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Training methods are essential in not only to sports personalities as they endeavor to be the best they can in their fields but also to individuals as they strain to acquire an athletic figure and lose fat. Training not only improves performance but also raises productivity in an individual. In choosing a training program, individuals normally worry over how hard they should work or train which can be addressed by the training intensity as defined by various training methods. Optimal training levels vary from person to person and it’s critical not to exceed these levels as this would otherwise result in injuries. Lower intensity training is essential in keeping the general cardiovascular health but does not enable the trainee to reach prime level for maximal performance. Secondly, the duration of exercise is critical in choosing the training method. Longer durations such as a thirty minute training session with an 85% maximum heart rate may be viewed as more beneficial than a shorter training period at the same intensity. However, intensity declines with duration therefore lesser effort is put into the exercises as desired due to fatigue. Finally, beginners worry about the volume and the number of exercises desired to reach optimum. This, coupled with the effectiveness of a given training method, that is, how fast results are attained, influences the choice or the training methods to be applied. Three most advocated upon training methods have been analyzed and compared as to their intensity, volume and duration. Further, macro, meso, and micro cycles per periodization training have been considered.
Weight or resistance training
This chiefly focuses on building strength and power by creating a local muscular endurance as enhanced by exercising against a resistance. Such training provides a contraction force as the muscle resists weights such as a barbell or a dumbbell. Weight training is significantly different from other training methodologies such as circuit training and plyometric training as discussed here-in in that it chiefly focuses on making the muscle bulge rather than the overall physique appearance.
In weight training, common mistakes by most people are that they chose to follow programs used by an elite athlete or overtraining so as to develop resistance as fast as possible. For beginners, no matter the exercise plan they follow, a progress is always shown. However, for advanced weight trainers, there is a need to work smarter. Therefore, progress can only be made during the break between workouts that ensures recovery. This goes a long way in preventing overtraining.
Today, the popular weight training dogma has been based on practices of elite athletes, weightlifters and power lifters. They can easily recover from greater volume of workouts though they might use illicit ergogenic aids when recuperating without which their great volumes of workouts would otherwise be detrimental. It is vital to note that the ACSM Weight Training guidelines state that in exercising, performing more than one set elicits slightly greater gains in strength but has however little additional improvement. This view is supported by most analysts in studies on strength and muscle hypertrophy (Feigenbaum, 1996). Experienced weight trainers usually chose split programs which incorporate two or more exercises for every muscle group. In their case, a second set is justified by the fact that a warm up set allows greater intensity for the consequent workout set.
In weight training, the intensity, duration and frequency components are inversely proportional. This implies that decreasing one component may be compensated for but one or both the other two components. For instance, training each group of muscle in every 4 instead of three days, which implies a decreased frequency, increasing the duration through the number of sets or exercises or via increased intensity by the amount of weight used may compensate for any losses.
However, intensity also has a direct effect on the other two components in the long-run. Decreasing intensity may lead to lesser strength and muscle gains which increased duration or intensity cannot compensate for. Furthermore, if the duration of a workout is too long, intensity unintentionally declines. Each additional set on the training program leads to the trainee holding back strength in reserve for it thereby putting lesser effort in their workout. Fatigue from all the additional exercises performed in one set goes even further in limiting the trainee in performing any other sets.
In weight training a beginner can use the following form of macro-periodization: In the first months, there should be heavy training and compound exercises so as to keep repetitions low at only 4-6 reps per every set. In compound exercises, this entails multi-joint and muscle movements. (Katch, 1996). After the trainee has bulked up aptly, lessen the power lifts and compound exercises and apply lighter weights in isolation exercises. These are single movements such as dumbbell-fly for the chest, concentration curls for the biceps and pushdowns for triceps. Further, weak point training for parts not fully covered by compound exercises should be incorporated. This entails first training in these areas with maximum intensity in your work rotation before tackling the stronger parts. This ensures an overall physique symmetry is achieved which is equal in strength and muscularity. This can be the case when one has a growing chest yet the legs are not strong enough. The individual first trains the legs through exercises such as squats before engaging in chest workouts in every set.
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As the trainee shifts from priority training, a shift from isolation training to cardio workouts so as to burn off all excess fat acquired through the muscle building phase is vital. This completes the macro-cycle periodization with a ‘ripped’ look whereby the veins are bulging and a fine muscle. In micro-cycle periodization, it ranges from 1-4 weeks of diverse daily and weekly training. For instance, training can use the first and the second day to build up for heavy day three training. In day three, the trainee can perform drop sets in which the trainee lowers the weight after each set so as to exhaustively burn out the muscle group; and super sets whereby different muscle groups are trained without an intermediate break between two consequent exercises so as to enable maximal muscle stimulation.
This entails high-intensity aerobics combined with resistance training that has a simplified procedure so as to enable fat loss, heart fitness and muscle build-up. A circuit is defined as one completion of a set of prescribed exercises in the training program. Basic exercises that may entail a single circuit are pull-up exercises and shoulder press for arms; sit-ups and plank exercises for abs; step-ups and burpees for legs; and skipping to ensure speed. Therefore, contrary to the weight training above, exercise is performed for fitness in the heart and in enhancing agility for aerobics rather than muscle building. Further, plyometric training is distanced from circuit training since it focuses on athletics rather than aerobics.
The case for circuit training has been supported by the merits that it can be easily structured so as to provide a whole body workout, does not necessarily require expensive equipment though some advanced training practices need high-cost machines, workouts are in small groups that allow the beginner to be easily guided, can be used for small workout areas and can be customized as per trainee’s specificity so as to adopt with various sports (Pratley, 1994).
