PRINCIPLES OF EXERCISEThere are certain underlying principles regarding exercise and activity. We believe that one should be aware of these basic concepts in order to maximize the effectiveness of this program. Your personalized program should be designed to reflect each of these principles in such a manner that you can most easilty accomplish your goals.
Intensity refers to how hard one exercises. Intensity can also describe the amount of energy needed to perform a particular exercise or activity.
For cardiorespiratory training purposes, intensity is expressed as a percentage of maximal heart rate or heart rate reserve and is displayed in heart beats per minute.
For resistance training, intensity usually refers to a percentage of the person's repetition maximum (RM). The repetition maximum figure represents the greatest amount of weight that can be lifted in good form for a specific exercise and a specific number of times. For example, 1RM stands for the greatest amount of weight an individual can properly lift one time, while 10RM represents the heaviest weight with which one can properly perform ten repetitions.
For purposes of flexibility training, intensity usually refers to the degree of stretch or "stretching sensation." Most stretches call for an intensity that is below the individual's pain threshold.
Duration refers to the total time an exercise session or activity should be conducted.
For cardiorespiratory training, duration is usually expressed in terms of minutes.
For resistance training, duration refers to either the time of a single contraction, as in a 5 second isometric contraction, or the total time of the program itself, as in a 6 week weight training program. Duration can also be used to represent the length of a single resistance training session.
For flexibility work, duration can represent both the time of the hold on an individual stretch or the total time of the stretching workout itself. The individual stretches are expressed in terms of seconds while the workouts are usually associated with minutes.
Frequency represents the number of training sessions per week. Whether the program involves cardiorespiratory, resistance or flexibility training, frequency is expressed in terms of times per day or days per week.
Volume refers to the total amount of work done during a specified period of time, such as a single exercise session or an entire week of activity sessions.
For purposes of cardiorespiratory training, volume represents the product of duration and frequency. This figure is usually expressed in hours or minutes.
For example, a person who rides a stationary cycle for 15 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday would have a total training volume of 60 minutes or one hour for that specific activity (15 minutes per session x 4 sessions = 60 minutes total).
For resistance training, volume refers to the total number of repetitions performed during a specific time period. Thus, volume can be expressed for a single training session or a series of training sessions. Resistance training volumes make use of the terms sets and reps. A rep refers to a repetition, or the proper performance of an exercise from beginning to end. A set represents a given number of consecutive repetitions of an exercise that is accomplished without resting. In addition, the load volume represents the total amount of weight lifted during a training session. For example, an individual who performs three sets of eight repetitions with 100 lbs. has lifted a total load volume of 2,400 lbs. (3 sets x 8 reps x 100 lbs. = 2400 lbs.).
Flexibility training volumes can be expressed in terms of the number of stretches done in a single session or throughout a series of sessions. For example, an individual who spends ten total minutes performing six stretches every morning would have a flexibility training volume of 42 stretches per week (6 stretches x 7 days = 42 stretches). The training volume for flexibility work can also be expressed in terms of the total time spent stretching per session or series of sessions. For example, the individual described above would have a total weekly flexibility training volume of 70 minutes (10 minutes x 7 sessions = 70 minutes).
As you subject your muscles and cardiorespiratory system to consistent training or activity sessions, they gradually adapt to these "stresses." Thus, what may have been hard for you at one point will eventually become easier for you to accomplish.
For example, you may have started your program by walking for ten minutes. This may have been a slight struggle for you to complete. You may even have been breathing heavily at the finish of the walk.
As your cardiopulmonary and muscular systems are repeatedly exposed to this activity, the ten minute walk will eventually become easier for you. Your system has thus adapted to the stress of this activity.
The opposite of adaptation is reversability, or detraining. Simply put, if you stop your exercise program, many of the adaptations that occured from exercise will fade with time.
To promote continued fitness gains, one must consistently subject the body and its respective systems to progressively greater work loads. This progressive overload can be in terms of longer durations of training, increased intensity levels, greater amounts of resistance, increased frequency of training, or a combination of one or more of these variables.
These progressive increases are necessary since the body constantly adapts to exercise. If you remain at one activity level, you will not continue to improve.
Such increases must be gradual, since doing too much too quickly can lead to injury or a state of overtraining.
Simply put, more is not always better. Too much, too soon will have a profound negative effect on your fitness program and goals. Indeed, your body's adaptation abilities are limited in this respect.
When increasing the intensity or volume of exercise and activity, it must be done progressively and carefully. As you adapt to a certain level of fitness training or performance, one or more of your exercise program variables can then be modified. In this manner, you can avoid injury and overtraining.
