First of all – welcome to the world of strength training! You are embarking on a fitness journey that will help you to become stronger, fitter and feel good from the inside out. At Core Training, whilst we love and encourage all kinds of training, we really do encourage strength training with most of our clients because the benefits are far beyond becoming ‘physically’ stronger. Strength training the act of challenging your body and muscles with added resistance either through free weights, machines, bands (and for some exercises, body weight alone).
The beauty of being a beginner to strength training is that you are now in a position to learn new skills, figure out which activities/exercises you enjoy and which you don’t. You are in a position to create an active lifestyle for yourself using exercises that you enjoy and that work for you.
So, let’s highlight some of the many and varied benefits of Strength Training:
1) Weight Training can help you control your weight.
Though not the only way to control your weight, it can play a significant part. Weight training helps with weight control as not only do you burn a little bit more after your training has ended (EPOC), but as you build more muscle, you burn more on a day to day basis. It also helps you increase your strength, power, recovery and endurance as well as things like your insulin sensitivity.
2) It will keep you fit.
By engaging in resistance exercise regularly, you will maintain not only a decent fitness level, but also improve your ability to perform every day activities such as cleaning, walking around, playing with your children etc.
3) Resistance training will keep you mobile.
Resistance training can help you maintain your mobility, or even improve it. This is due to the fact that through lifting weights you are strengthening your joints and connective tissues. It also helps reduce your rate of injury and lower back pain.
4) Weight training plays a huge role in helping prevent (or reducing the symptoms of) health conditions and diseases...
- It reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Reduces heart disease as it keeps our blood flowing smoothly
- Prevents high blood pressure
- Being active increases your HDL (high-density lipoprotein), otherwise known as good cholesterol.
- Alzheimer’s: Although exercise cannot prevent or cure Alzheimer’s it does boost the chemicals in the brain and support and prevent the degeneration of the hippocampus.
5) Exercise improves your mood.
Therefore, exercise can be a useful tool in the treatment of depression. This is due to the endorphins released by the body during exercise (the release of endorphins can also relieve feelings of anxiety). Moreover, it helps us to manage physical and mental stress, as exercise causes an increase in the amount of the chemical in the brain responsible for moderating our stress response.
6) Exercise can help improve self-confidence.
Performing a workout can just make you feel good about yourself. As it's been said, no one ever regretted a workout. Not only this, but weight training helps us change our body composition, building muscle and making us looking us tighter and stronger.
7) Weight training helps with arthritis and osteoporosis.
This is as it strengthens your joints and bones, which again becomes increasingly important as we get older.
As you can see just from what we’ve listed above, the benefits from strength training are far superior to simply getting fit or looking ‘better’.
For most beginners, the focus should be getting yourself in the gym two to three times per week. This will allow you to break up the days with rest days, allowing your body to fully recover in-between sessions. However, as beginners you will also have a lot of fundamentals and new skills to learn so three sessions each week will help you progress more quickly and allow room for faster progression.
Now you know how often you should train and why you should strength train, let’s look at how you could build your own program!
A) Warm Up:
When you are warming up you want to try to use only dynamic movements. This means no static stretching (I won’t go into detail, but this increases your risk of injury). A dynamic warm up is a warm up that gets you ready for your workout by working in the ranges of motion that you plan on using during your workout. This will help improve your mobility, stability and activation of key muscles.
B) Training Split:
Once you have warmed up for five to ten minutes you want to go into your workout. As a beginner, we would recommend you performing full body workouts as opposed to splitting it by muscle groups or upper/lower splits. The reason for this, is that not only is it a time efficient way of exercising, but it is also effective as you can stimulate each muscle group several times a week.
C) Compound Exercises:
Compound exercises are exercises that involve multiple joints and more than one muscle/muscle group. Including compound lifts are important because they stimulate lots of muscles at once, which helps you get more bang for your buck in less time. The larger movements you want to start off with are four different patterns;
1) A squat pattern
2) A hinging pattern
3) A pushing pattern
4) A pulling pattern
An example of a starting progression for all these movements would be:
1) A bodyweight squat to a box
2) Banded glute bridge
3) Seated shoulder press
4) Bench supported single arm row
D) Accessory Exercises:
Once you’ve picked your compounds you can pair some accessory exercises together (they can be big movements or they can be isolated movements). Here I would suggest focusing on upper/lower exercises so when you are doing the upper body exercise your lower body can rest/recover and vice versa. This will be a great way to make your workouts as time efficient as possible.
E) Set/Rep Ranges:
Once you've selected all of your exercises, we recommend starting off by performing 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions.
You want to choose a weight that, first and foremost, you can maintain excellent form while using. Once your form is spot on, then you can start adding more weight to make the exercise more challenging. Try to avoid working to failure - you want to feel as though you have at least 2 repetitions left at the end of each set.
G) Exercise Progressions:
Over time, your skill level will increase - so you will be able to progress to more technically advanced exercise variations. For example, you could go from a bodyweight squat, to a goblet squat, to a barbell back squat. We recommend changing your program (slightly) every 4-6 weeks. This would be a good time to evaluate whether you are ready for a more challenging exercise progression.
You can write a full body workout with whatever equipment or lack of equipment you have available to you and remember: you are just starting out so you don’t need to excel or be 'perfect' - you just want to start learning what strength training is about and what works for you.