Did you know there are actually at least 10 different styles of resistance or weight training? You may also see them referred to as training systems. When choosing your approach to training, it’s important to know your goals, strengths, weaknesses and how much time you’ll have to train. Then you can pick a training system that will work with your own limitations and goals, for optimal results! Now what are each of these styles and when is the best time to use them?
1) Single Set
This one is the most basic and can be great for those new to training, in recovery or need to lessen the impact of training. A single set refers to performing a group or “set” of exercises only once. It can be whatever exercises you choose, but you’ll typically pick 4-6 exercises with a rest between each exercise and that’s it.
This will lead to a very quick resistance training session and is a great place to start to reduce the chance of fatigue, strain, or injury when learning to train. It’s also good for working on your form and overall muscle engagement. If you want to add in more movement but don’t think your muscles are prepared, this is a good time to add in some cardio, like a walk, to bump up the training time.
2) Multiple Sets
Once you feel comfortable with those single sets, have proper form and are ready for more challenges, it’s time for multiple sets. This just means you’ll do more than 1 set of exercises. Typically 2-4 sets. This typically equates to about 30 minutes of training with rest. Multiple set training is probably one of the most common styles you’ll see online. Again it can be a combo of whatever exercises you choose!
Pyramid training refers to the style of training where with each set of exercises you’ll increase or decrease weight. You’ll either start or end with the maximal amount of weight you are training with. This style of training is great for those who want to build muscular endurance and overall strength. Whether you decide to increase or decrease weight with each set, is entirely up to you.
Supersets refer to combining 2 exercises back-to-back with no rest between. Supersets are great because they will speed up your training time by eliminating rest, while increasing the intensity and overall fatigue of muscles. You can get a very intense workout this way.
5) Drop Sets
Drop sets are not mentioned by name often, but you’ll see this style of training with more experienced lifters who work with heavy weight. Drop sets are fantastic for those training for competitions. In a drop set, you’ll perform your sets to failure (aka when you can’t do anymore), then you’ll lower the weight a little bit and do another set to failure. You’ll do multiple sets this way. It’s a helpful style of training for promoting muscular growth.
Circuit style training can be the best option for those with a busy schedule. In circuit training you’ll choose a group of exercises (typically 4-6), complete all of these exercises without a break (or a very quick 15 seconds), and then rest after completing an entire set. You’ll be greatly reducing your rest time, so you may need to adjust your weight accordingly, but circuit training can be effective for those who want to build muscle but also improve endurance. Since you are reducing rest time, your body is very challenged and must have a lot of endurance!
7) Peripheral Heart Action System
If you want to take your circuit training to the next level, that’s where peripheral heart action systems come into play. This refers to circuit training where you are alternating between upper and lower body exercises. This increases the overall blood flow in the body. Some studies have shown that beyond the typical benefits of increased muscular endurance and cardio health of circuit training, in peripheral heart action system the increased flow of blood may lead to greater weight loss and higher lean muscle mass.
8) Split Routine
A split routine just refers to training different muscle groups on different days. You’ll see this online a lot with people who train 5-6 days a week. Remember that muscles need time to recover, so a split routine can really benefit those with heavy training plans. Some people will do upper body vs. lower body days. Some will break it down even further and do back and biceps one day and glutes and hamstrings another, etc. Any way you break it down, you are making sure the same muscles are not being worked on back-to-back days. This style can lead to a lot of strength and muscle gains.
9) Vertical Loading
Vertical loading is one you probably haven’t heard of. This refers to training where you’ll perform exercises in a similar fashion to circuit training with limited rest, but you are performing exercises for one muscle group and either working your way up or down the body. Once you work your way through the body, then you can do another set. This is a great way to get a total body exercises session without a lot of rest and reduce time training.
10) Horizontal Loading
Horizontal loading on the other hand you will do all sets of exercises on a muscle before moving to the next. So if you are doing 3 sets of deadlifts and bicep curls, you'll do all 3 sets of those deadlifts before moving on to the 3 sets of bicep curls. The downside of this style is it can take the most time, as you need rest time between each set. This is a good tool for increasing muscular endurance and strength, though.
Now that you know more about the different training systems, you can decide which style is best for you. Sometimes you need to try multiple ones and see how you feel. Some people get very distracted while training, and would benefit from that circuit training that keeps them focused. Others get fatigued quickly and need more rest. You can always switch up training styles as you grow and progress. You just want to make sure you keep challenging yourself and your training system fits with your overall goals.
If you have any questions are want some general guidance on picking the right training system, you can always reach out directly!
Until next time… and remember fitness is for all!