“Strength training” of any kind can be explained by two things:
- Movement of any weight (including your body weight) – Doing ANY exercise that pushes your muscles outside of their comfort zone, forcing them to rebuild stronger to prepare for the next challenge.
- Progressive overload: exerting slightly more effort than last time (lift heavier weight or do 1 more rep) consistently. Your muscles will constantly have to adapt and will constantly be rebuilding themselves to get stronger.
Strength training involves the performance of physical exercises which are designed to improve strength and endurance. It is often associated with the use of weights but can take a variety of different forms.
When properly performed, strength training can provide significant functional benefits and improvement in overall health and well-being, including increased bone, muscle, tendon, and ligament strength and toughness, improved joint function, reduced potential for injury, increased bone density, increased metabolism, increased fitness and improved cardiac function. Training commonly uses the technique of progressively increasing the force output of the muscle through incremental weight increases and uses a variety of exercises and types of equipment to target specific muscle groups. Strength training is primarily an anaerobic activity, although some proponents have adapted it to provide the benefits of aerobic exercise through circuit training, Wikipedia
Two key terms you’ll want to know are rep and set. Rep, or repetition, is a single instance of an exercise—a dumbbell bicep curl, for instance. A set is the number of repetitions performed sequentially. For example, you can say, “I did 2 sets of 10 reps of bicep curls.”
Use these pointers to build a framework for your workout:
- Start with a short, simple program. Your goal is to do a routine that works for all muscle groups on two non-consecutive days a week. This will help you build a strong foundation and allow you to progress from week to week.
- Choose the right amount of weight to lift. The key is to use weights that are not too light and not to heavy. You’ll know it’s too light if you can do an entire set with minimal effort. It’s too heavy if your form is sacrificed or it just feels too taxing. Just right is a challenging effort that you can do with proper form and control and without excess strain.
- Warm-up first. Warm muscles are less susceptible to injury, so do 5 to 10 minutes of cardio or some warm-up sets of each exercise in your workout using a light, easy to lift weight.
- Focus on form. Good form means lets you reap all of the benefits of your workout and avoid injuries at the same time. To maintain proper form, pay attention to your posture (stand tall with chest lifted and abs held tight), move slowly (this ensures you’re relying on muscles, not momentum, to do the lifting), and remember to breathe. Many people hold their breath while exerting, but exhaling during the hardest part of the exercise helps fuel the movement.
- Give yourself at least a day of rest to recover. Rest days are crucial for building lean muscle tissue and preventing injury, so try not to work the same muscle groups two days in a row. Some people like to break up strength training by concentrating on their upper body one day and their lower body the next, and that’s perfectly fine.
- Aim to challenge yourself, not overtax yourself. The first few weeks, focus on learning how to do each exercise rather than on how much weight you’re lifting or how many exercises you’re doing. You have plenty of time to build muscle.
- Change things up. After six or more weeks of consistent strength training, which is about the amount of time it takes to start seeing improvement in your body, you can change your routine to make it more difficult. Lifting the same weights for the same exercises every week will keep your body in the same place. You can modify weights or repetitions, choose different exercises, or change the order in which you do them. You only have to make one change at a time to make a difference, although more is often better.
Choosing Your Exercises
If you don’t know much about weight training, consider hiring a personal trainer to help you set up your program, going to a class, or following a video online.
Below is a list of muscle groups along with sample exercises. If you’re a beginner, you only need to choose one or two exercises for each muscle group in the upper body and three to four moves for the lower body.
- Chest: bench press, chest press, push-ups
- Shoulders: overhead press, lateral raise, front raise
- Biceps: biceps curls, hammer curls, concentration curls
- Triceps: triceps extensions, dips, kickbacks
- Back: one-arm row, back extensions, lat pulldowns
- Abdominals: crunches, reverse crunches, wood chops, pelvic tilts
- Lower Body: squats, lunges, leg press, deadlifts, calf raises
Most experts recommend starting with your larger muscle groups and then proceeding to the smaller ones. The most demanding exercises are those performed by your large muscle groups, and you will need your smaller muscles to get the most out of these moves. However, you can do your exercises in any order you like.
Sets, Reps, and Weight
Choosing your reps and sets can be the most confusing part of strength training. How many reps and sets you do will depend on your goals.
- To lose body fat and build muscle: Use enough weight that it’s challenging to complete 8 to 12 repetitions and 1 to 3 sets—1 for beginners, 2 to 3 for intermediate and advanced exercisers.2
Rest about 30 seconds to 1 minute between sets and at least one day between workout sessions.
- For muscle gain: Use enough weight that you can only complete 4 to 8 repetitions and 3 or more sets, resting for 1 to 2 minutes between sets and 2 to 3 days between sessions. For beginners, give yourself several weeks of conditioning before you tackle weight training with this degree of difficulty. You may need a spotter for many exercises.
- For health and muscular endurance: Use enough weight that you can only complete 12 to 16 repetitions, 1 to 3 sets, resting 20 to 30 seconds between sets and at least one day between workout sessions.
Use trial and error to determine how much weight you should use. Start with a lighter weight and perform 1 set. Continue adding weight until you feel challenged but can do the desired number of reps with good form. The last rep should be difficult, but not impossible.
Below are some link that will help anyone wanting to start a strength training program or just find out more information on the process and whether it is right for you. Then I also added a couple of infographics for men and women and why the benefits of strength training works no matter what age you are or whether or not you are just starting out or a advanced weight lifter and fitness buff.
Check out the following links for more information and good luck with your goals.