Basic Principles of Strength Training

Strength training is a mandatory portion of a balanced exercise approach for any gender, age, and race. We cannot be confident about exercise if we aren't sure of what we are doing. Therefore, here's the low-and-skinny on how to train our muscles!

The basic movements which we must train include using our muscles to:

  1. push things forward with our arms (chest exercises)

  2. pull things back with our arms (upper-back exercises)

  3. push things upwards with our arms (shoulder exercises)

  4. pull things downwards with our arms (lat exercises)

  5. straighten out our hips (hip exercises)

  6. push the body against gravity, or forward and backward against the ground (leg exercises)

  7. move sideways in the world with our legs (inner and outer thigh exercises)

  8. resist rotation and keep our core rigid (obliques, abs, lower back exercises)

We train our muscles by making them work against resistance of any kind:

  1. Cable Machines and Weight Machines provide resistance in a safe range of motion and are easy to learn and use, but cost a lot of money and take up a lot of space.

  2. Resistance bands provide resistance in a way that minimizes abuse of momentum (discussed in next section below) and are cheap and portable, but they require a fair amount of technique to do properly.

  3. Body-weight exercises help us develop mobility using our own bodies, and are portable, but are fairly difficult and require a lot of technique to do safely and effectively. We cannot adjust our resistance level with our body because our weight is the primary determiner of resistance level. Therefore, we have to modify our body exercises in order to reduce or increase intensity. Body-weight exercises often require a lot of technique to do well.

  4. Free-weights are dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells. They help us develop stabilizer muscles and often require a bench or rack of some kind in order to use them well. They can be quite dangerous if we drop them or use them in an unsafe range of motion.

For all strength exercises, we should train the relevant muscles by "exhausting" them along the following guidelines:

  1. Using resistance, use the whole safe range of motion of the muscle group involved in the exercise.

  2. Use our muscles to move and resist the resistance without help from gravity or momentum.

  3. In the phase of the movement where effort is exerted to push or pull the resistance, doing it under control but with speed.

  4. In the phase of the movement where effort is exerted to resist the resistance from going back to its initial state, doing it under control, smoothly, and slowly.

  5. Ensure we exercise in a way that doesn't impact our joints, bones, and muscles dangerously.

  6. Select a resistance level that causes the muscles to be fully exhausted after about 6 to 15 repetitions. 6-10 repetitions are for power training, 8-12 repetitions are for strength training, and 12-15 repetitions are for hypertrophy training (building muscle mass).

  7. Conduct one to two sets of the required repetitions, and ensure that muscles reach failure at some point. We know we have exhausted our muscles if even with all our might, we can no longer or push/pull the resistance any more - at this point, our muscles should be twitching and and we should feel quite a bit of strain.

  8. Keep track of the resistance levels and repetitions and sets required to exhaust your muscles - since the body adapts to strength training, make sure to gradually increase the resistance level over time for all movements so that it continues to be difficult to complete the workout.

  9. Ensure the body gets plenty of sleep, and that the same muscle groups are not trained to failure on consecutive days. Muscles require at least 48 hours to recover. Frequent training can cause over-training and trigger a loss of muscle mass and strength.

  10. Balance muscle strengths relative to opposing muscles in the body; in general, the amount of resistance which can be pushed in a particular direction (forward, backward, upwards, or downwards) should be similar to the amount of resistance which can be pulled in the opposing direction.

  11. Try to conduct pull exercises before the opposing push exercise, because our muscles related to pulling tend to be weaker due to how we operate in modern daily life.

  12. To increase muscle mass, ingest enough protein (about 3 grams per 2 kilograms of body weight per day).

For how to do exercises using different resistance system, google it yourself, but keep the following in mind:

  1. Not all exercises build the whole body equally - make sure an equal and balanced representation of the different basic movements are presented in workouts that are selected.

  2. Some exercises require a lot of technique and form, whereas others are safer and easier to conduct. Make sure to take-on exercises that are safe for you.

  3. Although some exercise/workout lists are specified for men or women, strength training shouldn't be different based on gender - rather, it should be different based on what goals we want to attain. See point number 6 in the guidelines list.

An example of a full-body dumbbell workout is found below:

An example of a full-body bodyweight workout is found below:

An example of a full-body resistance band/tube workout is found below:

An example of a full-body cable/weight machine workout is found below:

Thanks for reading!

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