Strength training, once the exclusive domain of athletes and bodybuilders, has recently acquired a new importance in the areas of fitness, health, and weight loss. For the first time, the Public Activity and Public Health Guidelines, a joint recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association, has recommended strength training for all healthy adults. Benefits of strength training include improved physical appearance, increases in strength and performance, and a lower risk of injury. A beginning strength training program does not need to be complex and time consuming, but there are some key elements that must be present for improvement.
Strength Training Intensity Level
Intensity level and weight ranges are often expressed in terms of maximum repetitions, or RM. A directive to perform an exercise for three sets at a 10 RM means to perform the exercise for 10 repetitions followed by a short rest period. After the rest period, two more sets of 10 repetitions each should be performed to complete that exercise, before moving to the next exercise. The amount of weight lifted should make it difficult to complete the last repetition of each set, in this case, the tenth repetition.
Repetition Ranges Differ With Strength Training Experience
A beginning strength training program for trainees with six months or less weight training experience should include a variety of exercises utilizing the 8 to 12 RM repetition range. Intermediate and advanced trainees (those with six months or more of weight training experience) should include a wider variety of repetition ranges and weights, including some higher intensity, heavier weights in the 1 to 12 RM range.
Workout Routine Frequency
Those beginning a strength training program can make improvements by training two or three days per week. More advanced individuals may need to train three to five days per week to continue experiencing a training effect. For all individuals, it is recommended that training frequency only entail what is necessary to make progressive improvements. Too much training before muscle adaptation takes place increases the likelihood of injury.
Progression is Necessary for Strength Increases
In order to get stronger, build more muscle, or increase muscle tone, trainees must progressively increase intensity of the workouts. Lifting the same weights for the same number of repetitions for years will not lead to increases in strength. For beginning strength trainees, the ACSM recommends increasing weights lifted by 2% to 10% when the ability to lift one or two additional repetitions at the recommended workload is achieved. Increasing in this manner is possible for beginners, but intermediate and advanced individuals may require more advanced periodization techniques to progress.
Beginners should start with a simple strength training program done two or three times per week paying special attention to each of these key elements.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.