Weight Training Basics

Terminology is not imperative to exercising, but you will find it helpful when trying to program yourself. The training principles have been put into a fitting acronym – FITT, which stands for Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type.


The Frequency of training is How Often you train per week. The general recommendation is no less than 2 days per week of strength training, up to 4 days per week. Fill the other days with cardio. Make sure to include 1 to 2 rest days. These can be active but not heavy lifting and keep cardio light.


The Intensity of training is How Hard you push yourself during your activity. The harder you push the intensity, the better the result and muscle gains. The perceived level of exertion needs to be moderate to vigorous. Follow vigorous training days with lighter training or rest.


The time spent training or being active is your session’s Time. Each training session should take 30-45 minutes, plus a 10-minute warm-up before you begin. End the session with stretching. Consider that one hour of exercise a day is only 4% of that day. You can afford to spend that time on your health.


Exercise Type varies depending on your goals. There are exercises more cardio-focused, more strength geared, and those promoting flexibility. A well-rounded program includes all three types. As mentioned above, you need to schedule rest days. An excellent substitute for your workout on a rest day is to spend that time stretching – make it a flexibility-focused day. You will not only rest your hard-worked muscles but help them better recover, thus preventing injury.

Programming Terms

Many gym patrons get mixed up regarding reps, sets, and circuits. Circuits are made up of sets. Sets are made up of reps. Another key is rest intervals which differ between sets and circuits. Let’s clear the fog in your brain when these terms are thrown around.

Reps or Repetitions

One Rep is one complete motion of an exercise. If you are doing biceps curls, one rep is every time you lift the dumbbell and lower it back down.


Set is a consecutive number of reps performed without stopping. If you are doing biceps curls, one set is the total number of reps performed without resting.

A set can vary depending on the training goal. Beginners will be lifting lighter weights. A goal rep range for one set would be 10-15 reps which builds muscle size and endurance. If you can lift more than 15 reps, increase the weight next set. Someone interested in strength and dense muscle will lift 1-5 reps per set. Doing 6-12 reps promotes a more balanced result concerning muscle size, strength, and power. Again, the number of reps per set depends on your goal.


A group of several exercises performed in sets with little to no rest. For example, a circuit might include 10 pushups, 10 bent-over rows, 10 squats, and 10 deadlifts. Repeat 3 times with 60 seconds of rest between circuits and minimal rest between the four sets. The four exercises are performed as 1 set, each with 10 reps. The combined four sets make up one circuit. Circuits are usually repeated after a brief rest period following the last exercise in the circuit, as in this example, the deadlifts.

Rest Interval

Rest time between sets or circuits. Rest between sets is usually 20-60 seconds. The length of rest is dependent on the intensity of the exercise. The more intense the exercise, the more rest time is needed. Rest may also be dependent on muscle groups worked in a circuit. As in the previous example circuit, opposing muscle groups were being worked, so minimal rest was included between sets. The rest was only listed after all four exercises had been performed or the circuit was completed.

Muscle Actions

Muscle action refers to the tension in the muscle and whether the muscle is shortened or contracted, lengthened or relaxed, or being held under tension without a change in the muscle length.


Muscle shortening or contraction happens during the concentric phase. In a biceps curl, the concentric phase is when the dumbbell is lifted up. When strength training, performing the concentric phase in 1-2 seconds is recommended.


Muscle lengthening or relaxation happens during the eccentric phase. In a biceps curl, the eccentric phase is when the dumbbell is lowered back down. Moving slowly during the eccentric phase is beneficial as you fight against gravity or the weight alone. It is recommended to move the weight back to starting position taking about 3-4 seconds.


Muscle contraction at “same length” or holding the muscle under tension without moving is called isometric. This might seem unfamiliar, but if you have ever done a wall sit, you have done isometric training. Isometric holds offer the benefit of strengthening the muscle more than just lifting up and down, and there is little risk of injury. Incorporate isometrics into your training by holding the contracted muscle for 2-5 seconds, then return to the starting position.


The many variables and terms associated with exercise programming may seem confusing. Hopefully, you have found this post helpful in better understanding terminology and being able to apply it to your workout program. If you ever want help with programming, consider one of my Services!

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