Strength training is a type of resistance training that can build strength, gain muscle and burn fat. Through consistency it will improve your strength and endurance allowing you to push harder for longer. The benefits of strength training are plentiful. Exercising and living an active lifestyle has many positive impacts. From changes physiologically to changes psychologically strength training can enhance one’s quality of life in ways beyond the obvious.
If you’re new to strength training or just getting back into the gym this is for you. We will cover the basics as well as provide insight on the benefits of strength training, how to get started, different workouts, strength training for beginners, common exercises, progression, equipment you’ll need and additional resources to help you along your journey to a stronger, healthier you.
What is Strength Training?
Strength training is a form of resistance training that induces muscular contraction to build strength, endurance, muscle mass and bone density through physical exercise. Simply put, it is moving any type of weight including your own body through exercise past it’s limits in order to get stronger.
It encompasses a variety of exercise types for the overall goal of strength and conditioning. Things like pushups, pullups, lunges, resistance training on an indoor rowing machine, climbing, jumping and throwing can all be considered strength training alongside the more commonly known modality of weightlifting.
It’s main goal and purpose is to push the body through adaptation by stimulating the neuromuscular system through a progressive systematic training plan. Depending upon your goals strength training programs can be custom tailored to meet your specific demands. For example, athletes partaking in specific sports will tend to gear their strength training routines for that particular activity.
Benefits of Strength Training
The most notable benefits of strength training are increases in strength, muscle mass and decreases in body fat. However strength training has other benefits that are often overlooked. Outside of the gym strength training can play a significant role in one’s mental and physical health plus decrease the risk of injury and chronic health problems. Strength training:
- Makes your more able and apt
- Increases in strength, bone density, range of motion and flexibility are among some of the main physical benefits.
- Increases heart and cardio health
- Improvements to the cardiovascular system is another main benefit as this form of exercise elevates the heart rate and requires more efficient use of blood and oxygen.
- Keeps the waistline slim
- Effects on the metabolism are two-fold as it increases calories burned post-exercise through a process called “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” or EPOC.
- Has psychological benefits too
- Elevated levels of endorphins due to training boosts energy levels, improves mood, improves sleep quality, reduces anxiety, helps treat depression and self-esteem issues.
How to Start Strength Training
Getting started with strength training isn’t complicated. Before jumping into things you need to establish a baseline by performing a fitness assessment.
Fitness assessments provide an understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, capabilities and limitations. They collect information regarding your health, lifestyle, heart rate, body composition, cardiovascular ability, posture and functional limitations. Having this understanding will help you figure out the best way to achieve your goals.
From there you’ll want to carefully consider your goals. Why are you training? Knowing this reason will help you determine the path you want to take. If you’re someone that is just starting out your path will be different than someone who is overweight needing to shed a few pounds. Most guys will be looking to drop the love handles, build some muscle and get a bit stronger.
There are a variety of different types of strength training methods available. As stated before it is any type of movement that pushes your body beyond its current limitations with the intention of making it stronger. Whether it’s sets of pushups to failure or squats with weights that’s essentially strength training.
The best way to pick a routine when just starting out is to identify where you are, add in your goals and then work towards achieving that goal. This could mean choosing a higher rep, higher intensity workout helping to get your heart rate pumping to shed those unwanted pounds or a lower rep, medium intensity workout designed to pack on muscle and strength. Either route make sure to ensure that progressive adaptation is being adhered to.
Strength Training for Beginners
The best strength training program for beginners is 5×5 strength training. The 5×5 training methodology is a tried and true method for building strength, gaining muscle, and burning fat. Based on routines created by bodybuilder Reg Park and strength coach Mark Rippetoe, this routine is geared towards the lifter that wants to lay a solid foundation for sculpting their dream physique.
The 5×5 training method follows the ideas of progressive overload where you slowly increase the load placed on your muscle, putting your body in the ideal state to evolve. Progressive overload consists of adding weight in small increments only if the previous workouts sets and reps are successfully completed.
