Fitness professionals continue to receive numerous questions about training; whether it is “what is the best exercise for the chest” or “how many reps should I do for this exercise”. I will share some of my knowledge and experience on these two topics below and allow you to have a better understanding of these common questions. Our personal trainers in Richmond and Cloverdale can give you more insight on these topics.
Bilateral lower body training vs. Unilateral lower body training
We can attack this topic from multiple angles beginning with training experience. If you are new to the gym and have little to no experience, it is recommended that you begin with bilateral movements first. This is because there is increased stability with two legs during a movement compared to one leg. I am not saying you are completely dependent on one leg, such as the pistol squat, but most of your weight is dependent on one leg, such as the lunge. Once the concept and technique of a bilateral movement is grasped, he/she can progress onto a unilateral movement. In terms of functionality, I have found that it is important to train in both bilateral and unilateral movements. Sometimes we are on both feet lifting and moving things and other times we are carrying things moving from one leg to the other. Training for functional daily purposes will include a mix between both types of lower body training.
If we are speaking in terms of sport-specific type of training, unilateral lower body training will be the best bang-for-your-buck. In majority of sports, power is rarely produced from a two-footed standstill position. Bodies are always moving dynamic during sports and power is produced majority in a one-legged stance such as taking a hockey wrist-shot or kicking a soccer ball. Of course, in the beginning phases of strength training, raw strength is developed through bilateral movements such as squats and deadlifts. As strength is developed, it must be transferred to unilateral for the athlete to be strong unilaterally. Our personal trainer in Richmond and Cloverdale can further explain the importance of both types of training.
Low reps vs. High reps
This question is asked quite often whether the goal is to lose weight, gain muscle or play better sports. The question is often “should I use low or high reps for my goal?” And the answer is it depends. If our goal is to build absolute raw strength for powerlifting or sport purposes, then low reps is your best bet. These are between one to six repetitions done with very heavy weights. Powerlifting is simply the amount of weight you can lift at a certain bodyweight so building raw strength is crucial. As for sports performance, the raw strength is then converted into power with the use of speed. Of course with high reward comes high risk. Lifting at very high intensity comes with a higher risk of injuries and you may not want to take that risk if your goal is general fitness. Now, if we are lifting weights to be generally stronger, then high reps can help you. High reps are usually 15 repetitions or more. Higher reps help build muscular endurance of a particular muscle or movement. This is especially helpful for specific training goals such as posture where it is important that our postural muscles can sustain their contraction over long periods of time.
Looking within a training session, we may begin with a heavy compound movement such as a squat, bench press or a deadlift to build strength. Low repetitions can be used in this part of the training (perhaps three to five repetitions) because we are fresh and have not fatigued from other exercises. As we move through the training session, physical and mental fatigue begins to set in. We cannot perform as well as our initial heavy movement due to fatigue, so we decrease the weight and increase the reps. At this point we are still working on muscular strength but with slightly higher repetitions (from six to 15 repetitions). Both methods are great for developing strength beginning with greater intensity and ending with greater volume.
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by Marco Ng
Certified Personal Trainer