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Weight Training Tips: Beyond the Basics

by Thomas F. Strafaci, CSCS

So you've started a weight training program and you've been at it for 6 months. You've gotten over the initial muscle soreness and stiffness and now you're starting to see a little change in your body. Pretty cool, huh? Well now it's time to move up and beyond your basic program.

Intermediate weight training is the level at which 90% of trainees work at for the duration of their weight training lives. Truly advanced programs are usually reserved for bodybuilders, Olympic lifters and power lifters whose needs are very specific and demanding.

Let's look at the specific characteristics of a good weight training program and see how they may apply to your program:

Frequency of Training
For optimum recovery, trainees need at least 48 hours between training sessions for the same body part. This rule applies to every trainee...from rank beginner to advanced bodybuilder. If you train all body parts each workout, you should only train every other day. If you prefer splitting body parts, just remember to rest each body part for 48 hours before it's next workout.
Exercise Volume
If you are training every body part at each workout, you should limit your exercises to one compound movement per body part. Compound exercises require the movement of more than one joint, i.e., squats, bench presses, pull downs, etc. If you are splitting your body parts, you can add simple exercises to the corresponding compound exercises. Simple exercises require the isolated movement of one joint. For example, you can add dumbbell flies to your bench press, or leg curls to your squats.
Exercise Intensity
Compound exercises need more sets than simple exercises to be both safe and effective. Simple, one-joint exercises are more direct in nature. A good rule of thumb for the intermediate trainer is four to six sets of compound exercises and two sets of simple exercises. Rep schemes generally involve eight to ten reps for upper body movements and twelve to twenty reps for lower body movements. Try experimenting with such principles as forced reps and training to failure for short periods (one workout every two weeks). They're harder to recover from and always require a spotter or training partner.
Tempo
Workout tempo is not addressed by many trainers, but it is very important. You should train at a fairly rapid pace with minimal rest between sets. Strive for less recovery time between sets and exercises. This develops your anaerobic and, to some degree, your aerobic energy systems.

These techniques will help you move beyond basic training and allow you to make steady gains in your weight training program.

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