Strength Training With Weights

To progress from body weight exercises, we must introduce weight training. Training for strength involves short, intensive periods of work interspersed with longer periods of rest. There are no short-cuts. Increasing the workload too quickly only results in bunched, strained and torn muscles. Tendons which connect muscles to bone can become inflamed and even damaged. No matter how far you run or swim, or how hard you exercise, you always contract your muscles against the same amount of resistance. As you improve and run longer distances or exercise for longer periods, you will build up your endurance but you will not become any stronger. A strong, muscular body gives protection to the vital organs inside the body and is more resistant to injury. Specific weight-training regimes can help you with your chosen sport.

Some people believe that weight training will make you sluggish and inflexible. This can be true but only if the training is done incorrectly. By following these exercises you will gain added mobility, especially if you are in the over-40 age group. Incorporated with the other fitness programmes in this manual, weight training will help you to develop greater speed, power and endurance. The great advantage of weight training is that you can actually see the progress you are making.


Muscles are the meat on the frame of the body, accounting for nearly half of its weight. Those that are of interest to us are the skeletal muscles. They come in various sizes and shapes and are connected in different ways to the bones. Muscle groups involved in the movement or rotation of the body work in opposition to each other (they are said to be ‘antagonistic’), so that when one group is contracted, the other group is relaxed.

Muscles work by contracting and shortening, pulling together the bones which are attached to the ends of the muscles. Normal contractions are termed ‘concentric’. For example, you can see the biceps in the arm bulging when a weight is lifted.

Isometric or ‘static’ contractions occur when the force of the contraction exactly equals, or is less than, the force preventing movement. We see this when a weight is held at arm’s length or when you try to push against a wall. Let us take the example of the wall. The wall does not move but neither do your arm muscles, despite a very great effort and expenditure of energy. The forces developed within the muscles are, in fact, greatest for these isometric contractions; muscles work most efficiently when their change in length is small. However, as the muscles are working hard without contracting (and allowing the release of lactic acid), they become fatigued very quickly.

Some contractions are termed ‘eccentric’, when the force exerted on the muscle is greater than the force of contraction. We see these contractions when a weight-lifter releases a very heavy weight, or in the leg (quadriceps) muscles of someone running downhill. Not surprisingly, muscle and tendon damage occurs more frequently during eccentric contractions than during normal concentric contractions.

Muscles are composed of many fibres which vary in length from 1-60 mm Qio-2% in) and in thickness from around 10 to 100 micrometers (that is from a %-Xs of the diameter of a strand of human hair). These fibres are actually the cells which shorten when the muscle contracts. The composition of fibres in muscle varies, not only from muscle to muscle but from individual to individual. This is why some of us are good at endurance sports, while others perform better as sprinters. In animals, the situation is often very clear cut. In some fish, so-called white muscle predominates which is poorly supplied with blood vessels, and energy generation is therefore primarily anaerobic. These animals are fitted to be ‘sprinters’, either racing to escape predators or to catch their own prey. As most anglers are aware, the hooked fish fights hard at first but very soon tires. In contrast, the flight muscles of migratory birds are packed with blood vessels (so-called red muscle) and generate their energy aerobically. Red muscle is designed for endurance. The situation in human muscle is more complex, since all muscles contain both red and white fibres.

There are at least three different fibres; slow-twitch oxidative, fast-twitch glycolytic and fast-twitch oxidative, and they differ as to how they generate the necessary energy to contract.

Slow-Twitch Oxidative: Aerobic fibres most abundant in red muscle. They contract slowly and are relatively fatigue resistant.

Fast-Twitch Glycolytic: These fibres generate their energy anaerobically. They are most common in white muscle and are easily fatigued. Fast-Twitch Oxidative: These fibres use both anaerobic and aerobic processes. They contract rapidly and are intermediate in their susceptibility to fatigue.

