A “set” is a group of exercise movements done one after another without resting. The number of times you do the movement is called a “rep” (repetition). If your plan is to do 3 sets of 12 biceps curls, begin by curling the weight 12 times in a row. That finishes the first set of 12 reps. Put the weights down and rest about a minute or so. Do the same for the second and third sets, and then you’re done!
A good pace for doing one repetition is 1 to 3 seconds for the lifting part of the exercise and 3 to 4 seconds for the lowering part. If you lift and lower the weight too fast, it’s the momentum of the weight, not your muscle, that’s doing most of the work. That won’t build up your muscles as fast as doing the exercise the right way. And don’t jerk the weight to get it moving. It puts a lot of unnecessary stress on your muscles and joints and can injure you.
The number of repetitions you do for each exercise will depend on how much resistance (weight) you’re using. Maximum resistance is the most weight you can lift once using the proper form. Don’t do resistance exercises with the most weight you can lift. Get your coach or trainer to help you determine the right weight for you. It will be different for every exercise. A good rule of thumb is to do 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions using 65% to 85% of your maximum resistance. Training with more than 85% of your maximum resistance can injure you. Training with less than 65% of your maximum resistance won’t tone your body or strengthen your muscles very much.
As you do more and more resistance exercises, your muscles will develop and get used to the exercises. To continue toning your body and strengthening your muscles, you’ll need to slowly increase the resistance and the repetitions. Start out with a weight that allows you to do at least 8 repetitions. Once you can do 12 repetitions with that weight, increase the weight to the next level. Now, you’re doing 8 repetitions with the heavier weight. Just like before, work up to 12 repetitions with the heavier weight, then increase the weight and go back to doing 8 repetitions. The idea is to slowly increase repetitions and resistance, so you’ll continue to tone your body and strengthen your muscles.
When you do resistance exercises, your muscle tissue “breaks down” under the strain of the exercise and grows back bigger and stronger. The process is known as hypertrophy. Your muscles recover and get stronger during the rest period between workouts, not while you’re exercising. You can exercise every day just don’t work the same muscle groups two days in a row.
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