Everyone is unique. This means we all have specific goals we want to achieve for ourselves. This is especially true when talking about weight training. There are numerous ways to work your muscles, depending on what exactly you are looking to do. You can tone, build, get stronger, or last longer. How you work out can help you get where you want to be.
If you're looking to tone up, also known as endurance training, you want to lift lesser weight for a greater amount of time. We are talking 20 – 25 repetitions here. So you want to be burning by 25, and if you can, add some reps to get to 30. The burning will be your body's release of lactic acid. When you train in this way, your body gets better at removing the lactic acid in turn allowing you to go for longer periods of time. This is a good place to start to get the muscles use to moving in the way they are supposed to. It gets them acquainted with how they are supposed to be moving and allows you to perfect your technique so you don't hurt yourself. This is known as muscle memory. When your muscle remembers how its supposed to do something, the next time you come to the gym, it will be easier because your body will remember what its supposed to do.
Ok, so you want some power behind your punch, right? The way to great power is through lifting lots of weight as quick as possible. Now if you're new to the game, DON'T START with this. Begin with getting stronger, then work up to moving quicker. Power is better for an advanced exerciser to attain. To build strength, you want to focus on lifting lots of weight for lesser time. So aim to get 8-10 repetitions out of your weight. If you can barely make 10, you're doing it correctly. After you've mastered the technique, you can move a little faster each time until you reach the explosive stage. This is where your moves are extremely fast, like a power lifter (go figure) in the Olympics and Strong Man competitions.
Another common goal for people (especially you guys out there) is to get bigger. This is called hypertrophy training. When your goal is to “go big or go home” think slow. Your muscles will gain size when you place them under tension for the longest period of time. So basically, do the opposite of power moves. Go super slow. If you want big bad biceps, count slowly to four on the contraction and extension. At one is your start point and at four you should be at the end of your move. Add a “mississippi” between your numbers for added time. You can also pause in the middle of your move (think ½ way between start and finish) or at the top and bottom.
A key note to make here is that just like our goals, our genetics are specific and individualized also. By this I mean that some people are built for strength, some for endurance, some for big muscles and some for power. So depending on what kind of muscle fibers you have determines what type of training will be easiest for you. That doesn't mean that if you find endurance training easier than power training that you can't do it. You absolutely can! It just might take a little more effort. So don't get discouraged, keep with it!!