The vast majority of patients to our Boulder Physical Therapy practice require strength training to either rehabilitate an injured tissue (muscle, bone, tendon) or improve their capacity to participate in the activities they enjoy. The longer I practice the more I respect the gains in mobility, strength, function, and patient independence found through lifting something heavy. As we age we must target the age related declines in muscle mass and strength which can contribute to many diseases and lost independence.
You can be excused for feeling confused by the variety of workout types, equipment, and prescriptions found on the internet, but at the end of the day the tried and true methods of strength training remain. Challenging yourself, gradually and consistently, over time with exercise creates beneficial adaptations responsible for the numerous benefits found with this form of exercise. A classic research paper describes how these workouts should be tailored for both experienced and novice weight training participants.
Rhea and colleagues published a review of the existing research on which strength training exercise prescriptions create the most beneficial strength gains in participants (Med Sci Sp Ex. 2003). Authors included 140 research studies in their meta analysis the combined the data to determine a dose response for this form of exercise. The concluded participants should aim for the following prescriptions per muscle group based on their training experience
Novice – 4 sets at 60% Maximum Voluntary Isometric Contraction (MVIC) or 4 sets of a 15 rep max weight.
Experienced – 4 sets at 80% MVIC or 4 sets of 8 rep max weight
All strength training participants should assess for muscle fatigue as they complete their sets at their chosen weight. If they can complete > 3 repetitions with good form above their targeted repetition range (ex. 15 or 8) they should increase the weight accordingly to find fatigue within their selected repetition range.