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Here's what you should do to derive maximum benefit from your fitness regime, writes Marjie Gilliam

Ever wonder if you are getting the most benefit from your current workout programme? Here are some important guidelines:

Quantity over quality

More is not necessarily better. A key factor in obtaining results from a strength training workout is to choose a weight that fatigues the muscles being worked by the time you reach the end of the set. The higher the number of repetitions, the greater the muscular endurance, while the lower the reps, the more strength is gained.

Endurance versus strength

In essence, your muscles are made up of different types of fibres, including what are referred to as ‘fast twitch' and ‘slow twitch'. Fast-twitch fibres (needed for muscular strength) are capable of exerting a great amount of force, but because they lack endurance, fatigue extremely quickly.

An example of someone recruiting fast-twitch muscle fibres would be a competitive powerlifter who lifts a weight so heavy that only one repetition can be performed.

Slow-twitch fibres (needed for muscular endurance), on the other hand, are incapable of exerting great force, but they can sustain repeated contractions over a long period of time without fatigue. An example of someone recruiting slow-twitch muscle fibres would be a long-distance runner, or someone who lifts a weight so light that a very high number of repetitions can be performed. So, how does this translate for the average gym-goer who would like to maintain or improve both muscular strength and muscular endurance but whose goals are not extreme?

Simply put, when deciding how many reps or sets to do or how much weight to lift during your workouts, it is smart to change all of these variables from time to time.

Some guidelines

First and foremost, be safe while exercising. It is always recommended that beginners get clearance from a physician before starting a fitness programme. If you are set to workout, but are unsure of proper form and technique, consult an experienced professional.

How much weight to lift?

The heavier the weight, the lower the reps, and therefore, more strength gained during exercise.

The lighter the weight, the reps will be higher, and, therefore, more endurance is gained.

To help achieve overall fitness, try to include at least a few functional exercises in your programme. Functional exercises are those that simulate everyday movements and, therefore, prepare us for tasks at hand. These exercises use multiple muscle groups with each repetition and can provide both strength and endurance benefits of varying degrees.

For instance, from day to day, it is not unusual to use muscles for pushing, pulling, bending or climbing.

Examples of exercises that help with those movements are push-ups, pull-ups, deadlifts, squats, lunges and stair climbing.

If possible, train using different speeds of movement. Generally, the lighter the weight, the slower the motion; the heavier, the faster the motion.

Again, the idea is to try to prepare the muscles for all possible activities or tasks.

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