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FITNESS Effective weight training

Man performing a press-up

Muscle in motion

Effective weight training

Personal Trainer

Paul O'Brien

Weight- or resistance-training is one of the cornerstones of any fitness programme. Whether your goal is weight loss, toning or improving performance for your sport, a good resistance-training programme should be the cherry on top of your weekly workouts.
There are many benefits to be gained by including a regular resistance-training programme in your routine. Resistance training can aid weight loss by elevating your resting metabolism, helping you effectively burn more calories while at rest. It can help address muscular imbalances in the body, rebuild your strength after injury and improve your speed, strength and other aspects of sporting performance.
On the face of it, resistance training is easy to accomplish. Simply use your own body weight (push-ups, squats etc) or apply an outside force (dumbbells, kettle bells etc) through a pre-determined number of reps and sets. However, on the sliding scale of resistance training effectiveness, one variable distinguishes highly effective resistance training from the kind that wastes your time – technique.
Simply put, and I can’t emphasise this enough, one properly executed repetition with proper technique is worth any number done with improper technique. One of the keys to this is using the full range of motion (ROM) available around a joint. ROM refers to the amount of movement available to a joint and its connecting muscles. When performing resistance training, it’s important to lift a weight through the muscle’s full ROM in order to ensure that you are working the optimal range of muscle fibres. Not doing so can lead to muscular imbalances, postural problems and injury through the shortening of muscles.
How do you establish your full ROM for resistance training? Simply use a light weight (or bodyweight) and continue each movement as far as is comfortable with proper technique. It’s important to remember that we all have different ranges of motion, depending on how flexible our muscles are. It’s also a good move to have a certified Personal Trainer help you with this, to check technique and build confidence in your technique. When you establish areas where your ROM is poor, a trainer can also help you work through this by altering your resistance training programme and introducing a flexibility programme. Incidentally, if you are already weight training, make sure you are also following a comprehensive stretching programme.
There are exceptions to always using a full ROM of course. You may be returning from injury and slowly rehabilitating the muscles around a joint. In improving your jump height for sports, an athlete will only perform a half squat during a fast, plyometric exercise. However, for most fitness goals, moving through a full ROM is the key to an effective workout. A good rule of thumb: Good form + full ROM = best results.

Paul O’Brien is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise and a qualified life coach. He runs his own business in Westport and is the creator of Bootcamp West, an exercise programme in Westport. For details of upcoming classes, visit or e-mail or telephone 086 1674515.