When I first developed an interest in lifting weights, my first thought was that I’d spend all of my spare time doing rep after rep after rep non stop until I couldn’t lift any more. I didn’t understand or know of sets, or how often to train and when to rest.
Once I began looking into it more and received several pointers from a friend who was more knowledgeable than myself, I discovered that achieving great success would have far more to do with training ‘smart’ than simply training flat out, non stop, hour after hour, day after day. It was a big reality check.
The first thing I learned about was sets. A set groups together ‘reps’, short for repetitions. The idea of a set is to group together enough repetitions with just the right weight so that towards the end of the set the muscles become strained. Then a rest is taken, for 30 seconds to a couple of minutes (I don’t advocate any longer), and then the next set is performed, etc.
Sets are usually kept between 3 and 5. The aim is, by the time the final set and rep comes around, you are really strained to the point of ‘failure’, and with extra effort you can complete just the final rep and no more. Exercise over. Under normal circumstances, there is no need to lessen the weight and continue once you have reached muscular failure.
Another thing I quickly learned was rest days are very important, and that I would benefit immensely from having several days off a week. Periodization was also important; which means you set your workout plan in such a way that you don’t hit the same muscles twice within 48 hours, and typically you don’t hit the same muscles groups more than twice a week.