Just as the different muscles in the body will differ in the various proportions of these three fibres, so the proportions will vary between individuals. While training plays a role in developing the types of muscle an athlete needs for his or her sport, our genetic heritage supplies the controlling influence; some of us are natural sprinters and some are endurance sportsmen and women. A person with predominately slow-twitch oxidative fibres in his or her leg muscles has the necessary Equipment’ to excel at the marathon but will never reach the speeds of the top-class sprinter. £

Muscles are frequently grouped in the body. For example, the quadriceps of the thigh are composed of four muscles: the vastus medialis, rectus femoris, vastus intermedialis and the vastus lateralis. These latin names are rather formidable and some time ago, the decision was taken to replace these with more descriptive names. Hence the quadriceps group was renamed the straight muscle of the thigh, the lateral great muscle, intermediate dorsal muscle and medial inferior muscle. I mention this as nomenclature varies from book to book and it can become rather confusing.

The important muscle groups in limbs are frequently arranged in antagonistic pairs working against each other. One such pair are the quadriceps and biceps muscles of the thigh. The biceps contract to raise the thigh during walking, by flexing the knee joint. The quadriceps remain relaxed. As the foot is placed back on the ground, the quadriceps extend the leg and the biceps of the thigh relax.

Other muscles work to control and stabilise the joint during flexion of the limb. This is important when joints can move in several directions, allowing both flexion and rotation. Muscles can also work to prevent the over-extension of a joint, thus protecting the joint capsule and vulnerable soft tissue.

How Often to Train

It is best to use weights every second day, having a day’s rest period in-between. During a work-out with weights, the muscle fibres are developed by working them against a high degree of resistance. After such a work-out, it is important to give those muscles time to recover.

How Much Weight?

Starting with light weights and doing the full range of movements enables us to strengthen muscle groups without losing speed and agility. By doing multiple repetitions, we develop the muscles, thus gaining strength and power. If we only work with heavy weights, we will increase muscle bulk and power but this will be at the expense of speed and agility.

Duration of Training Period

The minimum period of weight training, with warming-up and cooling-down periods, is around 45 minutes. The best approach is to take it steady until you are familiar and comfortable with the routine and can exercise all the muscle groups. Towards the end of each session, you can concentrate on one particular muscle group and give the muscles a good work-out. To prevent your training programme from becoming too boring, we can split the session to work: 1Shoulders and chest 2Arms and back 3Legs

You may soon notice that blisters and calluses start to develop on the palms of your hands from handling the weights. If the discomfort becomes too great, you can always buy a pair of weight-lifter’s gloves. These have no fingers and strong, padded palms. The back is another area vulnerable to injury. It can be protected and supported by a wide leather belt. The belt is worn for power exercises and removed for abdominal and floor work.

Exercises for the Shoulders and Upper Body

The shoulder joint is a ball and socket arrangement in which the humerus of the upper arm fits into the glenoid cavity of the scapula or shoulder blade. 50

The joint does not allow universal movement since it is restricted by supporting structures such as the coracoacromial ligaments. Even without these ligaments, the structure of the shoulder joint allows movement only in a lateral direction up to 90 degrees. For the arm to be raised above the head, joints in the upper limb girdle (the acromioclavicular and sternoclavicular joints) work together with the superior joint of the forearm. Thus, for some movements of the arm, the shoulder joint and arm joint must work together with the upper limb girdle.

A major muscle in the upper arm/shoulder is the deltoid muscle which surrounds the lateral, anterior and posterior sides of the shoulder joint. It works mainly during outward lifting and rotational movements of the arm towards the front or rear. Other muscles involved in moving the arm and upper limb girdle include the teres major and teres minor, as well as the infraspinous and supraspinous. Two other powerful muscles involved in shoulder and arm movement connect the midline of the body (spine or breast bone) with the upper limb girdle or arm. The pectoral muscle covers the chest, while the trapezius covers the upper back, sweeping up to connect the shoulders and back of the neck with the upper limb girdle. Underneath and just below the trapezius is the latissimus dorsi connecting the upper limb girdle with the lower spine. Two other muscles involved in both neck and shoulder movement are the sternocleidomastoid muscle and the minor pectoral muscle. 51

Dumb-bell Laterals

Stand upright, feet slightly apart, with a dumb-bell in each hand.

