A Sensible Muscle Building Plan

If you have been thinking about weight training, you need to separate bodybuilding facts from fiction.

1. 12 Repetitions are a must do

Not really. Most weight training programs extol 12 repetitions as a hard and fast rule for gaining muscle. The truth is, this approach actually denies important muscle groups of enough tension for effective muscle gain over the life of your training program. High tension, caused by use of heavy weights, provides tension so the muscle group being worked actually grows in size. This leads to noticeable gains in strength. Using the 12 rep rule boosts muscle size by generating tension on tissues around muscle fibers. The payoff is greater strength and endurance.

The standard prescription of eight to 12 repetitions provides a balance but only will get you to a level where you can esaily handle the weight. At that point, tension is no longer provided. In other words you peak and do not generate greater tension levels necessary for muscle growth and even greater strength and endurance. So, what to do?

The answer for you may be heavier weights and lesser reps. This steps up the level of tension and you get bulky muscles in the process. You may end up looking like Arnold. On the other hand, if you just want to lose some fat and tone your muscles, the key is less weight and more reps. Use just enough weight to feel tension and go for more reps. Listen to your body and adjust the number of reps and the weight to where you get your heart rate elevated but not to the pointing of grunting red-faced.

2. 3 Set rule with the 12 rep rule

Apply this correctly and there’s nothing wrong with three sets. A set, in case you don’t know, is doing 12 reps 3 times in a row. Each set of 12 reps is one set. And, the number of sets you perform should be based on your goals and not on a hard and fast rule that’s been around for 50 years. Your body is unique. Listen to it. A good rule of thumb is, the more repetitions you do on an exercise, the fewer sets you should do, and vice versa. This keeps the tension provided by the total number of repetitions at a manageable level. But, you decide the right amount of tension, not the rules.

3. Three to four exercises per muscle group

Wrong and a waste of you gym dues. You will spread yourself too thin and not accomplish the tension you need for each muscle group. Instead, focus on parts of the body over several days. In other words, work your upper body one day, your abs the next day, your lower body the next and just wash, rinse, and repeat. This gives muscle groups 24 to 72 hours for repair and rejuvenation.

4. The Baloney Squat

If someone says – “don’t let your knees go past your toes” – when doing squats, ask them if they have a back problem because they probably do or, at the very least, they will need back or knee surgery soon. The fact is, you have to lean forward to keep your knees from going past your toes. This causes way too much stress on your lower back and is more likely to cause an injury. There is ample research that confirms this type of squatting causes undue knee stress, as much as 30% more. Even worse, hip stress increases nearly 10 times or (1000 percent) when the forward movement of the knee is restricted. Plus, squatting that way transfers all that strain to the lower back.

When you do squats, focus on your upper body position and less on the knees. Keep the torso in an upright position as much as possible when doing squats. This will lessen stress on the hips, knees, and back. A good excercise to do, without using any weights at all, is to practice standing upright, before squatting, squeezing the shoulder blades together. Hold your shoulder blades in that position, slowly squat keeping your forearms 90 degree to the floor. Do this as many times as it takes to get your balance and only then add some weight. If your gym has a leg sled, that’s even better.

Since I’m on the subject of back injuries, need I say you should be wearing a so-called “kidney belt”? If you don’t know what that is, run to your nearest sports store and buy one. Your lower back will love you for it.

5. Crunches make great abs

Not really. There is a better way. Muscles work in groups to stabilize the spine because the spine is your center of gravity. Abs, or the transverse abdominis, literally takes of itself. During most exercises, various muscle groups that are needed most for support of the spine are activated. You will notice this during your workout. Your abs and back muscles will be tense. They are being worked during almost every step of your weight training. If you are crunching your way to rippled abs, you may be overworking that muscle group at the expense of other groups. You can activate wrong muscles and limit the right muscles. This increases the chance of injury.

I saved the best for last. Before you begin any exercise program, talk with your family doctor. He or she knows what your body can handle and may give you an exercise plan that best fits your age and body style.

Jim DeSantis