The Beginners Guide to Functional Strength
Sets, Reps and Intensity
there are many different ways in which to combine exercises
to create a strength training
routine, it is your individual goals that will ultimately
dictate which exercises to perform, how many
sets of each exercise, how many repetitions per set, and
the intensity you should be working at.
order for your program to be successful, you must have a
clear understanding of what sets, reps
and intensity mean, and what combination is right for you.
Reps is short for repetitions and it means how many times
you repeat an exercise during a set. For example, if you
are doing an Air Squat, one repetition means that you will
perform that exercise once, and ten repetitions means you
will perform that exercise 10 times. As simple as that sounds,
the key is in knowing how many "reps" to perform,
which is determined by your goals. Use the
following guidlines to decide how many reps is right for
reps -develops explosive strength and power (requires very
(8-12) reps - builds muscle mass and strength (requires
medium to heavy loads)
(15-20) reps - tones, defines and increases muscular endurance
(requires light to moderate loads)
each rep-range has its place, I typically start my clients
off with 10 reps for the first two weeks. This gives them
a chance to develop proper form and confidence. I then alternate
them between the
two upper rep-ranges about every 4-6 weeks. This ensures
a good balance of strength and definition.
Only experienced lifters should use the 3-5 range--heavy
loads can cause serious injury.
A set means how many times you repeat the total
number of reps of each exercise. So if your program calls
for 2 sets of 10 repetitions, that means you will be doing
a total of 20 repetitions, 10 reps in your first set, a
short rest period, then 10 reps in the second set. While
that might sound easy, beginners often struggle with the
second set because their muscles are too fatigued to continue.
One way to get around this and perhaps a better starting
point is to perform one set of all the exercises in your
routine, then go back and repeat each exercise again. This
is referred to as a strength circuit, and it allows the
muscles you worked in the first exercise to rest while you
move on to work a different group of muscles. Again,
whether you perform sets back-to-back or circuit fashion,
the key is in knowing how many sets is right for you.
the number of sets is based on your experience, as well
as the rep range you are working
in. For a beginner, 1-2 sets of 15-20 reps or 3 sets of
8-12 reps is fairly common and will deliver
noticable results. The more experienced you become the more
your body will be able to handle.
For the average person, 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps or 2-3 sets
of 15-20 reps is what I recommend.
Intensity refers to how much effort you put forth
to complete each set of an exercise, and
its importance cannot be overstated. If you’re not
working hard enough, you will most likely be
disappointed in the results, and if you’re working
too hard you could be at risk for an injury.
good way to make sure you are working at the proper intensity
is rather than working to a specific
number, you would instead work within a rep range, as stated
above. For example, in a rep range
of 15-20, you should be able to complete at least 15 reps
but not able to reach 20. Once you are able to reach 20
(with proper form) it's time to add weight. This is an excellent
way to ensure you are
working to your potential and will force your muscles to
constantly adapt to the new workloads
resulting in continued results.
I mentioned earlier, the exercises you choose will depend
upon the goals you have set for yourself.
But, seeing as how this article focuses on functional strength
for beginners, let's start by choosing at least 1 exercise
for each major muscle group. This is known as a full body
workout and is the most popular routine for those just getting
you are generally healthy and have no conditions that would
put you at risk by performing
these exercises, here is an example of a common beginners
Squat - squats using only your body weight
Incline Push-up - performed from a bench
or against a wall or somewhere in between
Braced Dumbbell Row - kneeling on a bench
or free hand braced on forward knee
Dumbbell Shoulder Press - standing (preferred)
or seated on an incline bench
Dead-Lift - using dumbbell(s) or a barbell
Standing Bicep Curls - using cable machine,
dumbbells or a barbell
Because each of these exercises are considered "functional"
in nature, the abdominals are
working hard to stabilize the body during each movement.
It is not necessary to perform situps or
crunches in this routine. You can however, add sit-ups if
it makes you feel better :)
Basics and Beyond DVD to learn how to perform over 30
exercises including 8 cable machine movements for a leaner,
trimmer, sexier waistline.
this link to my blog for additional strength training tips
Training Tips for Beginners