at 140-150bpm. Rate of perceived exertion (RPE) could be used for either modes of exercise whereby the exerciser will chose a rating off a scale to describe how hard they are working.

Now I briefly want to talk about tempo many people these days pay no attention to tempo but it can be a real game changer. Have you ever been at a gym and seen a guy doing a bicep curl slowly down and quickly up? That is an example of tempo. Tempo is how long you should take to lift the weight up, pause, put the weight down and pause. Tempo is measured in seconds and it often expressed 2110 as an example. So 2 seconds to lift the weight up, 1 second to pause, 1 second to lower the weight and no pause at the bottom. The table below can give you some guidance. Keep in mind that every one of these variable are related and if you normally do a weight with no tempo and then you slow it down to suit a specific tempo that weight will get hard real quick. Tempo can also be used in cardiovascular training you may run a mile in a set time period say 1 mile in 7 mins.

So I covered the use of reps and intensity but you don’t generally do 10 biceps curls on their own and that’s that because we need to challenge the muscles to grow. You do sets which is basically how many lots of reps you will do. So if you do 8 squats you may rest and do another set which means you did two sets of eight reps or 2x8. It is important to understand that all of these variables are interrelated with each other. So for reps 1-5 you may do 4-7 sets, reps 8-12 sets would be 4-8 and endurance 15-20 reps would be 2-4 sets. So you will notice that for the greater amount of reps for endurance there are less sets to be done. I explain it like a see saw the more reps you do in a set the less sets you will do. Please note for cardiovascular training these may be different you won’t likely do 2x20 mile runs especially if you are starting out.

Rest is often overlooked but I believe it can be one of the most crucial variables of a program. Why you ask, well if you shorten or lengthen rest periods it can change how your body responds. But to keep this basic I’ll give you some basic rest times that accompany the sets, reps and intensities. The strength 1-5 range will see people rest 2-6 mins, muscle building 8-12 reps 2-5 minutes and endurance 15-20 reps 30secs to 2 minutes. These are all done for certain reasons mainly to give the body a chance to recover from the previous sets and reps efforts.
Leading from rest is frequency or rest between sessions I like to call it. This is about how often you exercise. The American college of sports medicine recommends 15mins of cardio a week and resistance done 2-3 times a week. But how many days per week? Well that’s up to you but I would recommend alternating cardio with resistance or upper and lower body workouts. Be aware that if you have a big session doing upper body you wouldn’t do upper body the next day. Frequency will depend on your plan design, the harder the session depending on what you did the more rest you may need between sessions.

Now that I have explained some of the other variables I will introduce volume. Volume is the amount of work that you are doing in a session. It is calculated in resistance training by sets x reps x load e.g bicep curls 3x8x20lbs = 480lbs and that is in one session and as you can see it quickly adds up. Other ways of measuring training volume are miles covered total or time at a certain HR (heart rate). It is important to understand that total volume is measured per session and totalled for the week. To much volume and you can burn out or hurt yourself, not enough and you may not be getting all the benefits you could for your time. Prescribing volume will depend heavily on what your program has in it. I know that Olympic weightlifters measure their programs volume with tonnage. Side fact 1980’s Bulgarian weightlifters over a year may lift 41 000 tonnes of weight.

Planning the order and type of exercises will depend on what you do you want to achieve. Generally exercises are ordered from compound to isolation exercises, heaviest and most taxing to easiest. This may seem obvious but if you do 3x8 of bicep curls and then try to do some chin-ups which your biceps are heavily involved in, your chin-ups performance may suffer. So you would do bench press before you do dumbbell fly’s or you would squat before you did leg extension. To add fuel to the fire if you do cardio before weights or weights before cardio has been contentious within the research. It has been shown it depends on what you are trying to emphasise so this should be taken into account.

Finally the main thing we need to remember is that we are trying to improve something whether it be running further or faster, lifting heavier or more reps we always need to be improving. If you are not progressing you may need to look at your plan or give it a bit more time and hard work. This variable is known as progressive overload and to put it into a simple example you may start walking for 10 minutes each day and every week add 2 minutes to each day and over the course of a year you will increase your walking time a hell of a lot. The body adapts over time but as a caveat via the S.A.I.D principle, (specific adaptions to imposed demands). So keep in mind whilst the example may get better at walking that doesn’t mean they will get better at squatting and heavy weight. So now you are asking how do I go about overloading? Well there are a few ways, you may decide to add a rep each week if you can or instead of 8 reps you do 12. You may decide to add a pound or 0.5 of a kg each week or an extra minute to your run. It is about those small steps that your body can adapt to so you improve gradually, safely and for a long time.

So there you go these are the main variables that you can manipulate to build a plan. Keep in mind that all of the variables are all interconnected and will effect each other. Take it easy and record it in a journal so you can log each session. That way when you design a new plan you have notes about your previous sessions to help guide your.
Like most things in science there are a few different ideas on how many reps, sets and rest times should be used for strength, hypertrophy and endurance. Please keep that in mind if you find that someone tells you that hypertrophy (muscle building) is 10-12 reps as an example and it is different from information here.

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