If you’re looking to build strength, chalk out time from your calendar for regular strength-focused weight training workouts. Weight training workouts place your muscles under a level of stress they’re not used to. When you’re consistent with your training, your muscles adapt to that stress, and gradually increase how much force they’re able to produce.
Workout for Strength
Schedule two to three weight training workouts into your weekly regimen. Allow for one to two days off between each workout to give your muscles time to recover and heal. Before each workout, walk or jog for five to 10 minutes to warm up your muscles. If you’re strength training for the first time, begin by completing one to two sets of eight to 12 reps. Use this time to master exercise technique and allow your musculoskeletal system to adapt to the new stress. After you’ve been consistently training four to six weeks, tailor your weight training workout to elicit strength gains by completing two to six sets of each exercise, with each set consisting of six or fewer repetitions. Rest two to five minutes between each set.
Picking the Right Weight
For your strength training workout to be effective for building strength, the weight you use for each exercise needs to overload your muscles. This means the weight must stimulate your muscle more than it’s used to. If you perform six or fewer reps, but do so with a weight that would allow you to do 20 reps before getting tired, your workout won’t overload your muscles, and thus won’t build strength. Select a weight that allows you to complete an exercise for at least two repetitions with proper technique, but no more than six.
Putting Together Your Exercises
As you’re starting out, put together a battery of exercises that target all the major muscle groups. The Department of Kinesiology at Georgia State University recommends a workout consisting of bench press, lat pulldown, overhead press, bicep curl, tricep pulldown, squat, leg extension, leg curl and abdominal crunch. If there are particular muscles you’re hoping to develop, incorporate additional exercises specific to that muscle. For example, if you want to focus on your chest, in addition to bench press, you could also do dumbbell chest press, dumbbell fly or pushups.
After you’ve been training consistently four to six weeks, you’ll likely hit a strength-building plateau. This is because your muscles have adapted and your workout isn’t putting enough stress on them to stimulate further strength developments. To continue to build strength, you must either lift with heavier weights or change up the exercises you’re using. When you’re able to do two or more extra reps of an exercise two workouts in a row, bump up the weight you’re using for the next workout. By changing up the exercises, such as substituting front squat, dumbbell squat or leg press for back squats, your force your muscles to work slightly differently.
- Georgia State University’s Department of Kinesiology and Health: Strength Training
- National Strength and Conditioning Performance Training Journal: Basics Principles of Strength Training; John M. Cissik
- American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine: Begin a Strength Training Program
- National Strength and Conditioning Association Performance Journal: Strength, Size, or Power?
- Photo Credit Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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