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Learning From the History of Resistance Training

Weight training exercises require your muscles to exert force to overcome resistance in the form of weights, weight machines, body weight or gravity. The exerted forces recruit some or all of your muscle fibers in a specific muscle group. Results include increased muscle fiber strength and size. Progressive resistance refers to the increases in the amount of resistance used. As strength is gained, resistance is increased for further gains. Looking over the history of weight training, we can approach training with a renewed focus.

Resistance Training in Ancient Times

  • Resistance training stems back to the sixth century BC in southern Italy when the wrestler Milo was born. Milo explored how to smash through training barriers. Milo, a six-time Olympic champion, was known for his feats of strength. Milo is attributed for inspiring the term ‘progressive resistance’ from his idea to lift a calf each day until it was fully grown.

  • Shortcomings of Milo’s Progressive Resistance Theory. It must be noted that there are shortcomings Milo’s theory. Firstly, the problem with this concept of progressive resistance is that one day the calf would stop growing. Secondly, this theory overlooks periodisation. The body needs recovery time to grow. The lack of variety is also an issue. The more variety, the lesser the chance for repetitive strain injuries. Many bodybuilders develop tendonitis as a result of performing a particular exercises for long periods of time without change.

  • What We Can Learn From Milo’s Theory. Whilst by today’s standards Milo's theory is simplistic, we can learn from it. In short, ensure that you include some time off to enable recovery and add variety to minimise repetitive strain injuries. Paying attention to these aspects will help ensure optimal results with your resistance training.

Modern Forms of Resistance Training

  • Barbells, Dumbbells and Overload. Barbells and dumbbells were used for weight training during the 19th century. Strength training was based on the overload principle. In order for gains to occur, muscles must exert force on a greater than normal workload. During the early part of the 20th century, removable weight plates were placed at the ends of the barbells for increasing and decreasing the weights used for each exercise.

  • Weight Training Machines. During the second half of the 20th century, weight training machines began to appear in gyms. Equipment manufacturers began making machines consisting of grips and pulleys attached to a weight stack. Changing weights became as simple as placing a pin in the weight stack. This easier form of exercise attracted more people to the weight room. Weight training gyms became larger and more appealing to the general and not just for the musclebound population.

  • Progressive Resistance Workouts. Various types of workouts are based on progressive resistance. For increased strength, pyramid sets consist of increasing resistance and decreasing repititions with each sets. For increased endurance, resistance is decreased while repititions are increased with each set. All sets are designed to work your muscles to failure. Weight training increases muscular strength and endurance resulting in the muscles adapting to the initial overload. For continued gains to occur, resistance must progress to a new overload. As the next overload is met, the resistance should continue to progress. Weight training is beneficial towards improved health and fitness. Increased strength leads to stronger bones and muscles, resulting in a decreased risk for illness and injury.

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