Strength Training 101

Strength Training 101

Strength Training – How to Get Stronger

Part 1 – What will strength training do for you?

Strength training is one of the best ways to… build muscle, lose fat and build insane strength. Strength training is the primary form of weight training for athletes, especially those in sports like football, wrestling, track, gymnastics and power lifting (any physical sport really…).

Unlike most bodybuilding routines that you’ll find in fitness magazines, strength training is actually very useful for improving physical performance in sports. Getting stronger is one of the best ways to improve your performance in nearly every sport.

If you’re a guy, strength training will help you…

Get bigger, more defined muscles
See significant gains in strength (improves athletic performance)
Boost your metabolism and help you burn fat
Produce more testosterone in your body
If you’re a woman, strength training will help you…

Get a tight, toned fitness look through your arms, thighs, butt and stomach
Make you stronger, and give you more energy
Stay lean ( You will NOT, I repeat NOT get big and bulky)

Part 2 – What is Strength Training?

Strength training is about working your body’s large muscle groups in natural movements (squats, deadlifts, bench press etc..) that result not only in an improved physique, but also a noticeable increase of strength and improved athletic ability.

Many weightlifting programs are designed specifically to make your body look better while neglecting the function behind the form. While it is better than sitting on the couch, you aren’t getting the full benefits of your workout. The majority of these programs use exercises that are utterly useless outside of the gym (wrist curls, calf raises etc.) and do not translate into athletics or real world activities.

Most guys who workout with traditional magazine workouts (high rep, lower weight) will see some results and start to feel good about themselves. They look better in the mirror, and think damn!…this is finally working! Then one day their neighbor’s car gets stuck in the snow, and they have to help her push it out… Or they need to hoist that overloaded box into the crawl space of their attic. When people finally realize their bloated three sets of ten reps muscles are utterly useless. They’re confused. They go to the gym six days per week. They follow everything they’ve read online and in the magazines, but despite their muscular appearance, they’re still functionally weak.
Now what? Reality has kicked in… and the reality is they have a little form with no function. They have big muscles with no purpose behind them…
If this sounds like you, no need to panic. It’s a good that you realize there’s a problem and that you need to change your strength training workouts. Here’s what we’re going to do to fix your workouts…
Increase the weight, decrease the reps
Test your progress
To build strength we aren’t going to go through the entire encyclopedia of exercises. We’re going to stick with five basic movements: squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, shoulder presses and bench presses. That’s it. And dare I say that if these five lifts were the only lifts that you ever did, you would be just fine. Probably better than fine. It’s almost always better to keep things simple. Just remember that simple does not necessarily mean easy.
Increase and Decrease
To build strength, do two things: increase the weight of your lifts and decrease the repetitions. Do not do any more than five reps per set. In most cases, three repetitions will be ideal ( 3 reps for 5 sets is a good starter). Heavy sets of one rep on occasion are a good thing as well. If you’re using a load that you can lift more than five times in one set, you are not using enough weight to build strength. Put some damned plates on the bar, grit your teeth, and lift! Again, simple does not mean easy.
You should wait at least two minutes between sets when strength training. Waiting as much as five minutes between sets when doing heavy singles is not a bad thing. I typically rest 2-4 minutes between sets when strength training. Also, you may need to increase your rest periods as the workout progresses, and fatigue creeps in. You may rest two minutes between your first and second set and four minutes between your fifth and sixth set. Use a stop watch and log your rest periods as meticulously as you log your weights, sets, and reps.
Find your one-rep max for each of the five listed exercises. And then test your max every four to 8 weeks thereafter (I find six-week intervals to be ideal). You won’t know if you’re getting stronger unless you establish your max periodically. These “tests” let you know if your training is effective or if you need to make adjustments.
Lift a weight that requires all of your focus and determination at that moment. Keep your technique clean, be safe, lift with a spotter and also lift as heavy as possible within these parameters. Keep it simple. And when strength training, simple should not mean easy.

Part 3 – Strength Training Workouts

Just because this is a novice workout, doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. If you’ve never seen results, or you’ve never done real strength training before, this is the perfect place to start. If you hate working out, this is a great place to start too because once you start to see real results, you’ll be hooked!

If you don’t care about getting stronger and only want to lose fat as fast as possible, you should check out our piece on how to lose to lose fat.

Ok for the novice workout, we are going to focus on the 5 main exercises.

Bench press
Shoulder press
Pull ups
These exercises will help you build the most amount of strength in the shortest time possible, because all of these movements are compound exercises that target the largest muscle groups.

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