Principle of Specificity
A well-designed weight training program is based on the principle of specificity— the crucial factor in any exercise program. Simply put, if you want to achieve a specific result, you need to design and then follow a specific training program. For example, the muscle toning program will cause your body to become more toned. Furthermore, when you select an exercise for each muscle group or body area, you apply the principle of specificity: to train the chest muscles, you choose a chest exercise, not a leg exercise, for instance. The principle of specificity is important to incorporate into your program if you are training to improve your sport performance. Exercises should mimic the movement patterns that occur in your sport. For example, if you are a basketball player, you understand the importance of jumping. To apply the principle of specificity, you need to select weight training exercises that are similar to jumping so that your jumping ability will improve. Therefore, you would choose to perform the squat exercise rather than the leg extension or leg curl exercise. Although the leg extension and leg curl exercises train the leg muscles involved in jumping, the squat exercise more closely mimics the actual jumping motion.
Toned muscles appear firm rather than flabby. They are also defined, which means that you can see distinct muscle separations, indentations, and shapes. Muscle toning is a natural outcome of regular weight training. If you are interested in muscle toning, higher repetitions in your training will produce better muscle tone without large increases in muscle size. Therefore, the result of following a muscle toning program will be firmer and more defined muscles without significant increases in muscle size.
Body shaping programs provide all the benefits associated with muscle toning programs, but they also increase the size of muscles more dramatically. With body shaping, you will not only experience the muscle firming and definition of muscle toning but also increase your muscle size. This result is especially true for men; the physique of a woman who is weight training does not change as dramatically. Some women, however, may notice small changes in girth in the shoulders, thighs, arms, or back from a body shaping program.
Strength is the ability of the muscle to exert force. Typically, the term strength is associated with the ability to exert maximum force during a single effort, sometimes referred to as a one-repetition maximum effort (1RM). For instance, someone gives you a weight of 100 pounds (45 kg) and then asks you to perform as many repetitions as possible (with proper technique) in the bench press exercise. If you could do only one repetition, your one-repetition maximum, or 1RM, would be 100 pounds. Increased strength can significantly improve performance in recreational and competitive sports as well as make everyday tasks—regardless of your age— much easier. A strength training program usually produces gains in muscle size that are greater than those achieved in a muscle toning program but not to the same degree as a body shaping program.
Why Not Walk or Jog Instead?
Aerobic exercises such as walking and jogging are ideal for improving the fitness of your heart and lungs and the muscular endurance of your legs, but these activities contribute less to shaping your body and improving your overall flexibility, muscular endurance, and upper-body strength. The advantage of aerobic activities over weight training is that they require minimal equipment and can be done almost anywhere. Swimming, cycling, and cross-country skiing, which are also aerobic activities, are better than walking or jogging in terms of building overall flexibility, muscular endurance, and strength, but they still fall short of what weight training programs do for strengthening and shaping specific areas of the body. Weight training programs are more effective than aerobic programs in improving muscular strength, muscular endurance, body composition (ratio of muscle to fat), and flexibility. For older adults who are inactive, weight training can be an especially important activity because muscle mass declines 5 to 10 percent each decade after age 50. This loss of muscle results in a decline in strength, which is often associated with a variety of illnesses, injuries, and infirmities. Research has demonstrated that younger as well as older adults who follow at least a 6-week weight training program will have significant increases in muscle mass and strength. Similar research has shown that weight training can also lower blood pressure, improve bone mineral density, and help people with diabetes improve insulin resistance and glucose tolerance. Unlike other exercise activities that develop a limited number of muscles (for example, walking and cycling primarily develop the legs), weight training programs can help you develop many muscle groups—especially those that are particularly important to you. Weight training is like going through a cafeteria and picking which foods you want to eat instead of having to eat simply what is served to you. The workouts in chapters 7 through 12 emphasize exercises for seven major muscle groups: chest, back, shoulders, front of the arms, back of the arms, core, and legs. The workouts also condition the smaller muscles of the forearms, calves, and neck. How well your program is designed and how diligently you follow it will determine your success in achieving your desired outcome. What makes weight training exciting is the rapid rate at which you can see and feel changes in your body. As soon as you start exercising, your muscles feel firmer, and the body sculpting process begins. Regular training will convince you that you have the ability to develop your body in ways that you may never have expected!