Hold the arms out from the sides of body, palms of the hands turned in towards the body. Keeping your arms straight, alternately raise your arms, until the weights are level with your ears. Hold briefly before lowering. Do 10 repetitions with weights of 5-7 kg (10-15 lb).

Bent-Over Lateral Raise

Sit at one end of a bench with a dumb-bell in each hand.

Bend at the waist, lowering the dumb-bells to the ankles. Keeping the arms straight, lift the weights out and up to each side in as wide an arc as possible. Throughout the exercise remain bending. o Do 10 repetitions with weights of 5-7 kg (10-15 lb). This exercise works the deltoids which enclose the shoulder joints.

Dumb-bell Press

Stand with a dumb-bell in each hand at shoulder height, hold one in front of the body, palm inward; and the other at the side, palm outward.

Push the one at your side over the head and towards the opposite shoulder.

Hold briefly before returning to the starting position. Work this arm 10 times before changing to the other arm.

Do 10 repetitions with each arm using 5-7 kg (15-20 lb) weights.

Shoulder Shrug

This movement specifically exercises the trapezius muscle, which covers the upper back and reaches up to connect the shoulders and the back of the neck with the upper limb girdle.

Stand upright with your arms straight and hands one shoulder width apart, holding a barbell with an overhand grip. Raise your shoulders as high as possible. Make sure that you keep your arms straight and remain upright throughout the movement. Lower your shoulders to the start position to complete one repetition.

Do 10 repetitions with weights of 7-9 kg (15-20 lb).

Seated Dumb-Bell Presses

Sit at one end of a bench with a dumb-bell in each hand.

Hold the dumb-bells at shoulder height with palms facing forward.

Pushing elbows out at the sides, extend both arms upward until at full stretch.

Hold briefly before lowering to the start position. Do 10 repetitions with weights of 5-7 kg (10-15 lb).

Upright Rows

Stand with feet one shoulder width apart, holding the barbell at arm’s length down in front of the body.

Keeping the bar as close to the body as possible, lift it smoothly upwards to just below the chin with the elbows out to the sides.

Do 10 repetitions with weights of 7-9 kg (15-20 lb).

Exercises for the Chest: Bench Presses

Lie flat on a bench and grasp the bar with hands slightly wider apart than the width of the shoulders.

Lift the bar off the rack and hold it straight overhead with the arms fully locked.

Now, lower the bar slowly until it just touches the chest. –

Press it back up to the start position.

Do not arch the back during this exercise. Keep shoulders firmly on the bench.

It is always wise to train with a partner: then if you do run out of steam, he or she can help replace the bar on the rack.

Do three sets each of 10 repetitions with weights of 36-54 kg (80-120 lb).

Dumb-Bell Flyes

Lie back on the bench with a dumb-bell In each hand.

Hold them straight overhead with the elbows locked.

Now, turn the palms inward, bringing the weights together and lower to each side until they are level with the bench.

Hold for a few moments and then return to the start position.

Try to keep the weights moving in the same arc and prevent them from drifting in towards the waist.

Do three sets each of 10 repetitions with 7-9 kg (15-20 lb) weights.


Lie on the bench and grasp a dumb-bell with both hands.

Raise it above the chest, then take It over the head and lower it on to the floor behind you. Move the arms in a wide smooth arc, remembering to keep them straight.

Return to the start position with the dumbbell over the chest.

Do 3 sets each of 10 repetitions with 9-14 kg (20-30 lb) weights.

Exercises for the Back: Bent-Over Rows

Stand behind the barbell, legs one shoulder width apart, and grasp the bar with an overhand grip.

Rise until the upper body is parallel to the floor. Let the weight hang, keeping the knees slightly bent.

