The Beginners Guide To Strength Training
WHAT IT IS:
Strength training is any training with the ultimate goal of lifting more weight or resistance. The type of resistance can range from your own bodyweight to dumbbells, barbells, and bands.
You apply progressive overload principles stating that you slowly overload your body in order to prime it for lifting heavier weights.
For example, if you squat with 20lbs for 10 reps one session and 25 lbs for 10 reps the next, you’ve gotten stronger. Doing the same weight for more reps also means you’ve gotten stronger.
When you first start training you’ll be able to add weight to most exercises every single training session. This will slow down to every week and then even longer from there as your “beginner gains” wear off. Your body starts by adapting quickly and trails off the longer you train.
WHAT IT’S BEST FOR:
I may be showing my training bias here but, strength training is amazing for every single fitness goal.
It only makes sense that strength training increases strength. No-brainer here.
FOR BUILDING MUSCLE?
In order to lift more weight, you require two things:
- Nervous system adaptations to help recruit muscles more effectively and efficiently
- More muscle mass
Therefore, on your way to building strength, you’ll accumulate a good amount of lean muscle. There’s a good overlap here. Focusing on lifting more weight throughout your program ensures you’re always building muscle.
**If professional bodybuilding is your goal, you do need to specialize with a very specific type of training. But that’s different than just building lean muscle for the average person.
FOR FAT LOSS?
While fat loss is largely accomplished by what you do outside of the gym, strength training augments any effects of good nutrition. They work perfectly hand in hand.
This is because continuously focusing on lifting more weight means that you’re building muscle (which supplements fat loss through increased metabolism), and you’re consistently challenging yourself in the gym. You never get complacent and comfortable in the spot you’re in which prevents plateauing in your progress.
One overlooked aspect of strength training is that it’s extremely easy to measure. Are you lifting more weight? If yes, great you’re improving. Fat loss is notoriously fickle when it comes to measurements. Your weight literally fluctuates by the hour and finding the difference between losing fat and losing water weight can be difficult at times.
Focusing on good nutrition outside of the gym and having a nice quantifiable goal inside the gym makes it easier to judge progress even when it seems like your fat levels aren’t moving. If you’re getting stronger, you’ll be burning more calories and therefore more fat. And mentally, you’ll feel better because you know you’re improving.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
You should know these basic terms:
- Reps - an entire completion of a movement
- Sets - an accumulation of reps together
- Rest - the time between sets
- Range of motion - the full movement potential of a joint
- Tempo - the speed of the movement
- Failure - the point at which you can’t perform another rep
- Frequency - the number of days per week you train
When you’re just starting out, go for 3 sets of 8-12 reps for all exercises. Don’t make it any more complicated than that.
Rest for roughly 60 seconds between sets. Don’t waste time sitting around.
Unless contraindicated by injury or pain, you should complete each movement with full range of motion.
Tempo can become complex but keep it simple. Contract explosively to bring the weight up and control it slowly on the way down.
In order to balance recovery, you should not take each set to failure. Leave 2-3 reps in the tank. Any more and the exercise becomes too easy. I like to leave the last set of a particular exercise as an opportunity to push to failure as a measuring stick for my next training session.
Aim to complete at least 3 workouts per week.
WHAT YOU DON’T NEED
COMPLEX SET STRUCTURE
You don’t need this
Perform your sets one after another or at most superset or pair it with another exercise. You don’t need fancy drop sets, pyramid sets, or staggered sets. It’s not necessary for the beginner. Focus on the fundamentals.
Supplements should be just that, supplemental to what you’re already doing. People think supplements are necessary to get a good workout and that can’t be further from the truth.
You don’t need to be sipping pre-workout between every breath of every set of your workout. And you don’t need a post-workout shake either. Just eat a good meal before and after.
Belts, spiffy shoes, and wraps can make you look serious in the gym, but they’re mostly for the hardcore lifting crowd. The average person doesn’t need them. Bring clothes that are easy to move in and a water bottle.
Remember those “beginner gains” I talked about? That makes it so basically any type of training will result in great changes for you. Periodization is a complicated method of changing your program on as frequent as a daily basis. Again, you don’t need this if you’re just starting out.
This refers to training specific muscles groups on a single day. Not only is this inefficient for most people, but it’s also unnecessary. You’re better off training in a full body manner each training session especially if you stick to a 3 day per week timeline.
HOW DO I DO IT?
There are a ton of great programs out there. As long as you have a balance of movements across your entire body you’ll be good.
The 4 main categories of movement are:
Squat type motions like squats, lunges, and step ups.
Hinge type motions like deadlifts, glute bridges, and hip thrusts.
Upper body push motions like chest and shoulders presses along with pushups.
Upper body pull motions like rows and pull-ups.
As long as your program contains all of these types of movements, you ensure you’re working your entire body. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to change up your program every 6-8 weeks. This keeps you in constant forward momentum and prevents plateauing.
And remember, always focus on getting stronger each training session. That means lifting more weight or performing more reps at a given weight. Your goal is to have some measurable improvement each time you train.
To your good health,
LIKE THIS ARTICLE? SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER!
If you liked this article, and you want instant updates whenever I put out new content, including free access to my eBook, “3 Tips For Higher Quality Sleep”, sign up for my newsletter.