Strength Training 101

Essential for a Balanced Fitness Program

The benefits of strength training are too great to ignore...

  1. Muscle burns calories and revs your metabolism which helps control weight 
  2. Reduces blood pressure and total cholesterol
  3. Helps build strong bones to reduce the risk of injury
  4. Protects and supports joints to provide better balance
  5. Helps to manage chronic conditions such as arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis
  6. Muscle just makes you look good! Flabby doesn't look good on anybody even if you're thin.

The basics to get you started

Key Points for all of your training sessions

  • Start with a warmup of 5-10 minutes of easy cardio or a warmup strength set using a light weight.
  • Change your routine every 6-12 weeks. Your body will adapt to the exercises which will eventually make them less effective. To avoid boredom and to bust plateaus, change things up a bit.
  • Breathe continuously through each rep. Holding your breath while lifting can cause a blood pressure spike or fainting. So just breathe!
  • Maintain proper posture (like your mother always told you!) and use a full range of motion that is appropriate for the exercise.
  • The lifting and lowering phases of any exercise should be done in a steady, controlled manner. If you have to swing the weight to lift it, then its probably too heavy. 

Choosing exercises

If you're just starting out, choose 1-2 exercises for each muscle group. That would be 6-12 exercises for a complete full-body workout that you could do 3 times a week. There is an almost infinite number of exercises to choose from and many ways to create a routine.

Regardless of how you choose to schedule your training, leave 48 hours between sessions that work the same muscles.

You actually get stronger BETWEEN workouts, not during. So rest! Your muscles need it!

Choosing a rep range

Once you've picked your exercises you need to pick an amount of weight or resistance. Pick a weight that you can lift 8-12 times and only 8-12 times! Be honest and push yourself. If you get to 12 reps don't just stop because you counted to 12. If you can do more reps then the weight is too light and next time you need to increase the resistance. Challenge yourself and keep challenging yourself. Don't just go through the motions.

Choosing a set range

2-3 sets is a good starting point and the recovery time between sets can be as short as 30 seconds or up to 3-5 minutes depending on how heavy you are lifting and your goals. The number of sets can also vary within a single workout if there is a specific muscle group you want to target more.

The rep range and number of sets in your strength training program will vary depending on your individual goals but always work to muscle fatigue to get the most benefit.