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STRENGTH-TRAINING THEORIES: FACT, FICTION?

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Athletes all over the country are involved in weight training, yet conflicting theories abound on the best way to do it. Here are the most frequently asked questions, with answers in agreement with The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

1. How much weight training do I need to get results?Twice each week. "Many people are under the impression you need to spend hours and hours in the gym to get anything out of weight lifting, but that isn't true," explains Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., national strength-training consultant for the YMCA. Westcott recommends doing eight to 10 different exercises per session two or three days a week.

2. How hard do I need to push myself?

Lift weights heavy enough so that it's tough to complete the last few repetitions, or all the way to fatigue.

3. How many sets should I do for each exercise?

Not everyone agrees on the exact amount, but generally just one set gives you minimal results, and with three to five sets you will achieve significant strength gains.

4. How may repetitions should I do per set?

ACSM recommends eight to 12 repetitions per set at 75 percent of your maximum capacity.

5. How fast should I do my repetitions?

Moving slowly is best. Controlled movements create more muscle tension, less momentum and lower risk of injury. Give equal time to lifting and lowering phases. Pause at the top of each movement to prevent gravity alone from pulling the weight downward.

6. Why should I rest a day between lifting sessions?

Training the same muscle on consecutive days does not give it time to recover and grow stronger. I generally recommend training each muscle group two or three times a week, with a day of rest in between. Aerobic exercise, on the other hand can be done every day.

7. Should I do abdominal exercises every day?

There is a common notion that abdominal muscles are an exception to the rule; however, experts agree that abdominal muscles should be treated the same way as other muscle groups.

8. Does it matter what order I do my exercises in?

Yes. Work your large muscle groups before your smaller ones. For example, it is better to do a bench press before an isolated triceps exercise because you don't want to fatigue your triceps before you attempt the bench press, which requires triceps strength.

9. What type of resistance should I use - free weights, machines or resistive tubing?

Generally I recommend machines for your lower body and free weights for the upper body. Free weights more closely mimic how you use your muscles in sports and everyday activities.