It is a crucial part of a workout. If you do it incorrectly or you don't do it at all, it may cause many, even dangerous, injuries. Each workout, even the light one, should include a warm-up. How should it look? Most of all, it should include the parts of the body that we want to train. One of the most efficient methods is a three-part warm-up (app. 3-5 minutes each). Part one is the introduction. It should contain circulatory exercises, e.g. bikes, treadmill, stairs stepper, running in one place, skipping rope etc. The aim of this part is to prepare the vascular system, joints and ligaments to work hard.
Part two is the main part - it includes the area that we will strengthen during the workout. What exercises are recommended in this part - you can find their descriptions in muscle group exercises section. Part three is muscle extension. Its purpose is to increase the range of motion in the joint, strengthening the ligaments, better blood supply to the muscles. You can find the description of the exercises in the section "Stretching - muscle extension". After such a warm-up we can easily start the workout.
It is advised to dose the weight carefully in the first series for each muscle group. Especially, if you plan to use heavy load (over 70% of maximum load). It is good to perform 1-2 series of a warm-up exercise (e.g. bench press, sitting press, squats, leg press etc.) with lighter load (40-50% of maximum load) and more repetitions: 12-15. Now we can safely perform the workout with bigger load.
Besides a well-thought, well-composed workout and a diet, it is the most important factor, which determines the gain (or lack) of muscle mass. You should remember, that the muscles grow during the recovery time and without this time you cannot observe their growth. The conditions are:
|Muscle group||Low intensity||Medium intensity||High intensity|
|Chest||2-3 days||4-5 days||6-7 days|
|Lats||2-3 days||4-5 days||6-7 days|
|Lower back||2-3 days||4-5 days||not advisable|
|Biceps||2 days||3 days||4-5 days|
|Triceps||2 days||3 days||4-5 days|
|Deltoid||2 days||3 days||4 days|
|Trapezius||2 days||3 days||4 days|
|ABS||2 days||3 days||4 days|
|Quadriceps||3 days||4 days||5-7 days|
|Biceps femori||3 days||4 days||5-6 days|
|Calves||2 days||3 days||4 days|
This conept consists of many components such as: number of sets, number of repetitions in each set, load, length of breaks betweenn sets, exercises and trainings, pace. When we change these components we can regulate the intensity level. Changing even one component makes difference when it comes to intensity - you don't have to change all of them (e.g. shortening breaks between sets with all other components constant increases the intensity of the training proportionately to the change in break length.
Intensity level differentiation is a very important element of training planning for the next weeks or a whole year. Strength training is more effective when intensity level changes than training with the same level of intensity for the whole year. When you use the same level of intensity for the whole year, you can lead to training fatigue, no progress, or - if it's a constantly high intensity- to overtraining.
The components mentioned above are used to this purpose.
To make it simple - after high-intensity training (or after two at most) for one muscle part - the next training should be lighter (of lower intensity). The same pattern can be used in long-term planning - after high-intensity trainings there should be time for low-intensity trainings. Of course, you shouldn't go from one extreme to another - on the one hand too many light-intensity trainings can stop the muscle building process. And on the other - too many high-intensity trainings can lead to overtraining. That is why we should listen to our bodies to be able to improve any incorrectness in our training plan in time.
Muscle extention exercises are crucial for strength workouts. Stretching should be a part of warm up, as well as a way of calming the body down after training. Here are the advantages of using stretching:
increasing the range of motion of joints (and having in mind the rule that "the bigger the range of motion, the better workout effects", you don't really have to think about the usefulness of stretching),
strengthening the ligaments (it is unnecessary to explain why ligaments' strength is so important),
better muscles' blood supply (better oxygen and nutrients supply - faster recovery),
streching muscles after workout (especially for those who aren't able to recover for a long time after training).
The safest stretching method is the static one, which means extending the muscles gradually until they reach their limit. At that moment we stop the movement for a second and come back to the starting position. After a while we repeat the exercise. We should repeat it few times. Of course, in order to have some progress, we should gradually increase the range of motion, overcoming the muscle resistance (but with care - trying to extend the muscles too fast can lead to injuries). It is crucial to have a proper warm up (muscle, joints and ligaments) before stretching. You could also read about it in the introduction of Exercises Atlas - it is good to include stretching in the warm up part together with aerobic exercises before training. It is also advisable to make a few stretching exercises after strength (bodybuilding) training for those muscles that took part in the training.