At first, developing a personalized workout program might seem like a tedious chore. In fact, it is rather easy if you start with good goals and go in stages. This is the slow progression that we describe.
- The equipment is inexpensive or free.
- The space required for exercise is minimal.
It is possible to exercise without any equipment, but basic tools will increase the number of exercises you can do as well as their effectiveness. Ideally, you should have the following:
- A pair of dumbbells
- A pull-up bars
- Elastic bands
You will use your bed, a door frame, and a chair to perform these exercises.
Adjustable dumbbells are available in any sporting goods store. A 20-pound (approximately 10 kg) kit costs around $20. Ideally, you should have two kits. Then, as you become stronger, you can purchase additional weights as you need them.
The point in using dumbbells is to increase the difficulty of the exercises so that you continue to make progress. If you always do exercise with the same weight (your body weight, for example), even if you increase the number of repetitions and sets, you will rapidly reach a plateau. In weight training, everything is based on the principle of overload. Using dumbbells is the best way to reach this overload.
Instead of dumbbells, you can use bottles filled with water (the amount of water depends on the resistance that you want). Large bottles with handles (similar to milk jugs) are easier to use.
This is a moveable bar that you attach above the door-frame or between two walls in a hallway. After use, it can be stored away so it does not take up space. This bar is used in working the back, but it is not required.
There are short bars (less than 4 feet, or about a meter) and longer bars (up to 4 feet). If you have the room, choose longer bars. They will give you greater diversity in the exercises you can do.
Elastic bands or tubes are available in any sporting goods store. Some hardware stores also sell them.
The advantage of elastic bands is that they provide significant resistance but do not weigh anything. Bands are easy to transport and store at home. Ideally, you should have bands in several diameters or thicknesses so that you can easily vary the resistance.
The resistance provided by elastic bands is very different than that provided by the body or by a weight. The more you pull on a band, the greater the resistance. However, if you lift a 20-pound dumbbell, it will always weigh 20 pounds whether you are at the beginning, middle, or end of a movement.
Still, it would not be wise to choose one type of resistance over another. Both dumbbells and bands have their advantages and disadvantages in terms of resistance. One is not better than the other. The best method is to combine the two as often as possible. Combining them allows you to enjoy all the benefits while eliminating the drawbacks to both. This synergy provides a kind of resistance that is superior to all others.
Diversify Resistance far Maximum Effectiveness
Muscular progression is even more rapid when you use various kinds of resistance.
For this reason, we recommend using not just one but five types of resistance:
- Body-weight training
- Additional resistance
- Elastic resistance
- Plyometric resistance
This is the basis for weight training. The advantages are that it does not require any equipment and all of the muscles in the body can be worked. Unfortunately, when body-weight training reaches a certain point in terms of strength and endurance, it quickly reaches its limits.
As in all disciplines, in order to improve, you must increase the difficulty. One of the ways to do this is to increase the number of repetitions. But if you go beyond 25 repetitions in body-weight training, you move from strength training to endurance training. For building size and strength in the muscles, increasing repetitions is not as effective as increasing weight.
Even if you wanted to, you could not use all the strength in your muscles. Their total strength is enormous. You often realize this when you have a muscle cramp because it causes a muscle contraction that is much stronger than any you could voluntarily generate. The total strength of a muscle is the sum of its maximum voluntary strength plus its absolute involuntary strength. The difference between maximum voluntary strength and absolute involuntary strength is called the strength deficit.INVOLUNTARY STRENGTH: A PROGRESSIVE DEPOSIT!
To increase the difficulty of an exercise and to force the muscle to grow, you must push it The easiest way to do this is by using dumbbells. Dumbbells allow you to vary the resistance gradually. It is possible to add just one pound (about .5 kg) at a time or more if you have the strength. This progressive addition of weight is the opposite of that provided by body weight, which does not vary. Many people cannot do pull-ups or push-ups. With dumbbells, this is never an issue since you can select any weight you like.
Dumbbells are an extension of body-weight training, but they are less restrictive for people who are new to weight training and who have not yet gained enough strength for body-weight training. With dumbbells, stronger athletes can go beyond using only their body weight by increasing the weight voluntarily and gradually.
Plyometric resistance (also called the stretch-shortening cycle) gives muscles elastic and rebound properties. This resistance comes into play when you force your muscles to abruptly stop a movement and then go in the opposite direction. A typical example of plyometric effort is to jump off a short box, land while absorbing the shock, and use it to jump as high and as fast as possible. Running uses this phenomenon of plyometric rebounding as well. This is why, when you train using plyometrics, you end up running faster and jumping higher. The muscle becomes more explosive.
Plyometric work is particularly important for athletes who need muscle reactivity. By causing a small, quick stretch of the muscle, you cause a protective reflex: the myotatic reflex. It greatly mobilizes absolute involuntary strength. This can be seen in elite sprinters. Watch them hop in place before the start of a race. With little momentum, they can jump very high and extremely fast. This plyometric effort before the start prepares the muscles to use all their explosiveness in the race.
Plyometrics brings together the strength gained through weight training and the increase in performance on the field. An athlete can become stronger through weight training, but when you ask him, for example, to throw a small ball, he cannot throw it very far because it is difficult for him to transform his strength into explosiveness; his muscles are not accustomed to that type of movement. When he quickly brings his arm back to throw the ball, the interaction between the involuntary strength generated and the voluntary muscle contraction is often not a direct carryover. Plyometrics can help you transform your strength into explosiveness.
Plyometrics primarily involves the thighs as well as the upper-body muscles you might use to push an opponent away or to pitch a baseball.
The golden rule in plyometrics is to limit contact with the floor. If contact lasts too long, a good part of the myotatic reflex is lost. The goal of plyometrics is to accelerate maximum voluntary muscle growth so that it adds itself as rapidly as possible to the involuntary strength (mobilized by abrupt stretching). Letting the shockwave from contact with the floor dissipate for too long (even milliseconds too long)means the interaction does not happen in the optimal time frame. Involuntary strength fades before enough voluntary strength has even beer mobilized. In the example of the athlete throwing a ball, the time available to make the throw is extremely short. Poor interaction between the two kinds of strength results in a bad throw because the athlete was not able to gather all of his strength in that very brief period.