Progression of resistance training

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If you’ve been in the fitness game as long as I have, you’ve undoubtedly seen many fads that have come and gone. The times change, so the focus and the specific techniques change with resistance training. I’m not here to argue if kettle bells are more beneficial than dumbbells. I’m much more interested in making sure whatever method of resistance training you choose, you start it from where you should and progress it in the right direction.

What I see daily are exercisers doing resistance training that is not at the appropriate level for them. There are three basic levels that you can perform resistance training exercises: stability, strength, and power. Each has its own purpose and provides a unique benefit. If done out of sequence, however, it can have a disastrous effect.

Stability training is the first phase of resistance training. This should be the foundation from where all your other training is launched. If you are new to exercise this is where you definitely should start. This phase is about developing muscular balance around the joints. Joints and muscles work most effectively when there is a length/strength relationship to them.

When certain muscles get longer and/or weaker and other muscles get tighter and/or stronger, it creates a “wobble” to the joint that alters its mechanics. Training in this phase should be about re-establishing that balance and developing muscular endurance for certain muscle groups that are more involved in posture and core function. Even if you have been working out for a long time, this is an important phase to go back to and work through because the very nature of your existing exercise program can be developing muscular imbalances and hindering your results.

The strength training phase is where most people start their exercise programs. Whether your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or develop strength, there is an expectation with most people that they should grab a weight and start doing some reps. If you haven’t gone through the first stage of training, the strength phase can actually help to build bigger dysfunctions in your body. This phase targets the larger, more dynamic muscles of the body. If you have imbalances, and you strengthen these bigger muscles, you develop strength in this position. If the joint still have “wobble”and the stabilizing muscles are weak, the imbalance is reinforced. Your newly developed strength in a bad position can lead to an overload issue. The joint not moving correctly stresses tissues around that joint. Doing your training enough can bring on common overuse injuries, like impingement syndrome of the shoulder or patella femoral syndrome of the knee.

The last phase of resistance training is for power. The power phase of training is based in time. You do things quickly. Some of us actually start our training here, skipping the first two phases altogether. This would include training that involves jumping, throwing, kicking, and ballistic movements. This training creates high degrees of shear force through the joints that can only be off-set by the working muscles and connective tissue. If you haven’t balanced your joint through stabilization training and strengthened the muscles properly, when you perform these movements, you are literally sending mini earthquakes through your body. You can have overuse injuries develop, but more likely, this is where the muscles or joints just give way to the large forces. A muscle tear or torn cartilage are not uncommon with this training.

As I stated before, all training has its usefulness and can be beneficial. I’m a big proponent that you use a variety of styles and techniques to achieve your desired goals. Just make sure you start your training at the appropriate point and progress it in the proper manner, so to not undo all the benefits you get from your training.

I hope that this gives you some new insights into your resistance training program. I wish you happy and successful training.