Muscular Endurance and Strength - Phases of conditioning

There are three phases of conditioning: preparatory, conditioning, and maintenance. These are also described in Chapter 1.

Preparatory Phase

The soldier should use very light weights during the first week (the preparatory phase) which includes the first two to three workouts. This is very important, because the beginner must concentrate at first on learning the proper form for each exercise. Using light weights also helps minimize muscle soreness and decreases the likelihood of injury to the muscles, joints, and ligaments. During the second week, he should use progressively heavier weights. By the end of the second week (4 to 6 workouts), he should know how much weight on each exercise will allow him to do 8 to 12 repetitions to muscle failure. If he can do only seven repetitions of an exercise, the weight must be reduced; if he can do more than 12, the weight should be increased.

Conditioning Phase

The third week is normally the start of the conditioning phase for the beginning weight trainer. During this phase, the soldier should increase the amount of weight used and/or the intensity of the workout as his muscular strength and/or endurance increases. He should do one set of 8 to 12 repetitions for each of the heavy-resistance exercises. When he can do more than 12 repetitions of any exercise, he should increase the weight until he can again do only 8 to 12 repetitions. This usually involves an increase in weight of about five percent. This process continues indefinitely. As long as he continues to progress and get stronger, he does not need to do more than one set per exercise. If he stops making progress with one set of 8 to 12 repetitions per exercise, he may benefit from adding another set of 8 to 12 repetitions on those exercises in which progress has slowed. As time goes on and he progresses, he may increase the number to three sets of an exercise to get even further gains in strength and/or muscle mass. Three sets per exercise is the maximum most soldiers will ever need to do.

Maintenance Phase

Once the soldier reaches a high level of fitness, the maintenance phase is used to maintain that level. The emphasis in this phase is no longer on progression but on retention. Although training three times a week for muscle endurance and strength gives the best results, one can maintain them by training the major muscle groups properly one or two times a week. More frequent training, however, is required to reach and maintain peak fitness levels. Maintaining the optimal level of fitness should become part of each soldier’s life-style and training routine. The maintenance phase should be continued throughout his career and, ideally, throughout his life.
As with aerobic training, the soldier should do strength training three times a week and should allow at least 48 hours of rest from resistance training between workouts for any given muscle group.