A basic 5×5 strength training program consists of two lifting days, Day A and Day B. Each day will have its respective exercises. Both days will be the basis of this routine and will contain all 5 of the movements necessary to building strength, gaining muscle, and burning fat.
5 Basic Strength Training Exercises
What are the 5 basic strength training exercises? They are the squat, deadlift, bench press, barbell row, and overhead press. Each of these movements are known as compound exercises. Compound exercises are any exercises that engage two or more different joints to fully stimulate entire muscle groups. For more information on each exercise, their benefits and how to perform them check out the following guides.
- How To High Bar Squat: Your Guide To Proper Form
- How To Deadlift: Your Guide to the Proper Form
- How To Bench Press: Your Guide To Proper Form
- How to Barbell Row: Your Guide to the Proper Form
- How to Overhead Press: Your Guide to the Proper Form
Strength Training Progression
One of the more challenging aspects of strength training is progression. It can be scary to think that workouts are going to become increasingly harder when trying to simultaneously avoid injury. However progression can be simplified and achieved by performing more sets, performing more reps and adding more weight.
A lot of people who start with 5×5 strength training often end up advancing to routines like Madcow 5×5, 10×10 aka German Volume Training (GVT) or Smolov training programs to continue increasing their strength. While others who may have the desire to increase muscular hypertrophy may switch to a more traditional bodybuilding routine.
Other types of strength training workouts are high intensity and full body programs. High intensity interval training is a training methodology that requires intenses bouts of exercise followed by short periods of rest before moving onto the next exercise. They can be done in a circuit fashion meaning a series of exercises would be completed with minimal rest until all are completed before moving onto the next.
Full body strength training programs like Super Squats are routines that allow you to train each muscle group in the body. SInce they are extremely demanding these types of routines are often limited to one to two training days per week.
Strength Training Equipment
In order to train you’ll need some basic strength training equipment. Hopefully you either own them, have access to them or the means to acquire them. Most gyms will have some form of a squat rack, bench press area, barbells and weights. What you’ll need to look for or get are the following items:
If you are buying equipment for the home we recommend getting a squat rack. The most common are free-standing “cages”. Squat racks or power racks as they’re commonly called are ideal as you can perform a variety of lifts in them safely. There are several different types so get what is best for you. Any adjustable bench will do. Some squat racks come with them.
Barbells come in all shapes and sizes. What you’ll want to get is an olympic barbell. Olympic barbells are a 7 foot long variety that weigh 45lbs. You want an olympic barbell because they are the standard.
You’ll need a good set of plates, fractional plates and secure collars to keep the weight on the bar. When looking for plates make sure they fit an olympic barbell. There are some good sets out there that come with plenty of weight. We recommend trying to find a set as it takes out the guesswork and you can add on from there. Fractional plates are necessary because they allow you to slowly progress your lifts and good collars keep the weight secure on the bar.
Other Types of Strength Training
What if you don’t have access to a gym or prefer to workout without weights? Not a problem. You can perform strength training at home without equipment. Using only your bodyweight has grown in popularity and is extremely effective. In fact just working out with your bodyweight is probably the ideal starting point for most people. If you cannot support the weight of your own body it might not be the best idea to start lifting weights as your form could be severely impacted resulting in a higher risk of injury.
A bodyweight strength training program to get started with is one that incorporates HIIT. It’s a full body workout that raises your heart rate and puts your body to the test. These types of workouts are usually performed in a circuit fashion meaning you would complete one exercise and move on the next one with minimal to no rest until you’ve reached the end before taking a short break and repeating the entire circuit again.
Strength Training Resources
The internet is loaded with tons of information. It can be really confusing to find quality sources. Therefore we’ve compiled a short list of some authorities in strength training. Elliot Hulse is one of the more influential social media stars that focuses entirely on strength training and being the best version of yourself. Mark Rippetoe is the godfather of modern day strength training and his book Starting Strength is a great manual for learning how to become stronger. T-Nation is a hardcore forum and source of truth when it comes to strength training. Loaded with tons of information this is probably one of the best sites to get user tips on a variety of topics.