Now, lift the weight upwards until it just touches the stomach, then lower it slowly. Remain leaning over throughout the exercise and do not rest the weight on the floor between repetitions.

Do three sets each of 10 repetitions with 11-27 kg (25-60 lb) weights.

One-Arm Rows

Pick up a dumb-bell in the left hand and adopt a stance with the left foot forward and the right knee to the rear.

Bend both knees and lean down until the upper body is parallel with the floor. Let the weight hang free at arm’s length. Use the other hand to grasp the edge of the bench for support.

Now, lift the weight to the side of the chest and lower back again under control.

Exercise each arm for a full set of 10 repetitions before changing arms.

Do three sets of 10 repetitions on each arm with 9-14 kg (20-30 lb) weights.


Stand with your feet one shoulder width apart, then squat down to grasp the bar in front of you. Hold the bar in an overhand grip with one hand and an underhand grip with the other. These two grips will help to maintain balance.

Keeping your back straight, lift the weight by straightening the legs.

Shrug your shoulders back, keep your chin up and back arched.

When lowering, use the legs as much as possible to control the weight.

Do three sets each of 10 repetitions with 36-45 kg (80-0 lb) weights.

Arm Exercises

The three triceps muscles are located on the back of the upper arm when viewed with the arm held palm uppermost. The large, very obvious muscles at the front of the upper arm, which bulge when the elbow is bent, are the two biceps muscles. These two groups of muscles work antagonistically to flex and straighten the elbow joint.

Below the elbow, the pronator teres muscles and pronator quadratus contract when a person standing with his or her arms at his or her sides rotates the palms towards the rear. Rotation of the palms to the front is controlled by the supinator muscle and the biceps.

Wrist Curls

Sit comfortably and grip the bar with palms upward. Bend forward, resting the forearms on the bench with wrists and hands hanging over the edge.

Bend your wrists, lowering the bar as far as possible towards the ground. When your wrists are bent as far back as they can comfortably go, open your fingers and allow the bar to roll out of your palms.

Curl the weight back into the palms and flex your hands as high as possible without moving your forearms from the bench.

Lower the bar again. This completes one repetition. Do three sets each of 10 repetitions with 18-27 kg (40-50 lb) weights.

Barbell Curls

Grasp the barbell with an upward palm grip, hands placed one shoulder width apart.

Standing comfortably with legs apart, raise the bar and let it hang at arm’s length.

Keeping the elbows fixed, use the lower arms to raise the bar until ‘it just brushes the chin. Hold briefly before lowering again. » Do three sets of 10 repetitions with 14-20 kg (30-45 lb) weights.

Lying Tviceps Press

Lie on the bench with your head just level with the end.

Grip the bar, palms forward and the hands 15 cm (6 in) apart. Keeping the elbows close together, raise the bar until the arms are locked.

Lower the weight slowly in an arc towards your forehead. Then lift the bar slowly back to the start position.

Do three sets each of 10 repetitions, with 9-14 kg (20-30 lb) weights.

Exercising the Buttocks and Lower Legs

Three gluteal muscles stretch from the back of the pelvic girdle to the femur (long bone of the thigh). The largest of these is the gluteus maximus, a strong, thick muscle which forms the majority of the buttocks and works to retract the thigh back in line with the trunk (important when, for example, kicking a ball). This muscle plays an essential role in enabling humans to walk upright. The other two gluteal muscles are used by the body to help support the trunk when standing on one leg.

The action of the gluteus maximus is opposed by the iliopsoas muscles, which flex the hip joint to draw the femur towards the front of the body. Once again, these are antagonistic groups of muscles. The iliopsoas group includes the iliacus muscle which connects the top of the femur to the upper pelvis, and the psoas muscle which runs from the femur to the lumbar spine. These muscles are exercised most effectively by sit-ups.

Other muscles run from the pelvis to attach at varying distances along the femur and the top of the tibia. The job of these long, powerful muscles, such as the sartorius, long abductor muscle and gracilis muscle, is to pull the leg back towards the body but, because of the way they are attached, they also rotate the hip and in some instances the knee. The sartorius, for example, allows us to sit cross-legged.