Rest and Recuperation
In the context of fitness training, these terms have great importance. Each activity or exercise session provides a specific stress to the body's systems. The body then requires rest in order to recover and recuperate between such sessions. This is necessary if you want to adapt to the stress of exercise and eventually improve your fitness and conditioning level.
This principle is especially important with respect to resistance training, due to the physiological stress your muscles experience. Your muscles recover and grow stronger during these rest periods, not while you are exercising.
This is why one should not train the same muscle group two days in a row during a resistance or weight training program. Such practices will often lead to a state of overtraining and eventual injury.
As explained above, your body's ability to adapt to new stimuli and increased levels of exercise is limited. If these adaptative capabilities are pushed beyond their limits too quickly or by too great an increase in activity levels, a state of overtraining can result.
Many overenthusiastic people tend to believe the old adage "no pain, no gain." This could not be farther from the truth. Yes, you must work hard to improve, but that hard work must always be within your individual capabilities.
By training wisely, you will achieve more in the long run and not have to deal with the possibility of injury. Overtraining is a condition that is often characterized by an inability to further improve or a drop in exercise or activity performance.
For more information concerning the signs and symptoms of overtraining, refer to this guide's section on injury and illness prevention.
A person wishing to improve his performance in an activity must train those body systems and muscles that are involved in that activity. Specific exercise results in adaptations that have specific effects on training and performance.
In simple terms, if you want stronger arms, you must train your arms specifically for increased strength. In like manner, someone desiring greater aerobic endurance should train their cardiopulmonary system with an exercise program that stresses aerobic work. To maximize performance in a particular sport, you must practice those movements which are part of that sport.
To achieve the expected benefits of any exercise program, you need to have clearly defined goals. These goals allow you to plan an effective training or activity schedule, avoiding the amount of wasted time associated with poorly-planned or non-specific exercise programs.
Clear, concise objectives provide motivation to the exerciser. He or she now has something specific to work toward. It is a lot easier to walk for 20 minutes every other morning if you know that it is helping you control your weight and increase your cardiopulmonary fitness and lower body muscular endurance. Compare these goals and related benefits to the person who walks because somebody said it was good for them.
Your goals are unique to your desires, needs and objectives. Your training program should thus be uniquely tailored to meet these needs.
In the same way, you need to be concerned with your own activities and exercises and not another person's program. Just because your friend happens to be doing an exercise that is right for him doesn't mean that the same movement would be of any benefit to you. In fact, it could cause injury.
The same principle holds true for the amount of resistance or the intensity level used. To achieve your goals, you need to perform the activities that are right for you at the levels that are right for you.
Concentration and Focus
There is a mental side to fitness. Many of the activities in a fitness or conditioning program involve movements or practices that can be dangerous if not performed correctly.
You need to focus on what you are attempting to accomplish. Such concentration will help you achieve success without experiencing injury.
As will be discussed in the section concerning motivation, the mind can drive the body farther than you might believe. Proper focus and positive mental attitude are important factors in the success of any exercise program.
This is a training system used by many athletes to attain a maximum performance in their sport or activity at a specified time.
This very systematic training schedule has applications for any sport or activity, whether it be power or endurance based. Indeed, the weekend triathlete will receive as much benefit from periodization training as the world-class shot-putter.
By carefully planning volume and intensity variations, an individual can progress from one phase of training to the next, all the while working toward an ultimate goal. This well-planned, gradual progression also helps one minimize the risks of injury or overtraining.
Exercise programs are devised with the goal of improving one's health and fitness levels. Yet, any training regimen can prove inherently dangerous if certain guidelines are ignored.
The importance of warm-up and cool-down sessions for preventing injury has already been discussed. Equally important is the manner in which one follows his personalized fitness program. If an individual consistently ignores some parts of the activity program and overemphasizes others, he risks injury. In addition, he jeopardizes his chance of achieving his goals.
The secret to successful exercise is simple: train smart. Take the time to warm-up, cool-down, and stretch. Perform the exercises in the manner they are described, and know when to back off. No workout session is ever written in stone. If you don't feel 100%, adjust your activity levels accordingly.
For more information on this important topic, refer to the section on injury and illness prevention.
Fun and Enjoyment
Exercise and activity are meant to be fun. By choosing activities that are appealing or interesting, you combine the benefits of fitness with enjoyment.
Keep an open mind when trying new exercises or activities. You may never know if you have a talent for something unless you give it a try.
People who view exercise as an undesirable chore have a hard time attaining their goals. Those who genuinely enjoy themselves while exercising are already ahead of the game.
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