The A-Z of Strength Training: What and how

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What is strength training?

The simple answer is: it’s about toughening up your muscles, increasing bone density, and building up your endurance to keep going without oxygen. Basically it improves your strength and endurance. But a better way to understand strength training is to see how it is different from most cardio workouts.

Mostly, cardio workouts focus on aerobic forms of exercises. An example of this is walking. Walking is a moderate-intensity exercise where after some time your breath in more oxygen to keep going. In cardio workouts, the attempt is to make sure that your body uses oxygen to supply energy properly.

Strength training workouts, with the exception of circuit training, differ from that logic by focusing on short-intervals of high-intensity training where your body does not rely on oxygen but glycogen. Strength training develops lean muscle mass because of that which helps burn more calories. As we explained in our piece onHigh Intensity exercises, they burn more calories because they keep burning calories even after you’ve stopped exercising. So anaerobic exercises, like strength training routines are, put a lot of pressure on your body for short intervals instead of moderate exercises and that makes it develop muscle mass and endurance and burn calories.

So you should be considering trying out strength training if:

  • If you want to lose weight
  • If you want to build endurance
  • Increase bone density
  • If you are OK with heavy exertion in short durations rather than building up slowly

One of the biggest myths about strength training is that if it helps build muscles, it leads to weight gain and not loss. The first thing to remember is nothing burns fat faster and longer than high-intensity anaerobic regimes that are a part of strength training. The second thing to note is that when considering weight-loss, you’re looking at shedding the fat and not muscles in your body. It helps increase bone density and muscle resistance. The third thing to note is that strength-training strengthens your muscles and bones and muscles help burn calories. Muscles are metabolically active. That means the stronger your muscles are, the more calories you burn even when you’re resting. Strength training strengthens cardiovascular, metabolic and other process of your body along with your bones, joints, ligaments.

Strength training makes you strong from the inside. Body builders with ripping muscles have to follow a very specific and dexterous routine which includes a lot of things apart from strength training.

What strength training does do is make you toned and strong.

Because of the toughness of the routine, despite its short duration, we suggest that people who have never exercised before start with some aerobic routines like walking, jogging, running, swimming at moderate paces for longer durations first. Jumping straight into strength training is not recommended.

If you’ve been working out for some time then it’s extremely crucial to involve some element of strength training into your regimen to improve your overall fitness. Strength training works on the principle of muscle resistance. Lifting weights is only one part of the program. Mostly strength training focuses on the following parts of your body:

  • Chest
  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Lower Body
  • Abdominal

And there are three ways it can help you build strength:

  • Weight-Lifting: The most popular method but not the only one. You start slowly, focus on building up your endurance as the weight you lift increases. The more weight you pull or lift, the stronger you get.
  • Body-Weight Exercises: Instead of using weights, you use your own body weight as resistance. So you do pulls-ups, chin-ups, dips and push-ups, in which you are pitted against the weight of your body.
  • Machines: Strength Training Machines are such a big part of every regimen. This is the ideal starting point for beginners. Machines take some of the load off by balancing the weights for you and making you follow a fixed movement pattern.

Mostly your strength training regime should reflect your goals.

GOALS REGIMEN REST FREQUENCY
To lose weightWeights that you can only lift for 10-12 reps and 1-3 setsFrom 30 second to 1 minute between each setNo more than 3 sessions a week
For muscle gain4-8 reps, more than 3 sets1 to 3 minutes between each setNo more than 2 sessions a week, Beginners are advised not to start directly with such a heavy regime.
To improve endurance12-16 reps, 1-3 sets20 to 30 seconds between setsLeave at least one day between workout sessions

The intensity of your exercise should increase gradually as you’re able to lift and pull more and more weight over the weeks. The intensity, volume and frequency of strength training develop over time, increasing as you strength and endurance increase.

However, there are people who do strength training differently by following a method called Progressive Overload.

Progressive Overload is a technique where you muscles are over-loaded from the word go by trying to lift as much weight as possible. It is contended that the muscles respond to the overload by growing bigger and stronger. These are mostly one-rep exercises where you give your all in one go. However, this is way too risky for even the most trained strength training professionals. We seriously advise against this because this technique is based on training to failure model, where you exercise in a way that you get to the point where your muscles fail and body quits. This can severely damage your muscles and body. Mostly people train to stop just before failure. It’d be quite ironic if your strength-training workout leaves you unable to walk for the next six hours.

Split-training is a healthier and better alternative. Instead of doing two days of exercise where you pull reps on all parts of your body, split-trainings helps you focus on one single part in every session. So on Monday you only work on your back and Tuesday you can focus on shoulders and so on. This means more sessions but the intensity is limited to one body part at a time rather than over-all exertion.

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Most of strength training is done with machines that use weight to build muscle resistance. Depending on the part of the body you want to focus on you can encounter any of the following exercise routines:

FOCUS ON

ROUTINES & MACHINES

Strength-Training Machines For Chest

Bench Press, Push Ups, Deck Machine, Chest Press Machine

Strength-Training Machines For Shoulders

Lateral Raise, Front Raise, Overhead Press

Strength-Training Machines For Biceps

Bicep curls, Hammer curls, Concentration curls

Strength-Training Machines For Back

Back extensions, Seated Row Machine, Lateral Pulldowns

Triceps

Kickbacks, Tricep Extensions, Dips

Abdominals

Crunches, Reverse Crunches, Pelvic Tilts, Oblique Twists

Lower Body

Squats, Lunges, Calf Raises, Deadlifts, Leg Press Machines

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Edited by Staff Editor