What are you training for?
Weight training will feature in all training programmes to some degree, but clearly the results vary massively.
What are you training for?
Take a look at the athletes in the picture below. Weight training will feature in all of their training programmes to some degree, but clearly the results vary massively (at least visually, but there will be performance differences too). There is much debate in the world of exercise and fitness over the ‘best’ way to do something, whether it be a single exercise or an entire training programme. The photo helps to illustrate that a lot of the confusion arises from a lack of clarity about what it is you’re doing it for.
‘Lifting weights’, or ‘resistance training’?
We commonly refer to ‘lifting weights’, or ‘resistance training’ and many people assume it’s all the same; there’s a ‘correct’ way to perform an exercise and an ‘incorrect’ way, but of course it’s not that simple. This is something we’d do well to remember when training ourselves and clients, and is related to what is known as the specificity principle – the principle that the body will adapt to the specific demands placed upon it. We must remember what the focus of the training is, or in other words what our goal is.
Strength training is all about moving a weight from point A to point B (e.g. the ground to overhead). As the aim is to move the highest weight possible this normally requires fast, explosive whole-body movements using momentum to take advantage of the laws of physics. Progression and achievement is measured by the amount of weight lifted.
Hypertrophy (muscle gain) on the other hand, is about making an individual muscle work as hard as possible, placing it under a high level of tension in order to stimulate it to grow. Progress is defined by size.
A strength programme then, would need to feature lots of compound exercises, performed using momentum in a controlled but explosive fashion. A gradual increase in the loads lifted over time would be crucial. A hypertrophy programme would involve exercises performed at a much slower pace, particularly on the eccentric or negative portion, and typically requires a number of isolation exercises targeting single muscle groups to focus the tension on them. The loads used would be determined by what allows this tension to be created – go too heavy and the body will resort to what would be classed as ‘cheating’ by some, e.g. swinging or momentum to perform the movement.
Of course, lifting heavy weights can lead to lean muscle gain, and hypertrophy training will produce increases in strength, but if we’re looking to maximise results in a particular outcome then the appropriate specific training must be employed. Put another way, you can be ‘big and strong’, but to be the ‘biggest’ you are not necessarily going to be the ‘strongest’ and vice versa.
Are you meeting your goals?
When we then consider other goals such as muscular endurance or flexibility, which most of the athletes in the picture will all need to varying degrees, this adds another factor into the mix, but the specificity principle still applies. Always think about what physiological outcome you are aiming for, and make sure the training matches it.
Learn more in our Advanced Resistance Training course