The group of muscles known as the quadriceps are located at the front of the thigh. They work antagonistically with the biceps at the rear of the thigh. The biceps group, also known as the hamstring, consists of the semimembranosus muscle, semitendinosus muscle and biceps femoris. Together, these two groups of muscles contract to flex the knee joint. When the quadriceps muscles are contracted the leg is extended and when the biceps are contracted the knee is bent.

The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles are found at the back of the calf, the soleus lying somewhat deeper than the larger gastrocnemius. These muscles form a group known as the triceps muscles of the calf. As these muscles run towards the ankle, they form the longest tendon in the body: the Achilles tendon. Their function is to move the ankle joint. These calf muscles are partly opposed by gravity and partly by a series of flexor muscles in the upper part of the foot. Another important muscle involved in lower leg movement is the anterior tibial muscle. This lies just above the tibia bone, which connects the knee to the upper foot.


Stand with feet slightly further apart than one shoulder width.

Grip the bar and balance it across the shoulders, keeping your head and back as straight as possible.

Now bend your knees and lower your body until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Keep your back straight and eyes fixed on some distant point.

It is best if you start this exercise with the weights resting on a rack. Have a companion or instructor at hand to help you in case of difficulty.

Do three sets each of I 0 repetitions with 36-45 kg (80-1 00 lb) weights.

Standing Calf Raises

Grip the dumb-bell with the left hand and allow it to hang by your side.

Stand with your left foot on the edge of a platform about 10 cm (4 in) high, using your free hand to maintain balance and holding your right leg just off the ground.

Now, raise yourself on your toes and then lower your heel until it touches the ground.

Do three sets each of 20 repetitions with 23-36 kg (50-80 lb) weights for each leg.

Leg Extensions

For this exercise you will need a bench equipped with a leg extension machine.

Sit comfortably on the bench with your feet under the padded bar.

Grip the sides of the bench firmly and straighten your legs slowly until they are locked.

Lower slowly back to the starting position.

Do three sets of 10 repetitions with 36-45 kg (80-100 lb) weights.

Leg Curls

Using the same bench, lie face down with ankles hooked under the upper padded bar.

Holding the bench firmly curl your legs around the bar until your feet touch your buttocks.

Do three sets of. 10 repetitions with 18-23 kg (40-50 lb) weights.

Weight Training Programmes

Initially, we are going to use some of these exercises to work all the muscle groups in turn. As we progress through the programme, we will incorporate the remainder of the exercises into our work-outs and then, finally, we start to use heavier weights. Always keep safety in mind and start with whatever weight feels comfortable.











Once you have mastered this routine, try adding extra weight on the second and third sets. Persevere with the exercises which work the shoulders, chest, back, arms and legs. Because the legs have large, powerful muscles, we exercise them twice. Take a three-minute break between sets and a five-minute break between each group of sets.


















You must feel comfortable with this training regime before you decide to progress to the advanced programme. By now, you will have a good idea what weight you can manage in each of the exercises. Start the first set of exercises with slightly less weight than the maximum weight you can comfortably manage. On the second set, increase to your maximum comfortable weight and on the last set, try to exceed this weight and do as many repetitions as possible.

Weight Machines

You will find weight machines in most gymnasiums and health centres. These provide us with a useful work-out which can be built in to our overall programme. Although free weights are the better tools in weight training, machines can duplicate many of the pushing/pulling actions. One great advantage of machines is that you can do a number of exercises by just moving a pulley. The resistance – and thus the weight – can be altered by simply moving a pin. Machines do not require you constantly to maintain control or the point of balance that is necessary when working with barbells. Consequently, machines are very safe, allowing an individual the freedom to work on his or her own.

Machines have a different feel to that of free weights and they can give a false impression of what you are achieving, although they are very good for recovery exercises. Other good exercises for machines include seated pull-downs, which work the upper arms, neck and shoulders, and pull-ups, which exercise specific muscles in the arms and shoulders.


