Strength training; The basics & what does it mean to you?
I am sure that by now we all understand strength training is a form of physical exercise that specializes in the use of resistance training via body weight, free weights or resistance machines to create contractions within the muscles. These contractions within the muscles build better muscular strength, greater anaerobic endurance and increase the size of the skeletal muscles through-out the body (toning).
Likewise, we have all heard about the benefits of strength training, for example;
It will make you stronger and fitter.
Protects bone health and strength.
Increases skeletal muscle mass.
Can help with weight loss, maintenance of body weight and lowering the body's overall fat percentage.
It will help you develop better posture, improve body mechanics and stabilize movement control.
Can help with some types of chronic pain and disease management.
We have all seen the current rising trend among women who are now participating in strength training and working out in the gym on social media platforms. You may have also seen the rise in promotion of how to grow your booty workout videos or training guides for bodybuilding, weight lifting or powerlifting. And don't forget the trending hashtags that come along side these trends, like;
and so on ...........
Don't get me wrong these are all great for motivating women to do strength training, for getting them in to the gym without fear, for allowing them to take ownership of their own bodies and to increase their overall body strength. But what does all this mean? What does this mean to you? How does this influence the types of training you chose to participate in? And how does this affect what you do when you go to the gym?
So, let’s look at some of the different types of strength training that you can participate in and see if these are what you expected;
Many of these types of training can be carried out with minimal or no equipment. For example Calisthenics and Yoga are about the movement and weight of your own body as resistance. Other types like Powerlifting or Strongman require the use of gym equipment like barbells, dumbbells, resistant machines, free weights, resistance bands and other gym style equipment.
There are four important variables to consider when participating in strength training and these are as follows;
So starting with Frequency which refers to how many training sessions are performed each week or how often you exercise. The Intensity referring to the amount of work required to achieve the activity or exercise in the required manner, reps and sets ranges before reaching technical fatigue. Time which refers to how long you are exercising for, taking in to account the type of exercise, if in a gym environment how many exercises, sets and reps you do during a single training session and then there is Type which refers to the types of exercise you undertake in your session.
The current government guidelines for the FITT principle is a frequency of completing an activity at least 5 to 6 times per week, at a moderate to high intensity for anywhere between 15 to 40 minutes of just about any exercise type.
Next, we can look at the difference in the rep ranges and how they affect the body.
Here we will be looking at training for;
The classic example of endurance training is that of a marathon runner, who runs at a steady pace for 26+ miles and all of their training, is geared towards improving muscle endurance. In the gym, that translates into using a lighter load for 15 or more of reps. You will be looking to work with a weight that is around 60-70% of your 1 rep max.
This type of low intensity training is typically considered aerobic exercise, which utilizes oxygen during energy production and allows you to maintain your activity level for a longer period of time. This energy process occurs primarily in the slow twitch muscle fibers allowing you to perform this low intensity, high-repetition training to build a more effective energy process within the muscle cells.
If you're training in the hypertrophy range you would be looking for increasing muscle size. So you will need to choose weights on your exercises that you are able to reach muscle failure within 8-12 reps per set. In other words, after your warm-up sets that are never taken to failure, you should select a weight which you can complete at least 8 reps but not more than 12, working at around 70-80% of your 1 rep max.
As a note - if you are only able to do 6-7 reps then the weight is too heavy and you will need to reduce the weight on subsequent sets. It also means that if you can do more than 12 reps, but simply stop at 12, that's not a "true" set and you will need to increase the weight within reason on your next set. Just be aware that a true set is one in which you fail within the targeted rep range of 8-12, so once you reach the point at which you can't do another rep with good form on your own then this is the failure point that is a ‘failure’ with good form and joint alignment or technical fatigue.
When focusing on maximizing loads and building your strength, you want to train with heavier weights that you can lift before technical fatigue for just 1-6 reps, working at 80%+ of your 1 rep max. These very heavy weights provide the stimulus needed for the body to grow stronger. Unfortunately due to the stress on the body from these heavy loads you will need to cycle your training through high-intensity periods (heavy weights – for low reps) with low-intensity periods (lower weights – for higher reps) to save the joints, reduce the risk of injury and be able to peak your strength at the right time for a competition or a 1 rep max test. This means that you would typically follow a 12 or 16 week periodized program that gets progressively heavier towards the competition or 1 rep max testing. This means doing sets of 5 reps, 3 reps, and finally only 2’s and 1’s. The strength trainer also targets the fast-twitch fibers, while also focusing on strengthening and training the entire body and the nervous system.
So, with all this information you now have we can look at what Strength Training means to you! First let’s have a look at what it is your looking for from your training or program;
You might be using an Endurance style to lose fat, high reps (10-15) with low weights and short rests between sets.
You might be using a Hypotrophy style for toning, building muscle or even to become a body builder and go on stage. This puts you in the mid-range for reps (8-12), weight and rests between sets. You will still burn fat at this level giving the lean and muscular look to the body.
Or are you working towards increased strength using low rep ranges (1-5), with heavier weights (almost at your max) and much longer rests. Weight and fat percentage are harder to maintain with this training style.
Now that you know what you are training towards how are you going to program it, will you choose Periodized or Progressive? Let’s have a quick look at what these mean for your program;
Periodization divides a training plan into specific time blocks, where each block has a specific goal and provides your body with different types of stress. This allows you to create some hard training periods, this section might include low rep hypotrophy or even strength training to increase muscle growth or body strength and some easier periods, which might include endurance or high rep hypotrophy to allow muscle recovery.
Progressive overload is a program style that gradually increases the stress placed upon the body during exercise training and can be difficult to maintain for long periods of time. The technique is recognized as a fundamental principle for success in various forms of strength training programs including fitness training, weight lifting, high intensity training and physical therapy programs, but is not recommended for beginners due to the high risk of injury that it poses.
That is strength training, so what are you training for and how will you program your training?
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