Everyone talks about the health benefits of cardio. Few realize that strength training is one of the healthiest things they can do.
At times when pretty much everyone sits 8-14 hours a day, it is rare to see someone with a really good posture. Many people have back, knee or neck pain because they sit hunched over the computer / cell phone / desk all day long.
In my opinion, strength training that focuses on strengthening the muscles and bones, and increasing the range of movement is a must for anyone. Especially for those, who doesn’t work physically because it:
– increases bone density
– builds and strengthens muscle mass, which contributes to stability and longevity in adults
– improves self-confidence
– makes each and every one more difficult to kill
– improves coordination and flexibility (when done right)
– improves brain function and reduces the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia
What strength actually is
The most common myth on the subject is that strength is a function of muscle mass. I have often heard women say things like “I do not want to get stronger because I’ll look like a man.”
It’s really not true because strength is mostly neurological. What’s true is that the more muscle a person has, the more potential he has to be stronger. However, in no way that mean is considered to be strong.
There are many types of strength. Absolute strength is the amount of motor units that the central nervous system can activate. A motor unit is a motor neuron that is attached to muscle fibers. The more we practice strength training, the more we will learn to activate motor units and thus exert more force. As we have more muscle mass, we have more motor units available. Thus, increased potential to exert strength.
That’s probably why you’ve seen Chinese women weighing 100 pounds lifting 200 kg, and some huge bodybuilders that are not as strong as they seem.
Common strength training method in powerlifting
Stage 1 – Build muscle
A period when the training volume (which is weight * repetitions * sets) is relatively high. It incorporates more exercises in the program that are optimal for building muscle and not necessarily for lifting more weight.
Step 2 – Strengthening the new muscle
This stage is about connecting the new muscle cells to motor neurons. After building a new muscle, we want you to learn how to use it. During this period, we move to a medium volume of exercises that allow us to lift more weight.
Step 3 – “Peek” or competition preparation
This is a stage you can (but don’t have to) skip if you are not an athlete. This stage usually doesn’t last more than a few weeks. Here, you no longer try to get stronger, but prepare to express the power in one specific day. The day of competition or the Max test at the gym. You will show strength by lifting very heavy weights with very few sets and reps.
Step 4 – A few days or a week of rest or easy training and start again
Where to you start
The first thing you need to do is to build a correct technique of the basic exercises. Think Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, or Overhead Press. You can also include Olympic Lifts if it attracts you and if you have the time to invest in learning more complicated exercises.
These exercises also activate a lot of muscle at once, allow you to work with heavier weight and full range of motion.
This is why your first strength training program should allow you to practice technique with the highest frequently possible. Without doing a lot of maximum effort sets.
It’s easy to learn an okay technique from videos on YouTube. However, it’s hard to tell your doctor that you’ve been hurt because you’ve learned from YouTube videos . If you are serious about learning a perfect technique, invest in a good coach.
Strength training method that is best for you
After you have a good technique you want to find the best training method for you. The best training method for you is that:
A. Implements the principle of progressive overload (a principle that can be applied in many different ways by the way)
B. You enjoy it and feel it gives you motivation.
For example, it may be the Power Lifting method with a lot of intensity like Westside. Or it could be a method of lifting mostly light / medium weights for a lot of sets like Shieko. It depends on a number of factors, but mostly on your personality. You may also find that fields such as BodyBuilding or CrossFit are optimal for you to get stronger if these type of training gives you more motivation.
Never limit your progress
After you have built up a technique and strengthened it a bit, the time will come when your weaknesses will limit your progress.
Weakness can be the result of things you neglect, injuries, lifestyle, etc. Here are some examples of weaknesses that can slow down or even stop progress:
- Inability / low knowledge on how to activate the gluteus muscles in the deadlift exercise can be a cause to inability to keep your back straight during heavy sets.
- Instability of the knee or pelvic joint as a result of prolonged sitting may result in an inability to reach a proper depth in the squat above a certain weight.
- The neglect of the cardiovascular system (running / cycling / intervals etc.) can cause us to need more recovery time between the sets. Thus, it limits the amount of work done in training.
- An imbalance in the program between push exercises and pull exercises can cause improper posture and weakness of the muscles that stabilize the shoulder. This can limit the force that can be recruited during Bench Press and even increase the risk of injury.
The best way to work on weaknesses is to find an exercise that makes you activate mostly the weak muscle or stay longer at the weakest position in the exercise. Make sure to do this exercise with more volume than the exercise in which the weakness is expressed.
See the examples of exercises on strength building below. Here, two of my clients train in their Stage 1 of building strength method!
Talk to me if you want to learn how to work on strength and strengthen optimally without getting hurt or stuck?