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Working At Proper Intensity

How to Judge Your Effort

It is important to find the right balance between exercising conservatively to prevent injury and exercising consistently progressing to increased strength. This easy-to-use scale will help you determine the proper intensity of your workout.

It’s important to adhere to your strength-training regimen as much as you can. You may find that you make a few false starts before you succeed at making this program a regular part of your life. There may be times when interruptions such as vacation, illness, family or work demands conspire to prevent you from doing your exercises for a week or two—or even longer. Try not to feel guilty or disappointed in yourself. Just restart your routine as quickly as you can. You may not be able to pick up exactly where you left off—you may need to decrease your weights a bit. But stay with it, and you will regain lost ground.

If you have trouble getting back into the swing of things, start back into the program slowly. Remember why you started strength training in the first place, why you chose your particular goals. (It may help to reassess your goals and make new ones; as time passes, your motivations may change.) Most important, remember how your past successes made you feel: healthy, strong, independent, and empowered!

Exercise Intensity Indicator

Ask yourself these questions after each exercise.

  1. Were you able to complete two sets of ten repetitions in good form?
    No: Reduce the weight to an amount that you can lift ten times in good form; rest for one or two minutes, then repeat for a second set.
    Yes: Please continue to question two.
  2. After completing ten repetitions, do you need to rest because the weight is too heavy to complete more repetitions in good form?
    Yes: You are working at the proper intensity and should not increase weight.
    No: Please continue to questions three and four to determine how to safely increase the intensity of your workout.
  3. Could you have done a few more repetitions in good form without a break?
    Yes: If you can do only a few more repetitions (not the entire next set of ten without a break), then at your next workout you should do the first set of repetitions with your current weight and your second set with the next weight up. For example, if you’re currently using one-pound dumbbells, use two- or three-pound dumbbells for your second set.
  4. Could you have done all twenty repetitions at one time, without a break?
  5. Yes: At your next session, use heavier dumbbells for both sets of repetitions.
    Side Note #1: Remember that you should complete each repetition in proper form, using the “two-up, four-down” count.

Side Note #2: When you start doing the exercises with the adjustable ankle weights, you will be able to increase intensity by adding half- or one-pound weights to each leg.

Progression

How To Progress

After the first week or so of strength training, you should start doing each exercise with weights that you can lift at least ten times with only moderate difficulty. (If a given exercise seems too difficult—if you cannot do at least eight repetitions—then the weight you are using is too heavy and you need to scale back.)

After two weeks of strength training, you should reassess the difficulty of each exercise with your current level of weights. You may start doing the overhead press with one-pound dumbbells, for example. By the end of the second week, the exercise may feel too easy—that is, you can easily lift the one-pound dumbbell through the full range of motion and in proper form more than twelve times. You should now step up your weights to two- or three-pound dumbbells and see how the exercise feels at the new weight level.

Why Progression Is Important

To take full advantage of the many benefits of strength training, it’s important to progress, or consistently advance the intensity of your workout by challenging your muscles with heavier weights. This continuous challenge allows your muscles to grow strong and stay strong. Progressing will boost your feelings of independence and will help ensure that you live well into old age without the fear of falling. It will also give you a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment.

Staying on Track

It’s important to stick to your strength-training program as much as you can. You may find that you make a few false starts before you succeed at making this program a regular part of your life. There may be times when interruptions such as vacation, illness, family, or work demands prevent you from doing your exercises for a week or two — or even longer. Try not to feel guilty or disappointed in yourself. Just restart your routine as quickly as you can. You may not be able to pick up exactly where you left off — you may need to decrease your weights a bit. But stay with it, and you will regain lost ground.

If you have trouble getting back into the swing of things, start back into the program slowly. Remember why you chose your goals. It may help to reassess your goals and make new ones because your motivations may change as time passes. Most important, remember how your past successes made you feel: healthy, strong, independent, and empowered!

Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness.

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