GETTING STARTED WITH STRENGTH TRAINING

Exercise is vital for good health and fitness, and certainly, any exercise is better than none. Unfortunately we tend to pick one type of exercise when a variety of exercises would provide additional benefits. Performing different types of exercise and workouts throughout the week will help you get leaner, stronger, healthier and reach your fitness goals.

EXERCISES GENERALLY FALL INTO ONE OF THESE CATEGORIES:

strength training guide
  • Endurance - Aerobics and cardiovascular (cardio) activities like swimming, biking and running increase your breathing and heart rate, making your heart and lungs stronger and more efficient. Cardio exercises are ideal for burning fat, but over time, your fat loss diminishes and your body may start burning muscle as fuel, the number one reason to add strength training to your fitness program. 
  • Strength - Strength training exercises make your muscles (and bones) stronger and help prevent muscle loss and promote new lean muscle. There are several approaches to strength training including bodybuilding, Olympic lifting, powerlifting and strength training for sports. Regardless of the approach, all strength training involves the principle of progressive overload, increasing the resistance (weight) on the muscle to continually make gains in size or strength. Resistance training (weight lifting) can also promote fat loss, as new lean muscle will increase your metabolism, helping your body burn more calories throughout the entire day.
  • Flexibility - Flexibility training is the most overlooked and underutilized type of exercise. When you stretch your muscles, you increase your flexibility and help your body stay limber. Flexibility training can easily be included in your short warmup and cool down period of your workout. Stretching or complete programs like yoga, will prevent injury and the shortening of muscle fibers that lead to pain and limited range of motion.

BODYBUILDING VERSUS STRENGTH TRAINING

​To select the right approach to weight lifting and strength training, it is important to understand how a muscle gets stronger.
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Bodybuilding breaks down muscle fibers so that they may rebuild and grow during the rest period between workouts. This is often done by performing repetitions in the 8-12 range and training the muscle to exhaustion. You will hear bodybuilders talking about "burn" and "pump" using things like forced reps, pyramids and negative reps. Bodybuilding requires breakdown followed by muscle repair, adding just a little more mass to that muscle.
Strength training focuses on making a muscle more efficient, not breaking down the muscle. Using a heavier resistance (weight) will train and strengthen the muscle fibers, joints, ligaments and the nerve impulses that drive the weight. Bodybuilding is "muscle" based and pure strength training trains the muscle, supporting anatomical structures and the "nervous system". A strict strength training program should be based on performing low reps (3-5) with heavy weights.

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

​Unless you are training solely for strength to support your participation in sports or the Olympics, why not try a combination of approaches in order to add lean muscle and get stronger? When planning your workouts, include 1-2 sets of lighter weights at 8-12 reps, 1-2 sets of moderate weights at 5-8 reps and finish each muscle group with heavy weights in the 3-5 repetition range. This approach is suitable for both men and women and will develop well defined muscle, reduce stored body fat and prevent loss of muscle and bone density often caused by aging.

EQUIPMENT

While it is nice to join a fancy gym with a huge selection of barbells, dumbbells and resistance machines, you can get started at home with little or no equipment and add equipment as you progress in your training. Regardless of your approach, always work your entire body and as a beginner, do not train more than every other day in order to avoid injury and overtraining. Full body workouts will help you build a solid foundation with strong legs, chest, back and shoulders.

BODYWEIGHT TRAINING

​You can start your training with only your own body weight as resistance. Warm up ( jumping rope is ideal) then move to a variety of push ups, planks, lunges, and bodyweight squats. Find a park with a jungle gym or purchase an inexpensive pull up bar and add pullups and chinups to your bodyweight routine.

BARBELLS, DUMBBELLS AND KETTLEBELLS

​As your fitness level improves, you will eventually progress to the point that you want to add more resistance to your workouts. Start with a simple set of adjustable dumbbells or barbells. Any exercise that can be performed with a barbell can also be done with one or two dumbbells, so if you can only afford (or have room for) one or the other, start with the dumbbells. Kettlebells are also effective training tools.
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BASIC EXERCISES

​Once you have your weights, your basic full body routine should include:
 
  • Squats
  • Bench Presses
  • Military Presses
  • Barbell Rows
  • Deadlifts
 
These five simple exercises, performed every other day, will train your entire body effectively in the minimum amount of time!

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