Acute Variables are the most important components that specify how each exercise should be performed. It includes reps, sets, intensity, tempo, volume, rest, training frequency, training duration and specific exercises performed. Ok, I know you’re thinking “Dang that’s a lot to keep track of!” So let’s break it down.
Reps (repetitions) are one complete movement of a single exercise, usually involving concentric, isometric and eccentric muscle actions. Reps are used to count the number of movements performed in a given amount of time (aka time under tension). The number of reps you perform is dependent on the phase of training that you are currently in. For example, when training for muscular endurance you would use 12-20 reps with lower weight. When training for hypertrophy you would use 6-12 reps with higher weight. If you’re new to lifting, then it’s a good idea to begin with higher rep schemes to build up your tendons and ligaments, strength, stability and muscular endurance and progress from there. To keep from overtraining, I try to cycle between periods of lower and higher reps.
Sets are a completed group of reps. Usually fewer sets are performed with higher reps at a lower intensity (for endurance). Whereas more sets are performed with lower reps at a higher intensity (for strength & power training).
Intensity is the amount of effort you are giving compared to the maximal amount of effort possible. Changing other acute variables (like rest time, tempo and load) will change the intensity of your training.
Tempo is the speed that you perform each rep. For endurance, use a slow controlled tempo. For hypertrophy, use a moderate tempo. Wanting max strength and power? That can be increased by a fast, explosive (but controlled) tempo.
Rest Intervals refer to the time DURING the workout that you are letting your body rest and recuperate. For muscular endurance, it is best to rest for about 0-90 seconds. For hypertrophy, shorter rest periods of 0-60 seconds are best. For max strength & power, rest periods of 3-5 minutes are best to recover before the next lift. The longer you rest and recover, the more ATP and PC can be recruited resulting in more energy available to complete your workout.
Training Volume is the total amount of work performed during a training session. It is based on a lot of factors such as goals, training phase, recoverability, nutrition, etc. Volume and Intensity are inversely related. You cannot perform a high volume of high intensity for a long period of time. For hypertrophy or fat loss, use a higher volume. For maximal strength and power, use a low volume & high intensity.
Frequency refers to the number of training sessions in a period of time (usually a week or month). If you’re trying to increase strength, aim for at least 3-5 workouts per week.
Training Duration falls into 2 separate categories. Either time spent during a workout (minutes) OR time spent in a phase of training (weeks). Workouts longer than 90 minutes usually lead to declining energy levels because of the effects on your hormonal and immune response systems. Typically, a training phase will last about 4 weeks.
Exercise Selection refers to the exercise you choose to meet your goals. Be specific in your selection. Plain and simple!
If you want to really get your training dialed in then I suggest taking a close look at each acute variable to make sure it is helping you reach your ultimate goal! If all of that sounds like a foreign language to you then I’d be happy to create a plan for you! Just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org