December 2008: Designing a Home Gym Fitness Program

Designing a Home Gym Fitness Program

One of the most common types of fitness equipment is the home gym. The President's Council on Physical Fitness has done research that shows that the key to a great weightlifting program is to perform beyond or at the threshold, which is defined as "enhanced motor coordination and technique" (Kraemer et al. 1). This research also shows that, in order for a weightlifting program to be effective, it is essential to vary the elements of the program so that there is continuous improvement (Kraemer et al. 2). In fact, the Council's research has shown that one set per exercise (of 8-10 exercises) for 8-12 reps at 2-3 days per week is only effective for a few months before further advancement ceases without altering the fitness program (Kraemer et al. 1). It is for this reason that one should consider a home gym that is versatile so that it can provide a variety of workout options. A few options available through BestBuyFitness.com are BodyCraft Xpress, or BodyCraft Xpress Pro, and Powertec Workbench Multi-System, or other Powertec equipment. Both of these home gyms offer a considerable variety of workout options.

The most obvious element to consider is "progressive overload", or gradually increasing the demands on the body through increased number of reps or lifting load. Without progressively increasing the demands on the body, there is no reason for it to adapt and build more muscle. Another aspect of a resistance training program to consider is specificity, or the body's ability to adapt to the repeated demands of a specific range of motion or on certain muscle groups. The next component to consider is variation, or the alteration of the fitness program (Kraemer et al. 2). And finally, it is essential to consider the variables of the training program, elements like rest intervals, resistance used, the muscle groups worked by different exercises, and many others (Kraemer et al. 2-3). Home gym equipment should be selected with all of these components in mind.

The Council's research has developed certain recommendations for continuous advancement in a resistance training program. To begin with, weight lifted is derived from a percentage of a single rep maximum (the maximum amount of weight a person can lift in one repetition). While 45%-50% of the rep max is sufficient for increasing strength in a novice, 80-85% of the rep max is necessary for increasing strength in more advanced training programs. It is essential then that someone interested in beginning a resistance training program select home gym equipment that will accommodate all levels of training (Kraemer et al. 3). As one source explains, any sort of fitness plan should be a lifelong commitment, as automatic as brushing your teeth or getting dressed in the morning (Fitness 1). Since it is a lifelong commitment, you can be assured that you will advance through multiple levels of training, so you should choose a fitness home gym versatile enough to adjust to this advancement.

Although the Council set a standard recommendation for weight lifted, the research continued by stating that even the rep max zone should be varied to provide constant advancement in strength. For instance, novices should vary their programs from 60-70% of the rep max, while advanced resistance trainers can vary their program standards between 70% and 100% (Kraemer et al. 3). Likewise, the research proposed that while programs designed with high volume and a low number of reps (such as with 12 sets of 3 reps) are sufficient for increasing the endurance of a specific muscle group, low volume and a high number of reps (such as with 3 sets of 12 reps) is best for strength and power. However, it is important to note that for overall increased fitness, the Council suggested that varied multiple set programs are best. In fact, the research further proposes that while novices can benefit from 1-3 sets per exercise of 8-12 reps per set, intermediate and advanced trainers need multiple sets per exercise to improve performance. Intermediate levels should complete multiple sets of 6-12 reps per set, while advanced lifters should complete anywhere from 1-12 reps per set. Finally, the research proposes varying the reps per set for optimal advancement (Kraemer et al. 4).

Another point to consider according to the research is multiple joint exercises. These exercises work multiple muscle groups at once, and thus provide a higher level of resistance. Even more importantly, only this kind of exercise stimulates the production of hormones which stimulate the development of specific muscle groups. This is essential in advanced training (Kraemer et al. 4), for which the threshold is higher and more difficult to meet. The stimulation of muscle-affecting hormones is an important enhancement for advanced-level training. It is essential, then, to select fitness equipment that provides variation not only in weight load, but also in exercise options, so that you have the ability to work multiple muscle groups at once.

The design of the program is also important, the research notes. For instance, it is essential to vary the order of exercises, as the effectiveness of exercises earlier in the program is greater than those exercises later in the program. Rotating the order of exercises will ensure that optimal performance is reached with each exercise (Kraemer et al. 4). Similarly, the length of rest periods is a necessary consideration. The Council’s research demonstrates that longer rest periods seem to improve performance over shorter ones. This is because recovery is essential in continued advancement. The data suggest that rest periods should also be specific to the type of exercise, as well. For instance, the recommended rest period for a novice is 1-2 minutes, but core exercises should have 2-3 minute rest periods. Advanced levels should consider 1-2 minute rest periods for all exercises (Kraemer et al. 5)

Overall, it is important to ensure that fitness home gym equipment has the versatility to design a program that consistently permits performance at or above the threshold in order to provide continuous advancement. Essentially, this means that the home gym should have a weight system that will accommodate a variety of weight loads, so that advancement from novice to advanced can be accomplished on the same fitness equipment. Since varying weight load is also essential within a particular level of training, it is doubly important for the home gym to be able to provide multiple load options. In addition, the home gym should be able to provide a variety of exercises that work an array of muscle groups. First of all, any fitness program should be balanced, with exercises of multiple types (Fitness 3). Moreover, the President's Council on Physical Fitness has shown that multiple joint exercises (which work multiple muscle groups) stimulate hormones that affect muscle development. BestBuyFitness.com finds that the BodyCraft Xpress Pro and Powertec Workbench Multi-system (or any other Powertec fitness equipment or Powertec home gym) are both excellent home gyms that provide fitness equipment for multiple exercises in one gym. Using a fitness home gym as opposed to a collection of smaller pieces, like an Olympic Bench, Olympic weight set, and Roman chair, offers the opportunity for variation and saves space. These two home gyms are also designed to mimic the movements necessary for free weights, meaning that the exercises are completed under more of your own power, while providing the safety of a machine.

Sources:

Fitness Fundamentals: Guidelines for Personal Exercise Programs. President's council on Physical Fitness and Sports. 26 Oct. 2008. <http://www.fitness.gov/fitness.pdf>.

Kraemer, William J. and Ratamess, Nicholas A. United States. President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Research Digest. Series 6, No. 3. (Sept. 2005.) 26 Oct. 2008. <http://www.fitness.gov/Digest-September2005.pdf>.

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