Weight Training Workout Design

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Sets & Reps

I’ve just found your site recently and am finding it very helpful for explaining and showing specific exercises. The only thing I haven’t been able to find is a rep/set routine for the workout routines listed. Is this available somewhere on the site, or if possible, can you give some direction as to what a typical workout should include ie 3 sets, 8-10 reps...

Full Body Workout CardTwo of the four workout cards, you will find a general set/rep guidelines for warm-up and workout set(s).

You can also find general guidelines in the articles in the weight training section:

We also offer recommendations for those with a few years of training experience in Light/Heavy Training as well as sample programs for advanced athletes for general sports conditioning, as well as powerlifting, and Olympic-style weightlifting (Smattering of Training Programs).


Repetition Range for Abdominal Training

Lying Leg Hip RaiseWhat's the recommended training for abs? Sometimes, higher reps 20-50 are recommended. Or should I try to use the same approach as with the larger muscles (8-12 reps then increase weight)?

I would only recommend 8-12 reps on ab training if your goal of spinal flexion strength outweighs aesthetic concerns. As with any muscle, the muscles of the midsection can atrophy, or grow thicker, particularly in men. As your body fat drops, the abdominal region is probably the last area you will achieve total leanness. Interestingly, fat is both above (subcutaneous) and below the abdominal muscle (visceral). If you are super lean with a very small waist, you could see good results with 8-12 reps. Otherwise, I recommend lighter weight and more reps (e.g. 20-50 or 20-30 reps) to retard muscle mass increases in this area with typically greater fat. This will not burn more fat, it will improve muscular endurance though. You can afford to do lighter weight on the abdominal exercises since it would yield little metabolic increase relative to exercise that work a larger muscle mass. Incidentally, exercises involving larger muscles are the exercise that have the greatest potential to burn the greatest amount of fat for hours after a workout. Also see spot reduction myth.


Starter Program for Beginner

I hope to set up a weight lifting program, but I was confused with the exercise choices. I'm an absolute beginner--age 48, female, 254 pounds. Equipment available: a weight bench (with butterfly? and leg curl? attachments), barbell set, and dumb bells (1-5 pounds). What would be a starter program?

Choose mostly barbell, bodyweight, and self assisted exercises for now. You can add dumbbell exercise after you purchase heavier sets; you only have enough weight for beginning dumbbell lateral raises. To develop a program, follow the Workout Creation Instructions and Weight Training Guidelines or see Basic Program with Minimum Equipment. Also include an aerobic component like brisk walking most days of the week, follow Dietary Guidelines, and see Exercise & Obesity.


Changing Exercises Every Workout

Is there anything wrong with changing exercises every workout. Eg, barbell press on Monday, and Dumbbell press on Wed or Thurs.

Dumbbell Rear Lateral RaiseCertainly, this strategy can be used if the individual feels it will improve their compliance to a program. However, changing exercise every workout may make it difficult to determine how much weight should be used on each exercise, particularly on "progressive resistance" based program. Exercises for even the same muscle group utilize the muscles somewhat differently from exercise to exercise. Changing exercises every workout may make it more difficult for the body to adapt to a particular exercise, particularly if the exercise is not performed at least weekly.

If too much weight is used, form may suffer and injury is more likely. If too little weight is used, the body will not have an opportunity to adapt to the required overload. It may become more difficult to use the ideal resistance if you change your exercises every workout. Keeping track of how much weight should be on the bar can be even more important for beginners who can potentially move up on reps or weight almost every workout and respond more favorably to greater frequency as compared to their more experienced counterparts (see Strength Dose-response Curve).

Systematic increases of repetitions and resistance can easily be achieved by performing the same exercises for at least a few weeks, although it could be argued, a beginner will make progress in strength, endurance, and restoration on muscular size no matter what they do as long as they are consistent and allow for recovery between workouts. A possibly favorable compromise could be alternating between two different exercises every other workout. Also see Weight Training Log and Restimulating Progress by Changing Exercises.


Advanced Program for Intermediate Trainee

I've been working out for 18 months consistently. In which time I've went from a scrawny 125 to 160. I've been working out 4-5 days a week, but my program has not been professionally organized. I am electing to go with your 4 day split: push and pull: and I'm going to do it 6 days a week. I have the stamina and feel energetic enough to do that. My only question would be regarding the length of time (two/three months?) that would be recommended for such intense exercise. I'm also making this a low volume workout. I began yesterday. Some exercises, after stretching and a warm up, I will do two sets of and others just one set, both 8-12 reps as recommended.

Congratulations on your remarkable gains! The 4 day split is typically for more advanced bodybuilders. They are usually utilized when higher volume programs are implemented. More exercises and sets can be tolerated when concentrating on fewer muscles groups but longer recovery between working each body part is required. In this case you would be working each muscle group one and a half times per week (ABCDABX,CDABCDX). You can certainly give it a try but beware that some hard gainers may find it more difficult to put on muscle when they are exercising 6 days per week for too long. Make sure you are getting enough calories for adequate recovery. Perhaps consider a month (or two at the most) at a time on this sort of program. I only used the one you mentioned when I was preparing for the Mr. Kansas and National Bodybuilding Championships back in 1990. I don't want to discourage you from using the 4 day split though. You will probably make good gain just by making this change. Just change it back to a 2 or 3 day split after a month or two for continued progress. Good luck.


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