Stand with legs slightly apart, gripping the bar at waist level. Raise the bar to the chin with upper arms parallel to the floor.

Standing Pull-Downs

Stand erect with both hands holding the bar.

Pull down to the waist and hold briefly before allowing the bar to rise under control.

Do three sets each of 10 repetitions.

Machines are ideal for these exercises and the only ones that I would recommend. Do three sets each of 10 repetitions. All the other exercises described earlier are more effective using free weights.

Military Weight Training Programme

You should do the advanced programme on alternate days, say Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Monday: Do the first set of exercises with weights that are comfortable for you. For the next set, add 2-4 kg (5-10 lb).

Seated Pull-Downs

Sit down and reach up to grip the bar.

Pull the bar down behind the neck and then allow it to rise under control. back to the comfortable weight but add two repetitions to each of the workouts. Finish the session by burning out the arm muscles, which means doing as many repetitions as possible.

Wednesday: Do Monday’s programme in reverse order. Finish by burning out the leg muscles.

Friday: Do the programme with half the weight but do 30 repetitions on the final set of exercises. Next Friday, do 40 repetitions and on the third Friday increase this to 50 repetitions. On the fourth Friday, add 2 kg (5 lb) to all the weights. Now go back to the beginning. Finish each session by burning out the chest muscles with bench presses. You will need a friend to offer encouragement and to recover the weight bar.

Signs of Over Training

Almost any change in personality, habits or mental well-being can indicate over-training. Over-training stresses your body and mind and, perhaps not surprisingly, the signs of over-training are also the symptoms of stress. 1Loss of appetite 2Difficulty in getting to sleep or waking unusually early 3Irritability 4Difficulty in concentrating 5Tiredness/mild depression 6Lack of interest in training 7Small anxieties or life-stresses which are blown up out of proportion 8An unusual frequency of minor illnesses such as colds and skin infections

The relationship between mental well-being and performance is so important for professional athletes that sports psychologists use a series of tests to identify and deal with problems. These include the Profile of Mood States (POMS), Sports Competition Anxiety Test (SCAT) and Sport Emotional Reaction Profile (SERP). Do not underestimate the importance of keeping mentally and physically fit or the dangers of over-training. Over-training is more than counter-productive; it can cast a pall over your life. Set reasonable targets and complete the exercises in a time-frame which is realistic for you. Rome was not built in a day and your body will not become stronger overnight. Be patient with your training programme and try not to expect too much too soon. Do not demoralise yourself by continually weighing yourself or getting out the tape measure. You, your training companion and other friends doing the programme will advance at different rates. When your progress seems slow, it is always tempting to over-train by increasing the weight or the number of repetitions. Stick to your own personal programme; it is the only way to make real progress.

Do not be fooled by advertisements in newspapers and magazines offering courses that ‘build muscles in weeks’. These are just clever marketing ploys which prey on people’s ignorance and fantasies. There are no short cuts. It is hard work, requiring regular training sessions with a range of exercises and lots of self-motivation! At the same time, your fitness programme will help you avoid the other great pitfall of regular training which is obsession. There is always the danger of fitness training taking over your life to the point where all your spare time is spent in the gym. This is not a good thing. You should always work to maintain a balance in your life. How else will you be able to use your new-found strength, stamina and confidence to tackle new challenges?

Fitness can be addictive. Endorphins and other biochemicals are released into the blood during hard, intensive exercise, dampening down pain and producing a ‘high’. It is great to get this buzz but it is not worth sacrificing your social life, close friends and family. Exercise and fitness cannot be allowed to take over your life; you have to remain in control.

Equally, pain from torn muscles and other minor injuries should never be ignored. The only way to allow an injury to heal is either to cut down your exercise drastically or stop for a while and seek professional advice.

