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Strength Doesn't Always Mean Bulk

Posted on Thu, 17 Jul 2008 02:33:00 -07:00

Strength Doesn't Always Mean Bulk

Strength Doesn't Always Mean Bulk

You've seen the very muscular person in the weight room who clearly lacks the cardiovascular ability to run to the water fountain. When they do arrive there it seems as they barely have the range of motion to turn it on and drink at the same time. This appalling lack of cardiovascular ability and range of motion simply cannot help them on the sports field in all but the most immobile of pastimes. “Well my muscles are too big for me to be flexible,” they exclaim. Not so. Being muscle bound is a choice. You need only look as far as the NFL to find some extremely strong and muscular athletes with tremendous conditioning and movement abilities. They are incorporating the other training elements.

Inappropriate and unbalanced exercise selection

There is a common condition that is evident in most gyms across North America. Mirror-itis is very serious and generally strikes young men between the age of 18 and 40. Its symptoms include well developed musculature of the chest arms and abdominals but underdeveloped musculature of the legs and back coupled with poor cardiovascular ability. It is caused by training only the muscles that can be seen in the mirror. Following some basic guidelines will ensure that you can avoid “mirror-itis” and other muscle imbalances.

1. Make sure that in every week training cycle you use at least one exercise that targets every area.

2. Use as many exercises as possible that are compound movements and not “isolation” exercises.

3. Do not forget about important joint stabilization muscles such as the rotator cuff and hip stabilizers.

Program Variation
As you go through your workout day to day, it is very easy to slip into a rut. In many cases people will go months and even years without adapting their program. Research has shown that the body begins to accommodate any strength training plan within 3 to 4 weeks! After this point the adaptations will decrease if the program is not varied in some way. We obviously need to add a little spice to change things up… but how?'

1. Vary Exercises:
The most obvious way to re-vitalize a program is to use different exercises. Be careful to keep the program balanced. Adding different movements will require your body to use new motor patterns and muscle firing sequences. This will re-stress the muscles in slightly different ways and keep them in an adaptation state.

2. Vary Rep Ranges:
Each rep range will stress the muscular system a different way. Using rep ranges in 3 week cycles will help to vary the program and cause the most complete functional development.

Power    1 to 3 reps
Muscular Strength  4 to 7 reps
Strength / Endurance 8 to 12 reps
Muscular Endurance  12 to 20 reps

Note: Be certain that you have spent some time building a muscular endurance or strength endurance base before moving on to strength or power work.

3.  Vary Speed of Motion:
The slower the speed of muscle contraction, the more the training emphasis is on pure muscular strength. As contraction speed increases the emphasis shifts toward the development of power. Make sure to work at slow speeds first to learn proper technique and build the necessary strength base. Once this is complete you can add faster movements that emphasize power. If you have targeted power for a training phase, it is an excellent time to introduce some Olympic lifting movements like the power clean or the clean and press.

The exercise speed is a great way to keep a strength routine fresh and ensure the most complete functional development of the muscular system.
Note: Make sure to get proper instruction on these movements before attempting them in your program.

4. Others:
There are several other ways of creating variation in the strength training by changing set arrangements or by manipulating rest intervals. Either of these will also help to stimulate adaptation of the muscular system.

To maximize the cross training effect of a strength training program there are many variables to consider. Use a balanced program that integrates a variety of exercises. Incorporate different movement speeds as well as target the various elements such as strength, endurance and power training. Most importantly, use a systematic approach of incorporating these elements to maximize the training effect in the quest for peak general functional fitness.

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