When devising a training plan – and before you actually embark on it – it is important to find out how strong you are. Otherwise, you could quickly overreach yourself and do yourself an injury. When measuring your strength, use a test that best suits you and your specific goals.
The test that you choose should be determined by the goal you have in mind. If you want bigger arms, then use bicep and triceps exercise to generate a test that will assess your performance on the way to achieving your goals.
To recover from a knee operation using exercise to build strength in your quadriceps, use a leg extension test to assess the strength in your quadriceps and monitor your rehabilitation programme. If you want stronger, wider shoulders, do shoulder presses in order to assess shoulder strength. To assess hamstring strength (muscles at the back of the thigh) use a hamstring curl machine. For upper-back strength, do chin-ups and add weights, wearing a weights belt to test your strength.
Before you do any strength test for the first time, consult your doctor. If you are testing to find your one repetition maximum (ORM), make sure to have a training partner to help you when your muscles tire. Use supports and foot rests on exercise machines when you start to fail on a weight. Struggling to lift a weight that is too heavy for you is one of the most common causes of injuries.
One Repetition Maximum test
This is the gold standard of strength tests. Most ORM tests involve the bench press and leg press, as these two exercises involve the majority of the large muscles in the upper and lower body. Follow the procedure to find your ORM:
1. Warm up for three sets using a weight you can lift for at least ten repetitions.
2. Add 5-10 per cent to the weight and complete three repetitions.
3. Add a further 5-10 per cent to the weight and try to complete three repetitions.
4. Continue to add 5-10 per cent to the weight until you can only do one repetition (ORM).
Once you have found your ORM for the bench press and leg press, divide the weight you have achieved by your body weight to get a score. This is the calculation if your ORM for the bench press is 100kg/220lb:
100kg/220lb (ORM bench press)/80kg/176lb (body weight) = 1.25
A good result for a male would be more than 1.4, a poor result is less than 0.6.
Strength endurance test
You can easily do this test at home. It involves doing as many sit-ups and press-ups as possible in 1 minute. Because women do not have the same upper-body strength as men, women can do the press-ups with their knees on the floor. Use the scores in the table to assess your strength endurance.
Poor Fair Good Very good Excellent
Male 20 30 40 50 60
Female 10 20 30 40 50
Poor Fair Good Very good Excellent
Male 10 20 30 40 50
Female 10 20 30 40 50
Using the strength tests
Anyone can adapt the strength tests to their chosen sport. For example, if you are a cyclist, use the leg press to find your ORM. For the strength endurance test, see how many step-ups or squats you can do in 1 minute. If you want to build a bigger, stronger chest, do an ORM test using the bench press, and for strength endurance, do as many press-ups as you can manage in 1 minute. Repeat every four to six weeks to monitor your progress.
Resistance training involves applying resistance to a movement that will not only increase your metabolic rate, but also give you greater strength and more energy.resistance training will build muscle and can even reverse the inevitable decline in your metabolic rate. The afterburn (calories expended after exercise) of resistance training will burn far more calories than the afterburn of a cardiovascular session. Knowing that you are sill burning calories when you are sitting at your desk, several hours after your training session, is a real bonus.
You can build and tone over 600 of your muscles using resistance training; it will help reduce the risk of injury, especially lower back injury, by promoting good balance, co-ordination and posture. Resistance training will also help give your muscles the strength they need to prevent overuse injuries. Changing your body shape through resistance training will give you improved self-esteem and will motivate you to keep up you training. There are also medical benefits to resistance training. It will strengthen your bones and reduce the risk of bone degenerating disease such as osteoporosis. Resistance training will also help to lower your blood pressure, lower your resting heart, decrease the risk of diabetes, decrease the chance of certain cancers and promote an increase in high-density lipid (HDL) cholesterol, or good cholesterol.
Before you begin, familiarize yourself completely with the exercise and the equipment. To challenge your body and make training fun, make sure to include a variety of exercise in your resistance-training plan.
Know your muscles
Your body is made up of more than 250 million muscle fibres. Some muscle fibres consist of a high number of motor units per muscle fibre, such as muscles in the eye, which control small, precise movements. Other muscles, such as the quadriceps, need fewer motor units per muscle fibre, as they control bigger movements. It is really important to know which muscle group that you want to focus on each time you go to the gym help you achieve your goals.
Train the muscle the best way
It is possible to train muscle fibre to be of better use to you. One of the most effective ways recruiting the muscle fibres is plyometrics training, because it activates the strecth-reflex mechanism of the muscle with an eccentric contraction. Plyometrics uses the acceleration and deceleration of body weight and includes exercise such as jumping and bouncing to enhance neuromuscular co-ordination of muscular movement.