What are 'Sets' and 'Repetitions'?
This is a simple concept, but you should be completely familiar with it because this determines the quality and quantity of just about all weight training programs.
A repetition is one complete exercise movement and is often shortened to ‘rep’. For example, one lift of a barbell from the floor to the waist and back down again is a repetition of one. Sounds a bit strange when a repetition is only one, but wait, there’s more to come. Repetitions apply to every exercise you do including those without weights. Two situps is also two repetitions.
A set is a group of repetitions and is defined by a rest break in between: for example, you do six barbell lifts and then you rest for two minutes and do another six. If you repeat this cycle of six three times you have done three sets of six repetitions of the barbell exercise. This is written similar to this:
barbell deadlift 3 X 6, or 3 sets 6 reps.
What Does RM Mean?
Repetition Maximum. This is the maximum load that can be tolerated for a given number of repetitions before your muscles fail or tire badly and you have to stop. For example, you do ten bicep arm curls with a dumbbell of 15 pounds (about 7 kilos) and you cannot bend the arm to lift the weight for the next repetition. That is written like this: bicep curl - 10RM - 15 pounds.
1RM is like your personal best for any exercise. It’s the most you can lift for just one repetition. Your 1RM for the dumbbell curl could be 25 pounds (about 11 kilos) but your 10RM is only 15 pounds.
What is 'Good Form'?
Performing an exercise with the appropriate form means following the recommended body position and movement to ensure an efficient lift as well as protection from injury. For example, for the squat the maintenance of a straight back with heels anchored firmly on the ground and knees unbowed or collapsed inward is important for performance of this exercise.
What are Compound and Isolation Exercises?
Compound exercises target more than one joint and more than one muscle group. Isolation exercises are limited to one joint movement and usually a single muscle group; for example a standard dumbbell curl is an isolation exercise while squats are compound exercises that involve muscles of the legs, back, gluteals (butt) and the knees, hips and ankle joints. A bench press is also a compound exercise.
What is 'Spotting'
Spotting is the practice of a friend or trainer watching or assisting you while you lift weights for the purpose of safety or guidance. A spotter may actually assist a person under load in the event that the weight threatens to overwhelm the person being spotted, or to suggest good form. Exercises like the bench press with heavy weights usually require a spotter.
How Should I Breathe?
Except for certain advanced techniques, you should exhale on effort, that is, when you push, lift or pull, and inhale as you return to the starting position. It is easy to forget to breathe when doing weights -- not for long of course -- yet it is worthwhile to remind yourself occasionally about your breathing.
The Next Step
Like many sports and fitness activities you can progress to higher levels of knowledge, complexity and personal expertise in weight training with a little time and commitment. Read the additional articles listed at the beginning of this article or browse the other information at this site and from other About.com guides. Most of all, get down to it and do some weight training at home or gym. Start slowly and you will be surprised at how quickly you can make progress.