How to Start a Strength Training Program

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As a primer ahead of my upcoming strength training series of articles, I want to spend some time on the fundamentals of creating workout plan so that you can get the results you want regardless of the specific exercises you choose. While I will encourage everyone to pick up a barbell or dumbbell from time to time, I care less about what you do than how you do it. I will focus on strength training in this article since it is the more effective for our goals than cardio, however if you are limited to typically “endurance” activities we can discuss you options on an individual basis.

A routine consisting simply of pushups, situps, and squats, or really any movement that requires you to move your body or move an object around your body, can be used to develop strength if done properly. When planning your workouts, there are 3 main components that you want to adjust to achieve your desired strength training goals: repetitions, sets, and exertion,

Reps

Repetitions, or reps, are a major factor in the results you get from your workout. Generally speaking, lower reps lead to more strength while higher reps nurture increased endurance. Of course its more complicated than that, but for our purposes we want to stick with weights that are difficult to perform for 3-12 reps. By staying within this rep range you can gains strength while staying safe. Remember though, repetitions only matter when you use the right weight, sets should be difficult but manageable with good technique.

Sets

Sets are groupings of reps, so if you do 3 sets of 10 reps of pushups, that would mean that you  did 10 pushups, rested, did 10 more pushups, rested again, and then did 10 more pushups. Generally doing anywhere from 3 to 6 sets (excluding warm ups) will get the results you want. You should also consider your reps when deciding how many sets to perform; the fewer reps you perform, the more sets you can do and vice versa. This ensures that you are exercising in sufficient volume to stimulate muscle growth.

Exertion

Perceived exertion is just a fancy way to describing how hard you think something is. This may seem fairly straightforward, however I want to make it clear that the weight, reps, and sets that you perform are based entirely on you. I want you to feel like you are putting in a 8/10 effort with every exercise, hard enough to strain you but easier enough to control.
So that’s it, with these three concepts together with a fitness goal in mind you can start to put together you own workout routine. If you are now sitting there confidant that you understand the how of working out but are still lost on the “what”, browse around the internet, or ask a trainer at your gym, or just hold tight because my next few articles will try to give you some easy to do exercises to choose from.

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