Visit any gym at the start of a New Year and you will see a lot of newbies, and not so newbies, descend on the gym eager to carry out their New Year resolution to lose weight and “get in shape.” Some of the less experienced people will move from machine to machine doing one set here and two sets there, five repetitions here, twenty there, in what appears as a random attempt at a workout.
Because there is no structure to their training, these people make very little progress towards their goal of “getting in shape,” which presumably means developing a body that comes somewhere close to that leaner, fitter look that we all crave, and they soon give up, no doubt to return a year later with another new year resolution.
What if there was a simple, straight forward way of figuring out what should be in a workout routine and how to carry it out. Well, there is such a way and it is called the 5 Rs principle.
The 5 Rs Principle
The 5 Rs principle is a structured way of looking at training that can help beginners figure out what exactly goes into an effective workout. Each `R’ focuses on an important element of an exercise routine that forces the beginner to look at their workouts in a holistic fashion. What follows is a brief explanation of each of the five principles.
Range of motion
Range of motion refers the ability of a joint to move through a prescribed set of movements. In order to see results, each exercise should be performed from a fully stretched position of the muscle to a fully contracted position.
This point may be illustrated by looking at how to perform preacher curls using the EZ-curl bar. A lot of beginners, and indeed people that have been training for a relatively long time perform this exercise by lowering the bar only halfway down on the downward cycle of the exercise. Not only is there a risk of injury, but performing the exercise this way does not actually work the muscle in the best way possible and limits the effect of the exercise.
Your joints are supported by large and small muscles and in order to maximise your gains, all the muscles surrounding the joints must be worked equally well.
When you are just starting to lift weights, knowing how much weight to use can be a bit of a problem. It is unfortunate that many personal trainers will tell women to use a lighter weight so that they will “tone up” and not get bulky.
This is probably the biggest myth in all of weight lifting. Women who lift heavy weights will not get bulky. Don not believe anyone who tells you this! You should choose a weight that allows you to complete the exercise without sacrificing proper form but that is heavy enough that you cannot possibly perform another repetition at the end of your prescribed set of repetitions.
Another huge unknown for beginners is how many repetitions to perform. Performing certain repetitions will indeed produce highly specific results. In general, low repetitions (3-8) produce greater absolute strength, medium repetitions (10-20) produce anaerobic strength endurance, and high repetitions (20-40) produce aerobic strength endurance.
Now, an ideal beginner routine will probably include sets of medium repetitions, just to allow the exerciser to learn to perform the exercise correctly, with proper form and technique and to allow her to experiment with experiencing muscle fatigue at 12-15 repetitions. As she progresses, she can experiment with different set/rep schemes customized to individual goals.
An important point to understand is that in order to achieve the desired results from performing a certain number of repetitions, muscular failure must be achieved within the range of repetitions being performed. Muscular failure means that you cannot possibly push out one more repetition no matter how hard you trying to do it.
In general, your body needs between two to four minutes of rest between sets to prepare itself to perform another set at maximum capacity. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and phosphocreatine (PC) are used by your muscle cells to contract during a weight lifting exercise. Your body needs time to regenerate these two compounds before it is ready to go again.
Unless you are trying to develop all-out absolute strength by performing low repetitions with very heavy weight, you are probably not going to need to wait that long between sets. Most beginners will be working within a medium repetition range and therefore do not need to wait that long between sets. One to two minutes is should be fine.
You will not see faster or better results by working the same muscle groups day after day. As important as hard work is, recovery between workouts is even more important. Beginners should work the same muscle groups no more than two times per week, with at least forty eight hours break between sessions. As your training advances and you become more experienced, you will probably cut back to working each muscle group once every seven days or so.