After deciding on the type of equipment and exercises based on the basic principles of weight training, your next decisions will involve choosing the number of sets and reps, resting between exercises and workouts, and determining the weights. Again, your personal trainer should discuss the best decisions about these matters with you.
Basic Practices: Sets and Reps
Your current goals should be the basis upon which decisions about sets and reps are made. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the general rules are:
- For strength and hypertrophy – 4 to 6 reps
- For muscle strength – 8 to 12 reps
- For muscle endurance – 10 to 15 reps
- For fat loss – 10 to 12 reps (Use a sufficient amount of weight or resistance to complete the reps)
- For muscle gain – 6 to 8 reps (3 or more sets to fatigue; engage in several weeks of conditioning first; use a spotter, if needed)
The recommendation also include one set of every exercise to fatigue although most people do between 2 and 3 sets. You have to build up your stamina and strength so that your body isn’t subjected to unnecessary stress and, thus, increased risk for injury.
Basic Practices: Rest and Recovery
Beginners, don’t test your limits and do stay within the safe zone. Intermediate and advanced fitness enthusiasts, don’t abuse your body and do listen to its cues. In both cohorts, it’s important to give the body – and the mind, for that matter – sufficient time to rest and recover from its injuries.
The general rule is the higher the number of reps, the shorter the time between exercises. For example, 30 to 60 seconds of rest is sufficient for a 15-rep set. But for heavy lifting with 4 to 6 reps may require 1 2-minute rest.
Beginners shouldn’t work to fatigue as much as possible. Starting out too heavy or too strong increases the risk of painful post-exercise muscle soreness.
As for resting between workouts, keep in mind that the body requires about 48 hours (2 days) of rest and recovery between workouts. Each muscle group will benefit the most from twice or thrice weekly training with proper rest in between. But if training at a higher intensity, a longer rest period is a must.
In terms of choosing the right weight, the general rule is: Lift a sufficient amount of weight that will allow for completing the desired number of reps; the last rep should be more difficult but still in good form, as previously mentioned. Also, the larger the muscles, such as the thighs, glutes, back, and chest, the heavier the weight should be.