Basics of Strength Training

What is strength training?

A method of exercise where the parts of the body are moved against an opposing force with the intent of increasing muscle mass

Who should strength train?

Literally anyone physically capable. Strength training helps with balance, metabolism, posture, and overall quality of life.

Is it all grunting and clanging barbells?

No. There are many different ways to strength train:

Machines – These are the introductory package to strength training. They may look funky, but each machine in the gym serves a purpose. If you are brand new to strength training you should start here. Some machines start as low as 10 lbs of resistance, and they all lock your body into the proper plane of movement. You should start here until you know the plane of motion your body should be in for each movement.

Body Weight – This is also a good place for beginners provided you put emphasis on having the proper form. Body weight training uses the human body as it’s own resistance. Exercises include push-ups, air squats, and sit-ups. Body weight training can be done virtually anywhere and is a good option for those without gym access.

Resistance Bands – elastic tubing or bands with handles used to provide the opposing resistance. This is a great option for those who do not have the strength for the starting weight on machines or who are looking for a way to add resistance to home workouts

Free Weights – These are what people typically think of when they hear “strength training.” These are the most advanced way to strength train and should only be attempted at an advanced level or under the supervision of a Personal Trainer. Many moves utilizing free weights will be moves you learned earlier. A good place to start with free weights is by mastering the Big Five.

How do you strength train?

Strength training is typically done in sets and repetitions.

Repetitions (Reps) – the number of times you perform an exercise.

Sets – The number of cycles of reps of the exercise you perform.

A typical, basic strength training routine is 3 sets of 10 reps.

How many sets and reps should I do?

Beginners should start with 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps. You may change your sets and reps as your goals change. For example:

Strength: if your goal is to build strength you will do fewer reps with a higher weight. Ex: 5×5, 5/3/1

Hypertrophy: if your goal is to build visible muscle (hypertrophy) you will do more reps with lower weight. Ex: 3×10, 12/10/8/6

A good strength training routine works both to build strength and for hypertrophy.

How much weight should I be lifting?

It’s always better to start lower and work up in subsequent sets when you are unsure of where to begin. A good rule of thumb is your working weight should be doable in 10 reps, but the last two reps should be a struggle to get done.

If you cannot complete all reps of your exercise with proper form through the entire movement (not dropping the weights at the end of the movement) then you are lifting too heavy and need to reduce your weight or your reps.

Proper form is everything. If you cannot keep your form, you need to reduce your weight. If you are unsure if you are keeping form use mirrors or ask a fellow gym goer for a form check. Lifting improperly will set your body up for damage in years to come.