Defining Your Goals

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Your body will do what you train it to do. That's why it's important to define your goals and focus on those goals. Here are some fitness components that will help you define your goals and choose your fitness program.

Muscle Strength is the maximum force that you can exert against resistance at one time. Your muscle strength comes into play when you pick up a heavy bag of groceries or lift a small child. It is developed when a localized muscle is worked both positively (concentric) and negatively (eccentric) at a resistance - great enough so you can perform only five to eight repetitions of the exercise before the muscle fails. Each set of repetitions is followed by a rest interval that typically runs three times longer than the set. Later, between exercise sessions, the muscle overcompensates for the stress and usually increases in both strength and size.

Muscle Endurance is the ability to perform repeated contractions. It comes into play when you cross-country ski or work on your feet all day. Endurance training addresses the slow twitch, endurance muscle fibers, which depend on oxygen for energy. To develop muscle endurance, use low resistance and high repetitions - about 15-20 repetitions in each set, three sets to each exercise, working the muscle only to fatigue.

Muscle Power is the combination of strength and speed of the muscular contraction. This is often misinterpreted as a) Being directly associated with certain skill or sport and/or b) Meaning that you must move fast. Load is actually a more important factor than speed when attempting to improve power. When training to achieve muscular power, pick a resistance that fatigues you in the 3-5 repetition range. When performing these reps, it is more important to think of contracting the muscles faster rather than attempting to move faster. Performing sport simulation exercises usually results in a deterioration of the motor pattern or skill. The biomechanically sound method of improving power in your sport is to train for power using the correct joint movements, as described in this manual. Then practice the skill associated with your sport, learning to apply this newly achieved power.

Body Composition is the ratio of fat weight (fat) to lean weight (muscles, bones and tissue). As you age, the ratio shifts. The fat weight increases and the lean weight decreases. Training for muscle strength will generally increase muscle size and aerobic conditioning will help burn extra calories. Performing these two forms of exercise, either at different times or together, will create the greatest changes in body fat weight.

Balanced Strength and alignment is the result of equal strength developed in all parts of the body. It comes into play in your standing and sitting posture, and in your ability to perform just about any activity safely and effectively. An over-development of the back will round the shoulders; weak or stretched abdominals can cause lower back pain. You want a balance of muscle strength in front and back. In addition, you need a balance of strength between your middle, lower, and upper body.

Flexibility is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to move the joint through a full range of motion. Flexibility comes into play when you execute an overhand serve or stretch for the top shelf in the kitchen. It is a cooperative movement of opposite muscle groups. When a muscle contracts, its opposite muscle group must relax for the action to occur. Increased flexibility means an increased range of motion, made possible by this simultaneous contracting and relaxing. Good flexibility is important in protecting the body from injury and can be achieved through the balanced strength training programs that are included in this manual.

Cardiovascular Endurance is the ability of the heart and lungs to supply oxygen and nutrients to exercising muscles over an extended period of time. It comes into play when you jog a mile or ride a bike. It is a critical component of overall fitness and health. Any exercise program must be supplemented with cardiovascular training, such as rowing on the Bowflex.

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