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What One Thing Can Keep People Interested In
And Enthused About Lifting Weights?

This article is courtesy of www.flash.net/~neilw/

We've all seen how so many start a fitness program (notably due to a New-Year's resolution) only to 'burn out' and quit a short time later. Hardly a garage sale (rummage sale, yard sale) is ever held that doesn't contain a stationary bike, treadmill, weight bench, or some other symbol of a failed venture into fitness.

Is it any wonder? How can ANYONE keep at it day after day if they hate every minute of it? Sure, they know they should work out, so that at some far off future time, if they suffer enough between now and then, they can be HEALTHY, or THIN, or MUSCULAR. But for so many, there's no way these pie-in-the-sky glorious goals can keep them interested enough day-to-day to do the work required to get them from here to there.

The status quo is such that people who really need to get started in fitness are greatly discouraged from doing so by several prevalent undercurrents: Every gym has a number of really muscular dudes who are probably there more to show off their muscles than anything else. The intimidation can be great to the beginner who's at the other end of the spectrum from these awesome types. Regardless of the fact that he might have been born muscular or got his muscles illegally out of a bottle, the beginner usually doesn't realize this, and continually dwells on the difference between himself and the experienced lifter. Once he sticks with it for a time and sees little or no real progress towards being mistaken for one of the huge, awesome types, it's not surprising that he can get so little satisfaction from lifting weights that he does it less and less often.

The situation is probably worse yet for those who are indoctrinated to think that aerobics are the main/only path to fitness. All of us know it would be great if everyone exercised their cardio-vascular system, or worked off all the blubber that so many carry around with them, but most see the situation as pure drudgery and pain for a very long time, with few if any rewards along the way to keep them going. It seems that only the radical masochists can find enough incentive to stick with it.

THE ANSWER

We find it odd that many who think they're involved in strength training don't bother to count their reps---they just go until they're bored with whatever they're doing, then go take up space somewhere else. If everyone who lifts weights would choose exercises where he can precisely count every rep, he'd find this would give him a far more beneficial outlook regarding his exercises. The FEELING OF ACCOMPLISHMENT he'd gain from being able to see day-to-day increases in strength would make him eager to get to the gym.

Hopefully the lifter will also observe all the other rules of proper strength training:

  • He should come to the weight room well-rested. Those who do aerobic exercises should do them AFTER their strength-training workout. Aerobics can be done nicely after strength-training, but the reverse is definitely NOT the case.

  • He should consume adequate amounts of protein-rich foods.

  • He should exercise (for instance) biceps only once, or perhaps twice each week (though he could exercise other muscles on alternate days, while the biceps are healing). If he works with proper (very high) intensity, once a week may even be too much. The muscle may very well take 9 or 10 days to heal, before it's ready to be worked again.

  • He should use enough weight that 4 to 7 reps is all he can possibly do in each set. Though he should strive with all the intensity he can muster to always do one more rep than his muscles seem capable of, once he reaches 7 reps, he should use heavier weights when he comes back to work the same muscle again.

  • He should do 2 to 6 sets in the one exercise before moving on to another exercise.

  • He should not do other exercises while he's 'resting'. When he's finished with a set, he should have worked hard enough that there's no way he CAN do anything else for a while, so he should rest for 1 minute or more before doing the next set in the same exercise. It's also helpful to time his rest periods so that they're always the same.

  • He should always keep in mind that the reason for the exercise is to actually injure the muscle, so that the body's natural healing process can be employed to cause the muscle to come back (after it's healed) stronger than before the injury.

    But back to our main point---the MEASURED reps:

    As we mentioned, the lifter should choose exercises where he can measure his reps precisely, so that he can write the results of each set in a notebook, then come back a few days later and challenge himself to do better than before. This is the secret weapon that can keep a person interested and enthused about weight-lifting---the FEELING OF ACCOMPLISHMENT of seeing regular, daily progress in strength. And it's not only the feeling of accomplishment that's important: the really important value of the measured, written-down reps is in the mind of the lifter when he's preparing to do a set. If he KNOWS FOR SURE that he did 4 reps in the first set 3 days ago, and he's stronger now because of it, then there's no reason he can't do 5 now. It is indeed a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once he's convinced he IS going to get that rep #5, that gives him the incentive to dig down deep for the intensity and determination to make it happen. Most of the time he'll get that rep #5; but even with the times he doesn't quite make it, trying for it makes him stronger. And trying for it, even though he fails, can help him build up more determination for the next time.

