There is so much more to strength training than performing a certain number of reps to complete a set. By manipulating the timing, grouping, and order of your exercises, you can change the results you will see and how fast you get them. Depending on your goals, there are more effective forms of training for you.
If you happen to catch glimpses of other personal training sessions than your own, you may notice that the order and pattern of your exercises may be different from a fellow client, even if the exercises are the same. This is because what is most effective for you and your goals is not the same for another person.
You may have heard some of the terms below in magazines or around the gym but I’m here to explain the most common weight lifting and strength training techniques (along with a few cardio-related ones) so even if you aren’t a bodybuilder, you are still educated in training vocabulary, and how each technique may be beneficial to you.
Circuit Training usually combines around 6-10 strength and cardio exercises that work all the major muscle groups of the body. You move quickly from one exercise to the next, with no to very little rest in between to keep your heart rate up and strength gains. The circuit is usually repeated 2-4 times. Good for building endurance and overall strength, and is also a good way to cram in a lot of work to a short period of time.
Steady State is the form of cardio most people tend to do and either refers to a steady pace ( speed) or steady intensity (heart rate) throughout the course of the workout, with the exception of your warm up and cool down. An example of steady state cardio on the treadmill, is a warm up walk for 5 minutes, run at 6 mph for 20 minutes, then cool down with a walk for 5 minutes.
Interval Training alternates high intensity bursts of activity with periods of lower intensity activity, and usually is used for cardiovascular workouts. An example of a cardio interval training would be alternating 2 minutes of jogging at 5.5 mph and 1 minute of sprinting at 8 mph on the treadmill. If you usually do steady state cardio, interval training can get you the same results in less time, by spiking your heart rate higher than usual, which blasts more fat and calories with the same cardiovascular benefits.
Super Sets is a lifting term for performing 2-3 exercises back to back with minimal rest in between, and is then repeated. The exercises don’t have to be related. Example: 10 weighted squats, 10 pushups, and 10 delt flyes, then repeat. Giving your muscles little time to rest before you use them again improves muscle endurance and allows you to shorten your workout without giving up any exercises.
Giant Sets are 4 or more exercises for one body part or muscle group performed successively with little rest in between. Example: 10 hammer curls, 10 bicep curls, 10 preacher curls, 10 close grip barbell curls. These shred (in a good way) the muscles (in our example, the biceps) and is a good technique to build size and strength.
Drop Sets are when you perform an exercise to failure at a certain weight, then drop the weight a few pounds and immediately repeat the exercise to failure. You can drop the weight two, three, or more times. This builds muscular endurance, size and strength- great for all around muscle building.
Active Rest is a term used to describe remaining active while resting the muscle group you just used. You can do this a few ways: If you do a set of bicep curls, then perform crunches, you are resting your biceps while staying active by performing your crunches- your crunches are active rest. You can also use cardio as your active rest by doing jumping jacks, hitting a cardio machine for a minute or two, or jumping rope before you go back to your curls. Active rest keeps the heart rate up to burn calories and build cardiovascular endurance, as well as allows you to cut down on your workout time instead of being inactive while you let your muscles recover. Think multitasking.
These techniques are good to have in your back pocket, because no matter what your goals and what technique works best for you, cross training and routine changes are important to keep your results rolling. Even if you keep your exercises the same, utilizing these different techniques can be a big enough change to smash through your plateau and jump start your results.
In Good Health,
Kelly Turner is a Seattle area ACE Certified Personal Trainer, health and fitness writer and editor of the fitness website, PhysiqueSpeak.com. To contact Kelly with any questions, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.