Testing your maxes in the gym and developing a benchmark to work from is paramount to creating an efficient and effective training program.
It is also important to listen to your body, if testing reveals muscular imbalances or joint weakness, working on fixing those issues should be first and foremost on your training agenda. Take time now to remedy existing problems and you will be saving yourself the frustration of years of aches and pains and even more serious potential injury.
In order to plan your exercises you must first identify the movements and contractions significant to your sport or activity. Once completed you will know which exercises require testing.
Although figuring out which muscles are responsible for what movement seems straightforward, certain movements can be hard to dissect. A jump in figure skating can be deceiving, although the Quadriceps and Gluteal muscles are active, muscles in the back, oblique and shoulders play a major role in the rotation. Use this example and alter your training objectives to engage more complimentary muscle groups.
Although it can seem overwhelming, understanding that in every contraction there are Prime Movers also known as Agonists as well as Antagonists and Synergists is critical. Prime Movers are responsible for specific movements and contractions, conversely Antagonists drive an opposing action and a Synergist basically supports joint and bone stability. For example the Agonist for knee extension is the Quadriceps however it has an opposite or Antagonistic muscle which controls knee flexion, the Hamstring. Thus for a track athlete it would be important to focus not just on the development of the Quadriceps, but also on the Hamstring to avoid imbalance and injury as well as maximize performance.
Use the principles discussed to design your program. Firstly know what it is that you need or want to train.
If you are an athlete, choose the primary movements of your sport and then look at the muscles that support them. Choose exercises which do not isolate but rather engage the Prime Movers more than any other muscle group. This could mean for the Quadriceps using a Front Squat, or to combine Agonists such as the Triceps and Pectorals use a Parallel Bar Dip. Athletes should work to reduce the number of total exercises per workout. To do this, use exercises such as the Deadlift, Back Squat and Decline Dumbbell Press to create a core group of exercises which not only employ maximum use of the Prime Movers, but also require plenty of supporting muscles. Use the core exercises and the corresponding Agonists to identify the Antagonists and appropriate supporting exercises, this is crucial to maintaining muscular balance. Consequently you will end up with a program that looks like the following:
Exercise #1; Front Squat
Exercise #2; Standing Hamstring Curl
Exercise #3; Decline Dumbbell Press
Exercise #4; Deadlift
Exercise #5; Parallel Bar Dip
Exercise #6; Lat Pull-down
For athletes maximizing their time in the weight room allows for technical, tactical and sport specific elements to be trained without compromise. To optimize time management, athletes should enter their preparatory phase of training with Anatomical Adaptation, once that is done move directly to Maximum Strength. During Max Strength, workout frequency should be 3 times per week. Training during those three sessions should remain consistent and attempt to cover all appropriate exercises regardless of muscle group. The goal of Max Strength for athletes is to increase fast twitch muscle fiber recruitment, hence Circuit training is best as it allows for maximum recovery. The number of exercises should be capped at 8 but 6 is optimal, look for 3 to 5 minutes recovery time between sets. This amount of recovery time is foreign to many athletes so look to the next article for clarity.
If you are a bodybuilder during this step you should identify each major muscle group, and then in succession list them from weakest to strongest. The weakest Prime Movers are in need of the most improvement and thus you should engage them early in your workout. In this style of program remember Maximum Strength will develop muscle density therefore should be given specific attention in your annual planning. Although for bodybuilders the length of the Maximum Strength phase will be shorter than for most athletes, as more focus will be given to Hypertrophy (cell volume) and Muscle Definition training.
From this discussion identify your primary and secondary exercises which you will use to build your program. Once you have done this go get some 1 rep maximum testing results using the previous articles recommendations.
Next article you will utilize your testing numbers to design a Maximum Strength Program.
Yours in Health,