This form of training is however discouraged for those wishing to develop bulk muscles or build strength which is enhanced by weight training. Further, training durations of this circuits range from 45-60 seconds up to a maximum of 2 minutes which implies multiple repetitions which ensures endurance rather than intensity.
In a circuit training session, the upper body, core and trunk, the lower body and finally the entire body is focused upon. Exercises in the upper body entail press-ups, medicine ball chest passing, inclined press-ups, pull-ups and bench lifts. For the core and trunk, stomach crunch for upper abdominals, sit-ups for lower abdominals and back extension chest rising can be performed. Exercises for the lower body are squat jumps, compass jumps, shuttle runs, bench squats, astride jumps, hopping shuttles and step-ups. Finally, exercises for the whole body are skipping, treadmills, burpees and squat thrusts. This are carried out in a set of 6 or 8 exercises lasting for 20-30 seconds on each exercise with an intermediate break of 30 seconds. For sets, 3-5 sets are carried out with a 3 minute recovery time between sets. For frequency, it should be carried out 2-3 times every week (R., 1998).
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Circuit training is however best modeled by weight machines. For beginners, 6-10 stations can be utilized then build up to 12-15 stations as they become progressively fitter. In the intensity, set the resistance of the machine to 40-70% of the trainees’ maximal effort then perform 12-15 reps as determined by the level of endurance and strength the trainee is in.
In circuit training, a training session can either be a macro circuit or a micro circuit. In Macro circuits, one set of each planned exercise is conducted in each circuit and the repeated for the number of circuits that are desired. For micro-circuits, the entire circuit is broken into smaller circuits of 2-3 exercises which are then repeated for a desired number.
Plyometric training is used in the development of rapid muscle fiber in order to generate the desired power in the legs rather than in arms as carried out by weight training. Further, this methodology does not rely on intensity but speed as in the other two training methods described here-in. This is based on the ideology that shortening muscular contraction on one particular muscle builds the necessary strength and endurance if it is immediately following a lengthening contraction of that particular muscle. Muscle fibers rapidly and much more powerfully transfer energy if contracted in such a manner. This has been modeled on the idea of stretching a coiled spring fully and then releasing it. Energy is rapidly released when the spring recoils. There are a number of exercises such as depth jumping, hopping, and bounding that are recommended for pylometric training. This however necessitates supervision given that the technique and strength required in performance requires rest periods to ensure recovery in order to minimize injury.
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So as to ensure effectiveness in plyometric training, this training should follow a phase of maximal strength exercises since the goal of this form of training is to apply maximum force as fast as possible. Plyometric exercises mainly concentrate on lower and upper body. Lower body exercises are suitable for such sports as track and field athletics, football, rugby, basketball, sprinting and baseball. These sports entail kicking, sprinting and jumping. Upper body plyometric drills are useful in basketball, softball, tennis, badminton, baseball, golf and volleyball and throwing events such as discus. The mostly necessitate a medicine ball.
Intensity on plyometric exercises varies widely. The lowest intensity exercise is skipping; depth jumps of 8-20 inches are classified as moderate intensity; bounding exercises have sub-maximum intensity while depth jumps of 32-48 inches entail high intensities (Stone, 1983). For beginners, drills performed should start from low intensity and he work towards higher intensity drills. The trainee should not add additional weight since this compromises the speed and quality of movement.
In plyometrics volume, the number of repetitions per minute should vary from 80-100 ground contacts for a beginner, and then progress to 100-120 in the intermediate level up to 120-140 in the advance level. In frequency, 2-3 sessions of plyometrics should be carried out in a week. A recovery time of 48-72 hours is recommended. Further, this training is discouraged after heavy weight training since the muscles are still sore. Effectiveness in this form of training rests solely on maximal effort and high speed. Therefore, ample rest intervals are vital to ensure recovery. In depth jumps, 5-10 seconds are recommended between each jump with a work to rest ratio of 1:10 (Schoenfeld, 2002).
Several periodization models support the emphasis of plyometric training in the off-season and pre-season. The periodized training model divides the macrocycle commonly referred to as the competitive year in the training program of an athlete into three distinctive mesocycles. First, the off-season mesocycle is normally that period in time that athletes do not participate actively in their chosen sport. Then, the pre-season mesocycle advances from the first official practice prograssively to the first regular season contest. Finally, the in-season mesocycle occurs from the first regular season contest and lasts up to the last official contest inclusive of the post-season competition. Few periodized models divide mesocycles further into lesser periods of training, that is, microcycles.
Such training sessions as the regular season progresses are used to ensure that gains in 1RM made in the off-season and pre-season are maintained. The laid down rationale that ensures maintenance of neuromuscular adaptations enabled by plyometrics during the preceding macrocycle are however not adapted in many periodization models. Athlete’s applying plyometrics spend most of their time in the regular season so as to improve key strengths such as the rate of force development. Plyometric training is therefore crucial in the performance of intense SSC activities without the loss of proper form and control. Hence, in the off-season, athletes can periodically engage in exercises far more complex than the level of low intensity without endangering their aim of improving their 1RM.
In conclusion, various training methods call for varying degrees of intensity, duration and volumes. However, some training methods require the trainee to combine them so as to ensure maximal benefits in the shortest duration possible be it weight and fat loss, aerobics or the need to build muscle. Hence, selecting an appropriate training method is the first key step in ensuring the achievement of your goals.