Resistance Training

Overview

Resistance training is a form of exercise that increases muscular strength and endurance. Any movement against a form of resistance is considered resistance training. These types of exercises can be done with weights, bands or even your own body. Overtime adaptation to training occurs. Adaptation is a unique human quality that allows us to adjust to internal and external factors. The purpose of exercise is some form of adaptation.

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General adaptation

The optimum state the body wants is homeostasis. The body will search to find homeostasis even if that means changing itself to withstand the stressors. The general adaptation system (GAS) is how the body responds to stress. 

Exercise is often called eustress or good stress as it allows the body to adapt over time to greater demands. The human movement system can then maintain homeostasis in a variety of states. For adaptation to happen stressors need to be present. There are several states the body goes through when adapting to stress.

The states are:

  • Alarm reaction: initial reaction to the stressor. During this time numerous processes in the body are activated. The body is forced to adapt to the increased demands. Oxygen, blood supply and neural recruitment boosts. Overtime through progressive overload the body adapts. With this adaptation comes soreness. Soreness can take up to 2-3 days to kick in, this is called delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). To minimize soreness or the delayed onset of it start with low intensity and progress.
  • Resistance development: increased functional capacity to adapt. The body becomes more efficient. Muscle fibre recruitment and oxygen distribution are improved. To continue adaptation furthered stress or overload is required. This can be achieved through the use of exercise variables. Soreness eventually subsides leading to enhanced performance. Enhanced performance leads to continued improvement. Continued improvements lead to plateaus. Performance can be maintained or improved.
  • Exhaustion: onsets after prolonged stress or intolerable amounts of stress. Too much stress causes breakdown or injury. Different types of injuries can be stress fractures, muscle strains, joint pain or fatigue. Exhaustion can be avoided with periodization. Periodization is the cycling of training programs through various levels of intensity, demand and training methods using progression. Most often injuries happen in connective tissue. Overtraining happens when the body is trained beyond its limits.

Specificity

The principle of specificity or SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demand) states the body will adapt to the type of demand placed on it. An example, weightlifters will adapt to lifting weights as runners will adapt to running. When applying SAID it’s important to use it appropriately, the body reacts differently to different stimuli. 

There are two types of muscle fibers, Type 1 and Type 2. Type-1 are slow twitch, smaller in diameter, slower to produce max tension and slower to fatigue. They have the ability for long-term contraction aiding in stabilization, endurance and postural control. Type-2 are fast twitch, larger in size, quick to produce max tension, fatigue faster and produce force and power. Higher intensity training requires postural control. 

Tissues need to be prepared through specific training to allow for more advanced methods.

Degree of adaptation is related to mechanical, neuromuscular and metabolic specificity. 

  • Mechanical specificity: the weight and movement placed on the body. As an example lighter weights plus higher reps equals greater muscular endurance. Whereas higher weights plus lower reps equals greater muscular strength.
  • Neuromuscular specificity: speed of contraction and exercise performed. For improvements in this area exercises should be performed in a controlled unstable environment at slower speeds. Controlled environments plus heavier loads leads to higher levels of strength. While higher levels of velocity in a plyometric manner leads to higher levels of power.
  • Metabolic specificity: energy demand placed on the body. Endurance requires greater training times with minimal periods of rest. The aerobic pathways supply energy for this type of training. Strength training requires shorter training periods with higher intensity and longer rest between bouts. Anaerobic pathways supply energy for this type of training.

Progressive adaptation

Adaptation is when change happens to the body. Resistance training provides a variety of adaptations. Resistance training ensures optimal health and longevity. Overtime strength and endurance develop, length of training time increases before reaching exhaustion, leading to greater change. Main adaptations are:

  • Stabilization: ability to provide optimal dynamic joint support, maintain correct posture in all movement. Proper stabilization is achieved when the ability to fire the right muscles, with the right force, in the proper plane of motion at the right time is achieved. High levels of muscular endurance are required. Training in controlled unstable environments increases stabilization.
  • Endurance: ability to produce and maintain force production for prolonged periods of time. Increases core and joint stabilization. The foundation for hypertrophy, strength and power training. Forces the recruitment of postural muscles (type 1). Higher reps and periodization training are best to increase muscular endurance.
  • Hypertrophy: enlargement of skeletal muscle fibers. Increase in cross-sectional area of individual muscle fibers. Visibility of results doesn’t always show initially, sometimes 4-8 weeks. Low to intermediate rep ranges plus progressive overload equals hypertrophy.
  • Strength: ability to create internal tension to overcome external force. Degree of internal tension is the result of strength adaptations. Intensity and training are factors in type of strength gained. Increased recruitment of motor units is a factor of increased strength. Heavier loads increase strength until a plateau is reached. Strength requires stabilization. Strength training cannot be thought of in isolation. Designed to match characteristics of type 2 muscle fibers.
  • Power: ability to create the greatest possible force in the shortest amount of time. Power is force times velocity. It is built on stabilization and strength adaptations. Increases in force or velocity will increase power. Training can include increases in weight or speeds at which weight is moved. To maximize training heavy and light loads need to be moved as fast as possible in a controlled manner. Superset training methods are best to maximize adaptations.

Training

Training programs should reflect the desired outcome. Consistent manipulation of training is required to meet goals. Systematic, integrated training programs using acute variables is the best method for achieving optimal results. Types of training systems:

  • Single-set: one set of each exercise at a time. Recommended two times per week for sufficient development and maintenance of muscle groups. Often criticized for lack of stimulus to muscles. Great for beginners to allow tendons and connective tissues to adapt. Avoid using excess weight. Always use proper form.
  • Multi-set: multiple numbers of sets per exercise. Resistance, sets and reps are goal specific. Great for novice and advanced athletes. Increased volume is required for continued adoption. Careful not to overtrain.
  • Pyramid: a progressive or regressive stepped approach which either increases or decreases weight with each set.
  • Superset: two exercises performed quickly one after another with minimal rest. Example bench press followed by push up. Example chest and back. Rep range 8-12, no rest between exercises.
  • Drop-sets: sets to failure, then reduce weight to repeat.
  • Circuit-Training: series of exercises one after another. Low to moderate sets, moderate to high reps. Short rest. Great for time crunched trainees. Great for body recomposition
  • Peripheral Heart Action: alternates upper body and lower body exercises. Distributes blood flow through the body, improves circulation. Exercises vary by goal
  • Split: training body parts on different days. Numerous exercises for specific body parts on individual days. Optimal for hypertrophy.
  • Vertical/Horizontal Loading: vertical or horizontal progression of exercises for body parts. Similar to circuit training. Limited rest periods 30-90 seconds.

Types of exercises include:

Implementation

Introducing resistance training into your program is as simple as adding a block of select activities to your routine. Keep it interesting and properly progress through levels and movements. But be sure to have a strong core and a foundation of stabilization before adding this to your routine.