As a trainer and fitness enthusiast, I’ve always had a lot of people coming to me with their questions about health and fitness (our main reason for starting this blog!) One thing that I hear over and over again is that people like to strength train and want to be stronger, but they don’t know how to do that on their own. If you’ve ever felt like this, don’t fear…we’re here to help! We could go into depth and talk for hours about building a program or even just a single workout, but we’ll spare you and just provide a brief overview to give you a good starting point. Below you’ll find a couple of key components to keep in mind when putting together your resistance training program.
1.) Exercise Selection & Weekly Split – There are countless ways to split your strength workouts. For example:
- Full Body
- Upper Body vs. Lower Body
- Push vs. Pulls
- Legs vs. Chest & Tri’s vs. Back & Bi’s
- Anterior vs. Posterior
No matter how you decide to split your workouts, it’s important to remember to stay balanced! So what does that mean? If you take a step back, and look at the major muscle groups in the body, you’ll find the following:
- Legs – Quads AND Hamstrings/Glutes
- Accessory muscles – arms, calves etc
In order to stay balanced and give yourself the best shot at staying injury free, it’s so important to train all of these groups and keep in mind that you need to balance opposing muscles. For example, if you’re training legs, make sure that you’re not only doing exercises that target your quads, but focusing on strengthening your glutes and hamstrings as well. If you work your chest, make sure to work your back that same week (or same day) etc.
This might not be perfect for everybody…we are all built differently. If you have an imbalance or a weakness, you may need to focus more on one particular part. I have found that most clients need help on their posture. This may be from sitting at a desk all day, driving a car, typing on an iphone, holding a baby etc. Strengthening the back and stretching out the chest muscle are especially important for these people. Because of that, I usually focus on two back exercises for every one chest.
Another way to look at this is to balance your pulls and pushes.
- Vertical Pull – Pull Down or Pull Up
- Vertical Push – OH Press
- Horizontal Pull – Row (Seated, Bent, Inverted)
- Horizontal Push – Push Up or Chest Press
2.) Rep/Set Range & Rest Periods – The reps, sets and rest for your program will change based on your goals. Below is a pretty simple chart that shows the parameters you should be lifting for your particular goal.
3.) Weight Selection – Selecting weight can be tricky if you aren’t on a strict strength/power program and don’t know your 1RM (1 rep max.) If you are new to resistance training and you really aren’t sure what weights to start with, err on the side of light and increase from there. It’s really import to ensure that your form is on point and you aren’t sacrificing it to lift heavier weights. (Read: challenge yourself with weights, but don’t injure yourself!) I always tell my clients that if you can easily complete ALL reps on the final set with no problem, then its probably time to increase. You should be struggling/failing on the final set.
4.) Progression/Regression – As you get stronger, exercises will start to feel easier. In order to keep improving, you must continue to challenge yourself. Obviously adding volume (reps & sets) and/or increasing the load (weight) will make an exercise more difficult, however there are a few other ways to challenge yourself:
- Increase complexity – Try putting 2 moves together. For example, add an overhead press to your squat (thruster.)
- Decrease base of support – Stand on something less stable (BOSU) or take the exercise to single arm/leg (pistol squat.)
5.) Form – We recommend having someone critique your form before moving onto very heavy weights, but we’ll give you a couple of general rules that hold true to most training basics.
- Stance – Feet should be shoulder width apart – This will give you a solid base of support
- Weight in Heels – Ensure that your knee is inline with your heel – Your knee should not go beyond your toes *Note: for power moves, your weight will shift to your toes throughout the move…as it will when you jump.
- Toes – Parallel or slightly turned out
- Knees – Pointing in the same direction as your toes
- Core – Tight
- Shoulders – Down and back – Keep your shoulders away from your ears & do not tense…unless you are actively performing a shrug
- Keep a Neutral Spine – Do NOT round your back – Head, shoulders & butt should all be in one line
As we mentioned before, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to strength training, but we are hoping this gives you an idea of where to start! If you’re brand new to resistance training, it’s always helpful to start out with a trainer to ensure that you’re executing everything with proper form. If you still are lost or are interested in a2a designing a program for you, contact us!