When devising a training schedule it is important to remember the training principles - progression, overload, reversibility, and specificity
Progression - The number of repetitions, sets or exercises may be increased.
Overload - For strength to develop the muscles must be taken to their limit to produce an adaptive response from the body.
Reversibility - If you stop exercising a muscle its strength will begin to deteriorate.
Specificity - It would be very nice to have huge strong biceps but if you are a distance runner it is not very useful. Stick to exercises that develop muscles useful in your event - see tables below.
When to start? Some people would say not to begin weight training until the body is fully developed, around 18 years old. For athletes younger than this it is preferable to perform body weight exercises (i.e. circuit training)
Machines Vs Free weights
Advantages of machines:-
1.Machine weight equipment is generally safe and easy to use. As no technique needs to be learnt machines are an ideal method of strength development for a novice.
2.Some muscle groups can be worked more effectively on machines than with free weights e.g. Adductors and abductors.
3.During rehabilitation it is possible to isolate muscle groups, allowing you to avoid using the injured area.
Why choose free weights?:-
1.As all events involve multi-joint movements it is beneficially to perform multi-joint movements in training.
2.Some machines may restrict acceleration movements which can interfere with natural patterns of acceleration/deceleration in the muscle.
3.As the weights are on a pre-determined path on machines the joint stabilizing muscles are not worked as much. The use of free weight therefore develops greater joint stability.
4.Machines work on isolated muscle groups, but in athletics it is more beneficial to perform exercises that involve various muscle groups so that all the exercised area of the body is of proportional strength.
Any schedule will involve a mix of both machine and free weight exercises but the skill, experience, and event being trained for will determine what the mix will be. Below is a table that summarizes how effective each type of training is on different aspects of strength development. (Scores out of 10)
3*8-15 reps to failure
Gradually increase the repetitions until you can do 3 sets of 15 repetitions then increase the weight and drop to 3 sets of less repetitions and repeat the process.
It may sound simple but a lot of people forget to breath as they are performing exercises, if you are new to weight training start good habits in your first sessions. It is generally recommended to breath in as you lift the weight and breath out as you return to the start position. Taking a deep breath straightens and strengthens the spines position which is particularly important in upper body exercises. The exception to this rule is exercises which involve are affected by breathing, i.e. sit ups, bench press/press ups.
If in any doubt seek advice from the gym instructor or a coach
-5*5 reps @ 70% 1RM for 2 weeks
-5*4 reps @ 80% 1RM for 2 weeks + warm up sets
-3*3 reps @ 90% 1RM for 2 weeks + warm up sets
-2 reps @ 100% 1RM, 1 rep @ 110% 1RM for 1 week + warm up sets
Just doing these sets is not the end of the story, the way that you perform them is also important. First of all you must remember to breath, see above for advice. Secondly the speed of movement is important, on the warm up sets and lower intensities you should be moving the weight quickly, but under control at all times. Success in every athletic event is determined by speed of movement, and power so that is what you need to develop in the gym.
(1 RM - maximum weight that can be lifted for a single repetition.)
To add some variety to your sessions you can try some of the following programmes, none of them have any greater effect but they may allow you to shorten time spent in the gym and maintain motivation.
3 or 4 different exercises are used to work a single body part so that the muscle is worked from different angles.
E.g. Legs - Squats, Thigh extensions, Hamstring curl, Calf raises
Chest - Bench press, Dumbell fly, Pec Dec, Incline press
Work around each body part and repeat if you desire.
Antagonist muscle groups are selected, e.g. biceps and triceps, quads and hamstrings. A superset consists of a set of repetitions for one muscle group, immediately followed by a set for the opposite muscle group. No rest is taken until all sets (E.g. 3) have been performed on both muscle groups.
3.Peripheral heart action (PHA) training:-
3 or 4 exercises are selected that work muscles as far apart as is practical to make a set (e.g. shoulder press, sit ups, squats, tricep extensions). In this way the heart has to work harder to shunt blood to a different area of the body. The idea is that a greater aerobic training effect is achieved when high repetitions are used.