Activ8 Advice: Training With Purpose

By PCYC Lang Park Gym+Fitness Trainer, Shaye Geiss

Most of us set goals for training. These can range from increasing strength, endurance or general health and wellness, to aesthetic changes or enhancing sports performance. But to achieve your goals, you need to know the right way to train for your required outcome: you need to train smart! And knowing the type of training to do and how many sets, reps, how long to rest and exercise timing and selection all come into play.

For someone who has been sedentary or has never set foot in a gym, learning the various foundation exercises and their techniques is vital to avoiding injury and maximising benefits.

  • In these early days, reps should be higher, weights should be lower, and 2-3 sets should be done with rest periods of 30 to 60 seconds in between.
  • Tempo, which is the speed in which the weight is moved, should be slow and controlled. Compound exercises, those that use more than one muscle group, are usually the most effective and efficient to use in this phase of training and training 2-4 days a week is ideal.
  • If you are training to increase your muscle mass (hypertrophy training) or to tone up, reps should be between 8-12, you should be doing 3-6 sets per exercise with slightly heavier weights, rest between sets should be between 1-3 minutes and the speed at which you lift and lower should focus longer time on the lowering component of the exercise. 2-3 sessions a week of wholebody exercises is great but if you train more than 3 times a week, a split program is best.
  • Training to be strong, or strength training, involves lifting very heavy weights, with less repetitions, and taking much longer rest periods between sets. Once again, the lowering component of the exercise is slower than the lifting component. Large muscle group compound exercises should primarily be used, with smaller muscle group exercises used in conjunction with the larger group ones. As with hypertrophy training, 2-3 whole body sessions per week is ideal and, once again, if your aim is to train more than 3 times a week, a split program is best.
  • If endurance or weight loss is your goal, a muscular endurance program is best. This form of training is all about the muscles being able to last longer at a given task. A typical session would include higher repetitions (10-25) with lighter weights and 1-4 sets per exercise with less rest in between.

Training needs to be specific. If you are training to enhance performance in a particular activity working the muscles specific to this activity is imperative. For example, if your goal is to win a mountain bike race, not only will you need to increase your cardiovascular fitness and train the muscles used for riding, you will also need to replicate the same movement patterns, that is, you’ll need to get on a bike and ride and not on a rower!

Finally, to train smart make sure that your diet aligns with your fitness goals (speak to a qualified professional if you are unsure how to go about doing this) and that you include rest days into your program to let your body adapt and recover. This is important if you are to avoid injury and fatigue and to get the very best out of your training.