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 Fitness & Your Health: Transformation: How To Take Them From Sedentary To Active  

  • quadriceps
  • hamstrings
  • gluteals
  • pectoralis major
  • latissimus dorsi
  • deltoids
  • biceps
  • triceps
  • erector spinae
  • abdominals
  • neck flexors
  • neck extensors
To target these muscle, our program typically incorporates the following machines:
  • leg extension
  • seated leg curl
  • leg press
  • double chest
  • super pull-over
  • lateral raise
  • biceps
  • triceps
  • low back
  • abdominals
  • four-way neck
We usually introduce four machines during each of the first three instructional sessions. The teaching and training order is leg exercises, followed by upper-body exercises, followed by midsection and neck exercises.

Frequency. Although we recommend three strength workouts per week on nonconsecutive days, we have attained excellent results with two training sessions per week. Studies (Braith et al. 1989, Westcott, in press) have shown that two-weekly sessions produce about 75 to 85 percent as much muscle development as three sessions, and therefore represent an effective exercise protocol for previously inactive participants.

Sets. Due to time limitation, our program participants perform only one set of each exercise. In addition to being time efficient, single-set training may be as effective as multiple-set training. Studies by Starkey et al, (1994) and Westcott (1995) have revealed similar strength gains from one and three exercise sets. Our members typically increase their muscle strength by over 50 percent and their lean (muscle) weight by about three pounds after eight weeks of single-set strength training.

Resistance. After an introductory period, we work with approximately 75 percent of maximum resistance for each strength exercise. This method provides a safe and productive training workload (Westcott 1995).

Repetitions. Research (Westcott 1995) reveals that most people can complete eight to 12 repetitions with 75 percent of their maximum resistance. At a controlled movement speed (about six seconds per repetition), participants experience approximately 50 to 70 seconds of continuous muscle tension. This represents a productive anaerobic work effort for the target muscles and provides an effective stimulus for strength development.

Progression. While there is no set procedure for progressively increasing exercise resistance, we use a simple system based on the 5 percent rule. That is, whenever a trainee can complete 12 repetitions in good form, we increase the resistance by 5 percent or less.

Speed. We use six-second repetitions - two seconds for the lifting phase and four for the lowering phase. Although this training speed has produced excellent results, my research (1994) has shown equivalent strength gains from four-and-eight-second repetitions. With respect to training speed, the most important factor is to teach the trainee to control each lifting and lowering movement, so he or she could theoretically stop a movement at any point. Otherwise, momentum may play a larger role than muscle, in which case the training effect is reduced and injury risk increases.

Range. Jones et al. (1988) demonstrated that functional strength gains occur only in the movement range trained. Because we want our participants to develop full-range strength, we train them with full-range movements within their ability to perform these without discomfort or difficulty.

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 About The Author
Wayne Westcott PhDWayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the......more
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