If your training programme leaves you feeling tired, weak or depressed, it is time either for a change of pace, a different exercise regime or, perhaps, a complete rest. Put quite simply, you have been over-training and this is the body’s way of protesting. This is also true of those times when you are no longer enjoying the training or when you are left with the feeling that you are simply not progressing. This is not something which develops in a couple of days; it has probably been building up for months. We cannot allow our bodies and minds to become stale. That is why on the severe Military programme we build in a break on the sixth training week. This provides a welcome rest and serves to sharpen our appetite to resume training with a vengeance.

Of course, you will experience peaks and troughs in your training routine; this is only natural. Some days you will feel as though you could keep training forever but on other days it will be an effort just to put the weights on the bar. When you start getting more ‘bad’ days than ‘good’ ones, ask yourself if you are over-training. If the answer is yes, then get out of the gym and go and read a book or lie in the sun. Playing with your children, kicking a ball around or weeding the garden are also forms of exercise but it is the type of exercise that rejuvenates. Psychiatrists call it ‘masterful inactivity’. Very soon you will be able to return to the gym fully revitalised. However, if, as soon as you walk in the gym door, your enthusiasm starts to wane again, maybe it is time to change training facilities. Perhaps the other clients are getting on your nerves or there is insufficient support from the staff or the apparatus is old and is out of order more times than it is in use. Try working out amongst different faces; new people will freshen your mind.

You will soon become aware of the changes in your physical and mental abilities. You will become aware of your body’s potential. You will also learn about your body’s limitations and will be able to tailor these to your personal fitness programme. The right combination of exercises and regular work-outs will enable you to develop a natural instinct for what is right for you as an individual.

Having said so much about over-training, perhaps I ought to say a little about how you should be able to feel and behave when training is going well and you are riding the crest of the wave of achievement and self-fulfilment. 1You should be able to concentrate totally throughout an entire training session. 2You should be able to put more effort and intensity into the exercises as you progress through the programme. 3Your confidence should allow you to perform up to expectation. 4You should be able to identify and work on weaknesses and plan further training schedules. 5Small life-stresses and anxieties should not affect your training. 6A ‘bad’ training session should not destroy your confidence. 7You should know how to train to regain lost confidence. 8You should maintain the willpower to excel and improve.


Another method of strength training is through the use of isometric exercises. This involves pushing and pulling against objects that cannot move, such that the muscles are made to work with the minimum of contraction. The main disadvantage is that strength gains tend to be limited to the limb position and angle used in training. In isometric regimes, strength gains are seen after five to six weeks when 10 repetitions (each lasting at least six seconds) of the exercise are repeated three times per week.

Focusing the Mind

It is important to be able to focus the mind, enabling you to concentrate on the matter in hand. Equally, it is important to clear your mind of the many distractions of everyday living so that you can focus your entire concentration on the training ahead. The following exercise is designed to do just that and should be used just prior to your warm-up. Stand erect but relaxed with feet one shoulder width apart. Mentally picture your body and start to relax.

Beginning at your head, imagine that you are forcing all the tension down your body to ‘escape’ through your shoe-laces. Close your eyes and deal with the tension in your forehead and sides of the face. You should feel your head getting lighter. In your mind’s eye, suck the tension inwards and channel it downwards. Relax the neck and let the shoulders slump. Next, relax your arms. They should start to become heavier as the muscles no longer fight against gravity. Breathe easily, slackening the chest, back, stomach and buttocks. Imagine that you are breathing from the very core of your body.

Relax the knees and imagine that they are oak trees with roots spreading down into the soil. Clear your mind of worries and start to think positively as to what you are about to achieve. Take your time. You should now be relaxed. It does not matter if you sway a little; even oak trees do that!

Weight Training Routines

To be frank, you really need the services of a well-equipped gym for weight training. Working out at home with limited equipment, and without a companion or instructor to offer encouragement, is obviously less than ideal. In a gym, you will meet other experienced athletes who can offer encouragement and show you what you can achieve with time and training. Strike up a friendship with a more experienced person using the gym. It is good to train with someone stronger, faster and fitter than yourself. It is the same with any sport. By playing with a superior opponent who is more intense, driving you forward and always offering you encouragement, your game is much more likely to improve. Later, when you are more experienced, the opportunity will undoubtedly present itself for you to offer the same sup- port to another novice. As the well-known maxim reminds us: what comes around, goes around.