    THE PROBLEM

    Those of us who are convinced of what's been written here up to now, are faced with an insurmountable problem: today's equipment is so bad in this respect that there's very few exercises available where you can really count your reps precisely. With virtually every exercise today, the lifter is hard-pressed to do it exactly the same as he did before, as far as the same range-of-motion, speed, form, etc.

    Even with one of the best exercises today, the preacher curl, the large majority of curl benches have no means to measure the bottom of each rep. The builders of the equipment no doubt feel that the lifter can judge for himself whether (for example) his forearms are parallel before he starts to bring the curl bar back to the top of the rep. Needless to say, there'll be days when he goes only to a point 1/2" above parallel, and other days when he goes 1/2" below parallel, even though he's doing his best to go to parallel every time. The difference in the amount of work that was done by the biceps on these two different days can be great. But even if the difference were insignificant or nonexistent, what's in the mind of the lifter when he prepares to challenge his biceps to do one more rep than he's ever done before is bound to be effected. If he's thinking, "I want to get 5 reps in this set, but what if the 4 reps I got last time were short ones. There's no way I can get 5 honest ones today." The simple addition of a stop for the bottom part of the curl would be big improvement. None is needed at the top of the rep, as the resistance against the biceps is released by the laws of physics.

    Sadly, almost all other exercises today are even harder to measure. You can forget all the weight-stack machines en masse. Since they keep the stress against the pertinent muscle even when the muscle is at its most-contracted point of the rep, anyone who observes the proper rules of strength-training will find that once he's gotten past the 4th rep and is going for #5, he can perhaps ALMOST get it, or maybe 1/2" short of it, or was it 1" short of it? And if he were that close, should he count it as #5 or not? Wouldn't it be great if the laws of physics would kick in properly at this point and totally release the resistance against the muscle, as they did in the curl exercise in the previous paragraph?

    With other exercises the lifter can use improper form once he's going for the hard final reps, thereby causing other body parts to do the work the pertinent muscle is supposed to be doing. (He can 'swing ' the weights rather than using the pertinent muscle to do all the lifting.) Or, even with free weights, he can shorten the range of motion.

    All these variables can seriously influence the COUNT in each exercise. And to most of us who lift weights, the count is what it's all about. We want to know for sure that the 4 reps we did last time was an honest 4 reps, so we can bust our guts to get 5 today. If we have doubts about how honest the previous count was, we can't build up the intensity, determination, or adrenalin to do an additional rep today.

    So, in summation, awhile back we asked the question WHAT ONE THING CAN KEEP PEOPLE INTERESTED IN AND ENTHUSED ABOUT LIFTING WEIGHTS? Then we ventured that THE ANSWER was to give them the means to measure each and every rep so that they could see their regular progress, and through the feeling of accomplishment, be constantly encouraged to persevere in fitness. After that, we pointed out that the answer wasn't an answer after all, since THE PROBLEM is that with today's equipment, you can't measure your reps. If you can't measure them, what's the point in counting them?

    So to us, the situation is such that a huge change in strength training is needed. Today's methods are so bad that someone should come forward with a completely new concept that eliminates all the flaws built into today's methods.

    Wipe the slate clean, so to speak.

    That new concept would have a distinct and precise range of motion so that, after every set, the lifter would know exactly how much work was done. He could then write down the number of completed reps in his notebook, and come back next time with definite goals to surpass.

    That new concept would have a type of variable resistance similar to that in the curl exercise we mentioned, where the maximum stress is against the muscle where the muscle is strongest, and totally released when the muscle is fully contracted. But this variable resistance would be available for EVERY muscle---not just the biceps.

    That new concept would give the lifter complete control over the range of motion in all his exercises, yet have the range of motion be quick and simple to adjust by moving a couple of pop-pins. That new concept would give the lifter something that he can rarely get today---the opportunity to isolate one muscle in each of his exercises.

    That new concept would have not one, but TWO PRESET WEIGHTS in every exercise, so that once the lifter has done (for instance) 4 reps and knows there's no way he can get the 5th, he can push a pedal which takes (for instance) 20% of the weight out of the lifting action. He'd find that he could then do an additional 2 or 3 bonus reps before he had to quit.

    That new concept would be called XtrafleX


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