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Keys to Strength Training

The success of any program lies on the willingness of the athlete to work hard. It is a simple equation, the harder you work, the greater the results will be. Since hard work is the key to success, it makes sense that each training session cannot last for a long duration of time or the effort would have to decrease as a result. Maximize your time in the weight room. Do not waste time by socializing or taking extensive rest periods between sets or exercises. It is a common myth in the field of strength training that the longer the workout, the greater the results will be. Nothing can be further from the truth. The workouts performed at Stony Brook University will never take longer than one hour.

A specific warm-up targeting the specific musculature and movements that will be seen in the subsequent workout will increase the body's preparedness including functional range of motion, heart rate, blood flow, and core body temperature. A warm muscle exhibits a greater amount of flexibility and is thus less susceptible to injury. Always warm-up properly before performing any workout.

Train the Entire Body
The body is a system that is designed to exact specifications. Overtraining one area will lead to an imbalance and disrupt the system. In turn, this will lead to a decrease in the normal range of motion found by the joints and again increase the chance of injury. The muscles of the body work together and must rely on each other to perform at optimal levels during competition.

Allow the Muscle to Lift the Weight
In order to allow the muscle to do the work, the weight must be lifted under control. If the weight is moved to quickly, it will increase in velocity until the muscle is no longer in control and the weight is actually moving itself due to momentum. By increasing the velocity of the movement, the exercise becomes less taxing on the muscle and potentially far more dangerous. As muscles fatigue through out the course of a set, it will be necessary to exert more effort to move the weight.

Emphasize the Lowering of the Weight
The weight must be lowered in a slow and controlled manner. This ensures that the muscles are doing the work. The muscles used to lower the weight are the same muscles that are used to lift the weight; it assists in preparing the muscles for the exercise. This will decrease the chance of muscle pulls and injuries to the tendons or ligaments involved. It has been shown in studies that eccentric (lowering of the weight) training and a comprehensive flexibility program can decrease the chance of soft tissue injuries (Kaminsky, 2000).

To obtain optimal results, any strength program must be followed exactly as designed. You have to take the responsibility to get to the weight room and work hard to reach your maximum potential. This means that strength training must become a year round event, even during the season. The program simply needs to be adjusted to the time of year. The volume of exercises is decreased during the season and some of the exercises themselves might be altered. This does not mean that the intensity of the training changes. Strength gains can occur during the season. Just give yourself ample time to rest before competition (preferably 48-72 hours).

To get stronger, it is important that you are constantly overloading the muscle. This means that within your program, you should always look to increase the weight or increase the reps every time you train. Every rep of every set you perform is an all out effort. Constantly raise your level of expectation. Your body will respond with an increase in lean body mass and a decrease in body fat. However, if you do not push yourself, you will not see these results and you are wasting your time.

Rest and Recovery
Strength training is destructive by nature. When you lift weights the muscles being trained are actually broken down (protein degradation), and therefore forced to rebuild. The body then rebuilds the muscles bigger and stronger to accommodate the need to produce the forces necessary. To gain optimal results from strength training, an athlete must assist the body during this recovery stage by not training that particular muscle group for close to 48 hours. Muscle groups should never be trained on back-to-back days. It is also important that an athlete maintains a healthy diet and healthy sleep patterns to optimize the recovery stage.