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Exercise & Fitness Message Board

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[quote]Originally posted by Chelle1977:
[b]I've seen you post multiple times suggesting 4 sets (plus a warm up and cool down). Why so high?

I've seen research that suggests 1 set is enough, if you go to failure. Dr. Ellington Darden's reccomendation in the BowFlex manual is 1 set. Most workouts I've seen in the body mags include 2 to 3 sets. I don't understand the high number of sets?

I know you said you only work out for an hour, but I don't see how you get done that quickly. I did an hour Tuesday night doing upper body and I only did 3 sets of 10. And I was doing supersets so basically no rest at all (just enough to reconfigure the BowFlex, my position, or the weight).[/b][/quote]

OK, this is going to be a long response so here goes.

First, everything I post is usually in the context of fat loss, and not meant for those trying to gain muscle.

Second, whether you're trying to lose fat or gain muscle, you should always do a warm-up set. Light cardio will warm up your body and get your heart rate going, but the idea here is to get the specific muscles you'll be working ready to go.

There are two reasons why people trying to lose fat are told to do weight training:

1) You want to prevent your body from breaking down muscle, which it could potentially do since you've reduced your caloric intake.
2) You want your body to burn stored fat.

Doing 3 sets is enough to accomplish goal #1, but in order to accomplish goal #2, you have to treat weight training kind of like high intensity cardio in that your focus should be to keep your heart rate up and build up a lot of lactic acid in your muscles. Lactic acid is key because it causes your body to release growth hormone and one of the things GH does is tell your body to mobilize stored fat. The result is that your metabolism will remain elevated long after you're done lifting weights.

In order to produce a really large amount of lactic acid, you have to do several things when weight training:

1) Do lots of reps, like in the 10-12 range. The weight does not have to be heavy. I pick a weight that I can normally do 20 reps to failure, which would be 60% of my 1 rep max.
2) Do each rep fairly quickly. I do one second up, no rest at the top, and one second down. This kind of rapid movement will not only get your heart rate up, it'll cause your muscles to burn a lot sooner, which is exactly what you want. That's how you know lactic acid is building up. Plus, I'm sweating like a pig the whole time so I know it's a good workout. Since you have the Bowflex, you can do quick reps like this cause you won't have to worry about momentum.
3) Don't rest for very long. I do 90 seconds between sets. You don't want the heart rate to come back down.
4) The number of sets will vary. I actually recommend 4 sets for people just starting out who haven't lifted weights recently and need to learn proper form. Eventually, your body will get used to doing 4 sets. I've already reached this point. Eventually, you can make the sets progressive and add more weight and lower the reps. You can finish off by doing a burnout set and/or a superset. This will produce a ton of lactic acid. Basically, if you're not really sore by the end of the workout, then you didn't do enough sets. There was a guy on this board who said he used to do 3 sets of 40 reps with little rest in between and his arms were really cut. This is why.

As for being able to squeeze all this in 1 hour, it's entirely possible because you're not resting much and you're doing each rep so quickly. Here's an example workout session:

5 minutes light cardio
2-3 minutes stretching.
1 warm up set of 12 reps
4 sets of 10 reps
1 burnout set that took you to 30 reps.
3 body parts per session.

If you're resting 90 seconds and doing one rep every 2 seconds, that adds up to about 40 minutes. That leaves me time to do 4 sets of ab crunches. I do 20-25 sets or failure, whichever comes first, with 90 seconds rest in between. When I add that in, plus some stretching after each exercise, I still manage to finish under 55 minutes. The key is to make each rep quick. Think of the pace your arms move when you're using a rowing machine. It's kind of like that which is why you will get tired and sore fairly quickly.

Finally, forget about what the Bowflex guy says. He's a paid expert and except for the stuff about frequent meals, more water, and the importance of weight training, the advice he gives is terrible.

So for the long answer, but I hope that explains things. Oh and remember to have a recovery drink like Gatorade or a soda as soon as you're done.

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