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So you want to become muscular and strong?

Du möchtest also muskulös und stark werden?

Successful training programs do not come about by chance. They are well planned. To get good results, you need to take your time and learn how to properly approach progressive resistance training to get results. Many gyms have people who start working out, but 60% of them will stop working out after many months because they are not getting the results they want.

One of the main reasons for this lack of results is that these people have not accumulated enough knowledge about the many parts of resistance training that are necessary to achieve the desired results. If you read the articles on this website, and put what you read into action, you will find it easy to get results.

The common denominator of most studies conducted on resistance training is that the chosen program must be progressive in order to produce substantial and continuous gains in muscle mass and strength. Progression in this case means moving towards a specific goal.

When training with weights, this means continuous improvement over time until you reach your goal. It is of course impossible to always improve at the same rate in long-term training, but the proper manipulation of the different variables of your training program (the choice of resistance, the exercise execution and order of execution, the number of sets and repetitions, the length of rests, etc.) can naturally limit training plateaus (points at which no further improvement occurs) and allow you to reach higher and higher levels of muscle fitness.

The trainable fitness characteristics include muscle strength, speed, hypertrophy (growth) and muscle endurance. Other variables such as speed, balance, coordination, jump height, agility and other markers of motor performance are also positively affected by resistance training.

It is known that increased physical activity, aerobic training, resistance training and flexibility exercises can reduce the risk of many serious chronic diseases.

For beginners, the recommended quality and quantity of training to develop and maintain cardiovascular and muscular fitness for resistance training is one set of 8 to 12 repetitions of 8 to 10 exercises, which should include exercise for all major muscle groups. Such an approach has been shown to be effective in improving muscle fitness during the first 12 to 15 weeks in untrained individuals.

Training progression

To make progress in your training, you need to increase the stress you put your muscles under during training. This is called progressive overload. The body's adaptive processes will only respond if they are continually challenged to exert greater force to meet greater physical demands.

Considering that these physical adaptations to a standard training program can occur within a short period of time, increasing the demands on your body is necessary for further improvements with your training. There are several ways in which overload can come about through resistance training - whether it's an increase in strength, hypertrophy (muscle growth), muscle endurance or speed strength.

  • The weight (resistance) can be increased.
  • The number of repetitions can be increased.
  • The repetition speed with submaximal weights can be changed depending on the goals.
  • The pauses between sets can be shortened to increase endurance or lengthened for strength and speed training.
  • The volume (the total amount of work represented by the total number of repetitions performed and the resistance used) can be increased within reasonable limits.
  • Any combination of the above.

It is also recommended that only small increases in training volume (2.5 to 5%) are used to avoid overtraining.

Training specificity

The principle of specificity states that your training must progress from general training to highly specific training and also implies that in order to get better at a specific exercise, you must perform that exercise (in other words, if you don't, you can't get better at that exercise).

The physiological adaptations to your training are therefore specific to

  1. the muscle actions involved
  2. the speed of the movement
  3. the range of motion
  4. the muscle groups being trained
  5. the energy systems used
  6. the intensity and volume of your training

Although there is some carryover in terms of training effects, the most effective resistance training programs are those designed to target your specific training goals.

Training Variation

Variation in your training is a fundamental principle that supports the need for changes in one or more variables of your training program over time to allow the training stimulus to remain high for the muscles. Variation in volume and intensity has been shown to be most effective for long-term progress. The most commonly used variation in resistance training is periodization.

Training periodization.

Periodization uses variations in the resistance training program through changes in training intensity and volume to optimize both performance and recovery. There are many forms of periodization, such as using an annual plan (the training is divided into phases) or dividing the year into individual areas.

A classic form of periodization is the use of a high initial training volume and low intensity, followed by a gradual reduction in volume while increasing intensity to maximize strength or speed - or even both.

Each training phase should be designed to emphasize a specific physiological adaptation. For example, hypertrophy (muscle growth) is stimulated by the initial high-volume phase, while strength is developed within the later high-intensity phases.

Another form of periodization involves variations over a 7 to 10 day phase by rotating between different training protocols over the course of the training program. This method trains the different components of the neuromuscular system within the 7 to 10 day cycle.

During a training session, only one training characteristic is trained on a given day (e.g. strength, speed or endurance). When training the core exercises, for example, you can alternate between heavy, moderate and lighter weights on a rotating basis (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) (e.g. 3-5 RM weights, 8-10 RM weights and 12-15 RM weights could be used on a rotating basis).

Training experience and progression

Training experience plays an important role in the rate of your progression in resistance training. Your level of fitness, experience and genetic predisposition all contribute to your progression. Untrained people (those who have never performed resistance training or have not trained for several years) respond best to training. The rate of strength gains varies greatly between untrained and trained people - experienced exercisers will progress more slowly.

Studies have shown that over a longer period of time, muscle strength increased by about 40% in untrained people, 20% in moderately trained people, 10% in advanced exercisers and only 2% in elite athletes (moderately trained people have 6 months of consistent training experience, advanced exercisers have several years of training experience and highly trained people have already reached a high level of competition).