Heavy Training Routines

Try this routine to increase strength and build muscle. It consists of five sets of exercises. The work-out begins with a high number of repetitions which decrease with each set of exercises, but to compensate we increase the weight each time.

Set No 1 – 15 repetitions with 36 kg (80 lb) Set No 2 – 10 repetitions with 41 kg (90 lb) Set No 3 – 8 repetitions with 45 kg (100 lb) Set No 4 – 6 repetitions with 50 kg (110 lb) Set No 5 – 4 repetitions with 54 kg (120 lb)

These are only suggested weights in order to demonstrate the general idea. Choose your own weights and, if you become exhausted before the last set, modify the programme by decreasing the number of repetitions in each set. Try to finish with the highest weight that you can safely manage. You will need to do at least three to five complete sets if you are to see any benefit. Remember to rest between each set in order to give your muscles time to recover. This routine will build muscle but it will be at the expense of speed.

High Intensity Training

This type of routine offers only the minimum rest time between each set of exercises. It is excellent for developing speed and endurance. The idea is that you try to work as hard as you can for as long as you are able. We call this ‘rapid heart exertion’. This is the very essence of fitness training, doing as much as possible in a given time. To use an analogy, it is the difference between running and jogging. When jogging, you may cover 4 km (2M miles) in, say, 50 minutes. Your stride is short and leg-lift is minimal, and the heart and lungs are not unduly exerted. In contrast, during a 50-minute run you cover twice that distance, and heart and lungs will have to work much harder. The same principle is used in high-intensity weight training. Use moderately heavy weights and go through the work-out as fast as possible. The danger here is taking short cuts. You need to stay focused, doing the full range of movements and controlling the weights at all times.

Low Repetition Training

Low repetition training is ideal for the older person who is seeking greater mobility. By doing a few repetitions with light to average weights, he or she can go through the full range of movements that they would normally find hard to achieve. Weights are an excellent exercise for this purpose, and after a low repetition session a feeling of elation is experienced.

Free Weights v Machines

Most gyms have both machines and free weights, and these can be combined in your work-out programme. Free weights are, of course, more tricky to use since they must be controlled at all times. Machine weights are only lifted and controlled in the vertical plane; the weight cannot get out of control and the worst that can happen is that it will fall with an almighty crash. As I have mentioned previously, machines do have one serious disadvantage in that they can give a false impression of power. The power needed to raise a 45 kg (100 lb) weight on a machine may, in real terms, only be equal to that required to raise a 36 kg (80 lb) free weight.

That said, it is useful to mix the two in your work-out. In particular, cycling, skiing and rowing machines are a good way of warming up and warming down. Treadmills, which can be set at various speeds, can also be integrated into your programme. Treadmills are particularly good for warming down. Over a six-minute period, you can gradually reduce the speed until your heart beat and respiration return to normal. One disadvantage is that the treadmill is always in demand in a gym and the staff and other clients will take a dim view of the matter if you hog it to run a marathon!

The leg extension and leg curl machines mentioned earlier provide excellent remedial exercise to help you overcome certain types of injuries and are often recommended by physiotherapists.

Machines also offer the novice a very easy way into weight training and an easy progression to free weights. Of course, much more care is required with barbells and dumb-bells. I have seen weights that have not been secured correctly fall off, causing injury. There was also the occasion when a sudden shifting of the point of balance detached a weight from a barbell, resulting in quite a severe injury.

Let us now have a look at a simple programme which offers a combination of machine and free-weight exercises.

Weight and Machine Routine

W = weights M = machine















REPETITIONS SETS 103 103 103 103 103 103 103 103 103 103 103 103


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