I believe that strength training at some point should be part of everyone’s training.
Regardless of gender and regardless of your goals, there are very few fitness methods that couldn’t benefit from throwing in a bit of strength training now and again.
Some of the benefits of strength training are:
Strengths the muscle fibres, tendons and ligaments
Increase bone density
Burns a lot of calories
Helps develop good body mechanics
Can help chronic disease management
As you can see by looking at this list, whether you’re focusing on cardio or building muscle or just want to be fit and healthy, strength training should definitely be in your training regime at some point.
So those are some of the benefits of strength training. But what are some of the goals you should have when strength training. Apart from getting stronger of course.
Make strength training a habit
Have good muscle awareness and good understanding of body mechanics
Have a good understanding of correct movement patterns
Improve work capacity to be able to train and recover properly
So there’s no set in stone plan. Especially when you’re starting. If you stick to these principles you’re on the right track.
Though there still does need to be some sort of structure and plan.
1) How often to train
Typically speaking, 2-4 times a week is what you should aim for. Now doesn’t take individuality into account so people will get different results from doing certain amounts.
But the reason for this amount of training is to have a good understanding of the movements. As I talked about in my last blog, these lifts are skills. The better understanding of the lifts you have the better and faster you will progress.
If you don’t have the skill of the lift mastered, you are throwing away potential strength gains simply because of technique.
Also, repair and growth needs to be taken into consideration.
Muscle protein synthesis stays elevated in new lifters for 36-48 hours.
2-4 times training sessions on each lift per week means that you’ll be building muscle in training like this.
Once this is mastered, you’ll need to kick it up a gear.
If you continue doing that, you’ll plateau and get bored as most of your gains as a beginner comes from, basically, your nervous system learning the movements.
2) Speed of progress
When you start training, you could well have the muscle to lift well heavier than what you actually are.
What holds you back is that your nervous system doesn’t understand the lift. You don’t understand the correct motor patterns.
Typically then the progress of the weight you lift going up depends on how your body adapts to learning these movements.
Though you should be able to add more weight on the bar reasonably quickly. Maybe even each week.
As your nervous system adapts much quicker than your muscles do, you’ll probably find that your numbers will have shot up while only building a bit more muscle mass.
There will come a stage where you hit a wall and your numbers stop going up. This is because your hit the limit you can loft with your current muscle mass.
3) Adding Weight
Again, how you progress varys form person to person.
At those early stages, you’ve probably working with 60-80% of your 1 rep max as you learn the movements and practice the skill of the lifts.
Keep at this weight until you stop seeing improvements week after week and begin to struggle with the lift.
This means the strength gains you get from getting more proficient with the lifts is running out and you need change.
It can also happen to different lifts at different times. Your squat could struggle while your bench press shoots up.
This means that you need to change up your squat training and keep doing what you’re doing on your other lifts until the same thing happens to them.
4) 1 Rep Max
You don’t actually need to try your 1 rep max.
In fact, I would suggest that you stay well clear from ever trying too often. Even the strongest guys in the world only go near it and push their limits at a hand full of top competitions each year.
As I touched on in the last blog, you can kinda work it out for yourself roughly. Like I previously said, I remember being told that if I’m doing the typically 5 sets of 5, that it should be my 8 reps max. As there should be a bit left in the tank.
Using this, you know what you do 5 reps on. That should give you an idea of what weight you should 3 reps on (probably a 4/5 rep max). From that you can have a guess at your 1 rep max.
To do it every so often isn’t bad but I wouldn’t recommend regularly attempting max lifts.
The idea behind knowing the 1 rep max is so that you can use the percentage of it to work our reps. Or vise versa.
Typically, 100% of it is 1 rep. So 95% is 2 reps. So you should use 90% of your 1 rep max for 3 reps. And so on.
This means if you’re told a rep range, you know what weight to use. If you’re given what weight to lift, you know how many reps to do.
So now you have your plan laid out. You’ve got how often to train, a rough rate of improvement, when to increase the weight and an understanding of your 1 rep max to work out reps and what weight.
As I said at the start, the strength training program you use isn’t that important at the start. As long as you’re ticking those 4 boxes you’ll be ok and make good progress.