These studies have shown that the rate of progression decreases with increasing training experience. After several months of training, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve strength gains. It is well documented that the greatest changes in muscle strength occur at the beginning of training.

Muscle strength

The ability of the body's neuromuscular systems to generate force is necessary for all types of movement. Muscle fibers are classified according to their contractile and metabolic characteristics and show a correlation between their cross-sectional area and the amount of maximum force they can generate. Throughout the muscle, the arrangement of individual fibers varies depending on their angles of pull and other factors such as length of the muscle, joint angle and speed of contraction, and all of these factors can influence muscle strength.

The force generated in the muscle depends on the activation of the motor units of the muscle. Motor units are recruited depending on their size (from small to large). Adaptations to resistance training allow for greater force production. These adaptations include improved neural function and increased muscle cross-sectional area. The amount of strength increase depends on the muscle actions used, intensity, volume, exercise selection and sequence, rest intervals between sets and training frequency.

Muscle action

Most resistance training programs include dynamic repetitions that involve both concentric (muscle shortening) and eccentric (muscle lengthening) actions, while isometric actions play a secondary role. During eccentric actions, more force is produced per muscle unit. Eccentric actions are also more efficient from a neuromuscular point of view and less demanding metabolically, while at the same time causing greater hypertrophy (growth), but they can also cause greater muscle soreness compared to concentric actions.

The increases in dynamic strength are greatest when eccentric actions are also performed. In terms of progression, the role of manipulation of muscle actions during resistance training is minimal. Considering that most training programs include concentric and eccentric muscle actions in each repetition, there is not much potential for variation in these variables. However, some advanced exercisers use different forms of isometric training (e.g., functional isometric training) in addition to using supramaximal eccentric muscle actions to maximize gains in strength and hypertrophy.

Training load

Changes in training load (weight on the bar) can influence the acute, hormonal, neural and cardiovascular response to resistance training. The load required to increase maximal strength in untrained individuals is quite low - it has been shown that using a load equivalent to 45 to 50% of 1 RM weight (1 RM = maximum weight with which a repetition can be performed with strict form) - or perhaps even less - can increase dynamic strength in untrained individuals.

Higher weights are needed for further progression. At least 80% of the 1 RM weight is needed to produce further neural adaptations and strength gains in experienced exercisers. Several studies have shown that loads in the 1 to 6 RM weight range (mostly in the 5 to 6 RM weight range) produce the best gains in maximal strength. Although it has been shown that strength gains can be achieved using an 8 to 12 RM weight, such weights are not as effective as heavier weights for experienced exercisers.

Novice exercisers are recommended to use a load of approximately 60% of the 1 RM weight to learn proper exercise form and technique and to use a range of different loads for long-term gains in muscle strength. It is also recommended that beginners and intermediate exercisers train with loads in the range of 60 to 70% of the 1 RM weight and a repetition range of 8 to 12 repetitions, while experienced exercisers use loads in the range of 80 to 100% of the 1 RM weight in a maximal strength program.

Training volume

Training volume is the total number of repetitions performed during a training session multiplied by the weight used. Training volume has been shown to increase hypertrophy, metabolic and hormonal responses and adaptations to resistance training. Changes in training volume can be achieved by changing the number of exercises performed during a training session and the number of sets performed per exercise.

Low volume programs (i.e. high weights, low repetitions and a moderate to high number of sets) are usually the main component of strength training routines. In studies, fitness enthusiasts responded well to programs with single and multiple sets per exercise. However, for trained individuals, programs with multiple sets have been shown to be superior for increasing muscle strength.

It is recommended that novice exercisers use single or multiple sets at the beginning of their training, while for more advanced and experienced exercisers, programs with multiple sets combined with variations in training volume and intensity have proven to be most effective for strength gains.

Exercise selection

In terms of exercise selection, both isolation exercises and multi-joint exercises have been shown to be effective in increasing strength in the target muscle groups. Multi-joint exercises (such as squats and bench presses) are more neuronally complex and have been shown to be the most effective for increasing body-wide muscle strength as they allow the use of heavier weights.

Isolation exercises (such as leg extensions and leg and arm curls) are used to target specific muscle groups and may also pose a lower risk of injury due to lower technique and skill requirements.

It is recommended that both types of exercises be included in resistance training programs, with an emphasis on multi-joint exercises to maximize muscle strength.

Free weights and machines

Exercises on machines are considered safer and easier to learn and allow you to perform some exercises that can be difficult with free weights (e.g. leg extensions and lat pulldowns). Machines help to stabilize the body and limit movement around specific joints in a given exercise and also focus on the muscle being used.

For beginners and somewhat advanced exercisers, it is recommended that resistance training includes free weights and machines. More experienced exercisers are advised to focus on free weights, while machines are used to meet additional program requirements.

In the second part of this article, we will look at other aspects of training and take a closer look at targeted training for muscle hypertrophy.


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