How to succeed with a home exercise program?

How to set goals for your home exercise program? 

The most important thing to consider when looking to advance your general exercise program is what you are looking to achieve. 

Making your routine specific to achieving your goals is fundamental when progressing your exercise routine and what exercises it should contain. For example, a marathon runner’s training to improve 10 km run time will be different to a powerlifter training to increase squat weight. If you have a specific goal and the map to reaching it, you will be more likely to stick to the program, and achieve it.

Consider your goal and then create the plan to get you there. Asking an exercise professional goes a long way in knowing the requirements of your chosen path.

What equipment will you need for your home exercise program?

Once you have considered what you’re going to achieve, the next thing will be picking your equipment. Once again, the body builder and the marathon runner are going to need different equipment. Do you have the right weights/gym/home gym to achieve your goal?

Make sure you set yourself up in an environment where you know you will have access to the equipment you need. Ask an exercise professional about what you need, especially if you are looking to make a financial investment deciding between gyms and home equipment.

Other considerations would be personal equipment to reduce the chance of injury, for example a proper set of running shoes for a marathon runner or supportive weightlifting shoes for a bodybuilder.

How to progress your home exercise program? 

Once you have organized your goals and training equipment you will be all set to start progressing your routine.

There are a few basics to progressing gym routines with the aim of increasing your capacity:

·       Sets (number of cycles of repetitions to complete) – Increasing your sets until reaching the number desired on your program will be the first step in progression, this will enhance overall conditioning.  

·        Repetitions (number of movements of specific exercise done) – the repetitions you do will determine what type of muscle ability you are looking to improve. For example, muscular strength (lifting heavy) is increased the most within 5-8 repetitions aiming at fatigue, increasing muscle size is increased the most with 8-12 repetitions aiming at fatigue and increasing muscle endurance (using muscle over long periods) fatiguing at 15 repetitions and onwards per set is ideal. This is the second place you can progress to target your program at your goals. Considering this information a bodybuilder should more regularly but not exclusively aim at fatigue between 8-12 repetitions.

      A typical strength training load looks like 5 sets of 5 repetitions, when doing the sets and aiming at fatigue the repetitions you complete in those sets might look like 6,5,5,4,3. In this case you would want to comfortably achieve 6 repetitions in each set at the same weight before increasing the weight.

·        Weight (load that you lift) –after achieving your desired repetitions in each set it is time to increase the weight. Depending on the exercise between 5% (for smaller muscle movements like bench press) to 10 % (for larger muscle movements like squats) would be an achievable increase. If you can achieve your desired repetitions on your first set with the increased weight, but not the following sets, it was the correct increase in weight. Your weight should continue to cycle upwards in this manner. In general, if you are fatiguing yourself your body will respond to become stronger. More advanced protocols can involve lifting a specific percentage of weight in relation to the maximum weight you can lift.

·        Rest (time between sets) – an important concept sometimes forgotten is rest periods between sets, in general at least 60 seconds should be taken between sets to ensure achieving the next set. In powerlifting longer rest periods of 5 minutes or more are utilized to make sure maximum effort can be reproduced on the next set.

      Rest can also be used as a progressive technique as well. In high intensity interval training (HIIT) modifying the work (time spent doing activity) to rest ratio can increase energy used in a session. Gyms that focus on circuit training will use this concept to increase the intensity of a workout to keep you heart rate high in order to achieve maximum energy burning.

·       Tempo (time spent doing the up, hold, and down parts of a movement) – the time that you are lifting a weight is called time under tension, and this can have an effect on conditioning. Increasing the time under tension will promote higher muscle production over the next 24-36 hours.

      In powerlifting movements the weight is being moved fast on purpose as powerlifters aim to increase activation of their fast muscle fibers. This is done to engage the fast muscle fibers which produce a lot of force over short periods of time. Depending on your goals changing tempo can fast track muscle response to exercises.

·        Technique Variations (small changes to original movement types) – another way to progress your program and to keep it fresh can be to use different variations of exercises. For example, a squat has many variations. An athlete training for sports requiring high vertical leaps might try varying a squat to have the torso in a more vertical position like a front squat or trap bar squat. Other more simple variations can include single limb variations of exercises to increase the difficulty of a movement, for example converting a double leg calf raise into a single leg. This can also be beneficial for evening out strength differences in the left and right limbs.    

How to start your home exercise program progression?

Now that you have more knowledge on progression the next step is planning which is the best way to achieve your goals. The concepts above are the primary ways to progress, if you feel you need more specific information for your goals talk to your trusted exercises professional.

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