Superhero Sets, Reps, and Tempo
So let's start with the assumption that we just finished the complete superhero warm-up to get the blood flowing and wake up the nervous system. Now it's time to hit the weights!
The structure of a strength training workout is dependent upon our goals, assessment results, and the special powers/abilities that we choose to enhance.
Speedsters will want to focus on power exercises. Power is produced by either moving an object or our own body at great speed. Exercise examples include medicine ball throws and plyometric jumps.
Superheroes that rely on colossal strength will want to focus on lifting heavy weights. The weights will be high and the reps will be low. Powerlifting exercises such as squats, bench press, and deadlifts are perfect examples of exercises that will help a person get brutally strong.
Those who depend upon physical intimidation as a major weapon will want to train for muscle hypertrophy. Body building is proven to increase muscle mass. In this case, more focus will be given to isolating muscle groups, higher volume (more sets), and weights that can be lifted in the 8 to 12 reps range.
Some superheroes will want to enhance their ability to keep going, to endure. They will want to focus on higher rep ranges, lighter weights, and mobility/dynamic flexibility.
The majority of superheroes will benefit from a balanced approach to strength training. The workouts would be organized in specific phases with each one emphasizing a different training goal. Power, strength, hypertrophy, and endurance would all be addressed. Each training phase could also touch upon each specific goal of training, even if it's not the major training emphasis. For example, a power phase could have a powerlifting component (strength building) and/or a hypertrophy (mass building) superset.
Here is my preference for exercise order and my reasoning for it.
Power- If power exercises are going to be included in a workout, it's best to train them at the beginning, because they are usually the most technical. I like to train power when my energy levels are still high and I can focus on perfect technique to reduce the possibility of injury. The risk of injury could potentially be higher because everything is done explosively.
Strength- If I am focusing on maximum strength, just like the power exercises, my technique must be flawless to minimize the risk of injury. I also need the energy to challenge myself to lift the heaviest weights possible, at the specified rep range. So it is best to program maximal strength exercises into the early stages of the workout.
Hypertrophy- Deeper into the workout, I like to add the hypertrophy exercises. They generally require more volume but a little less weight than the previous exercises. Technique is important, but the exercises are usually not as technical as the ones in power and maximal strength building.
Endurance- These exercises are generally done with light weight or body weight. They can be done for either high reps or performed for specific time interval. Since the resistance is usually low and they are not as complicated as the previous exercises, the risk of injury is quite low. I like to program them into the end of a strength training session or do them separately as a conditioning workout.
As aspiring superheroes, we are busy people and time is of the essence. I really like to make use of supersets and mini circuits to organize the exercises in a workout. Typically, a superset or mini circuit consists of exercises which strengthen opposing muscle groups, thus allowing one group of muscles to rest while the other muscle group is being challenged. Examples include push/pull or upper body/lower body splits. This will allow for less rest between sets and the workout will take less total time.
Tempo, also known as Time Under Tension (TUT), is one more training component to consider. It represents the amount of time the muscles are under strain per rep. At first sight, the numbers in the tempo column can appear confusing. However, with further clarification, I think you will find it simple to decipher. Here is an example of a common tempo, 2-0-1. The 2 represents a two second eccentric (lowering) phase. The 0 is symbolic for zero rest time at the bottom/transition phase. Lastly, the 1 represents a one second concentric (lifting) phase. The tempo is dependent upon your goals.
Here is a quick summary of strength training guidelines:
2 to 3 sessions/week
3 to 4 sessions/week
4 to 7 sessions/week
Total Reps (Volume)
Rest Between Sets
Maximal Strength/ Power
5 to 10 sets
1 to 5 reps
10 to 25 total reps
1 to 5 minutes
2 to 5 sets
6 to 12 reps
25 to 40 total reps
30 seconds to 1 minute
1 to 2 sets
40+ total reps
30 seconds or less
Max Strength/ Functional Hypertrophy
Structural End Hypertrophy
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