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When creating a resistance training program, you can use the FIRST acronym as a guide: frequency, intensity, repetitions, sets, and type of exercise. Using these five essential factors can help you easily develop a workout plan to help reach your goals.
The purpose of this post is to discuss how to use the FIRST guidelines for improving muscular endurance. Muscular endurance is defined as “the ability of a muscle or a group of muscles to repeatedly exert force against resistance“. Muscular endurance is usually determined by an increase number of repetitions completed with slightly less than your maximum resistance. In my next post, I’ll focus on guidelines for improving muscular strength.
Common training plans for muscular endurance focus on a total-body workout consisting of exercises for the larger muscle groups of the legs, then the trunk, and ending with the upper body and arms.
FIRST Guidelines for Improving Muscular Endurance
Frequency: During the first few months of a typical strength-training program, two or three workouts a week seem to be equally effective for developing muscular fitness. But, as you advance and get at higher training levels, you’ll need more time to recover between sessions. Proper recovery time is crucial. Three training sessions a week is sufficient for improving muscular endurance, but if you cannot complete the same or more reps at your next session the frequency of your training should be reduced to twice per week.
Intensity: One of the goals of training for muscular endurance is to work the muscles that you are focusing on to fatigue. For most people, this is about 12-16 controlled reps. Typically, 12 repetitions can be done with about 70% of max resistance and 16 reps with about 60% max resistance. For that reason, the recommended training intensity for muscular endurance is between 60-70% of your max resistance.
Repetitions: The range recommended for enhancing muscular endurance is between 12-16 controlled reps that work the muscle to fatigue. You should increase the resistance by about 5% when you can complete 16 controlled reps. When you increase the weight, this usually shortens the set by 2-4 repetitions then you work your way back up to 16 reps.
Sets: Multiple sets of each exercise are advised in a program for muscular endurance. It’s also important to take short rest periods between sets. So, you could do two or three sets of each exercise with <60 seconds of rest in between.
Type: There are many options of resistance exercises that will help improve muscular endurance. Medicine balls, bands, free-weights, and machines are all efficient for training. Use whatever you feel most comfortable with. It’s also helpful to switch it up to prevent boredom. Keep in mind that you should work all major muscle groups, but you don’t have to do each one individually. For example, if you do the bench press, shoulder press, and bar dips, you won’t have to do a specific triceps exercise.Trying to Improve your Muscular Endurance through Strength Training? Follow these FIRST… Click To Tweet
If you are specifically training for muscular endurance, following these FIRST guidelines can be very helpful in planning your strength training program.
Are you strength training for muscular endurance?
Do you create your own programs?
Periodization: The systematic application of overload through the pre-planned variation of program proponents to optimize gains in strength (or any specific component of fitness), while preventing overuse, staleness, overtraining, and plateaus. (Essentials of Exercise Science for Fitness Professionals).
Basically, it’s alternating easy, moderate, and hard phases of training. Using periodization is probably the best way to avoid overtraining and help you get the most benefits out of your exercise program. Using the right periodization strategy will help boost fitness gains and will train your body to be in the best shape for a specific time frame, such as for a race.
This can be done over months or even within a single week depending on what you are wanting to accomplish. Using periodization can help you achieve your goals and help you develop a program that provides results.
- Doing the same workouts and same intensity all the time, you’re bound to hit a plateau. Many of us just keep doing the same things not knowing how to change up an exercise program or know the benefits of making changes. Switching the type of exercise, intensity, repetitions, rest intervals, or tempo, will enable you to alternate low and high intensity workouts. This will help your body get the proper recovery.
- Rotating periods of training with the focus on intensity, time, distance, and volume or workload lets your body rest and adjust which is a huge benefit. Consistently making changes to an exercise program is more effective and decreases risk of injury.
- Periodized training can be divided into cycles. A macrocycle is the overall time frame of a program or goal, usually 6-12 months. This long-range goal can be split into mesocycles that are typically 2 weeks to 3 months long and are designed to help move you toward the overall goal of the macrocycle. A microcycle is the shortest timeframe and helps to reach the goal of the mesocycle. For example: you may have a 6 month macrocycle that has 2 mesocycles of 3 months each and 12 microcycles of 2 weeks each.
- By alternating the intensity of exercise, you have more control of the physical stress put on the body. If intensity is low, volume can be high.
- Changing up your workouts every eight to twelve weeks will help you to continually make changes and avoid the dreaded plateau.
Periodization can be used for strength training programs, cardiovascular programs, and also nutrition. (Here is some information on Periodized Nutrition for Athletes ).
To get the most out of your training and increase fitness gains, using periodization will definitely be helpful. Cycling through days of low-intensity, high-intensity, and proper recovery is very beneficial and will make it easier to achieve your fitness goals!
Do you periodize your training?
What steps do you take if you hit a plateau?