When you first walked into the gym, your goal was most likely to lose weight and/or gain muscle strength. Even if it was something else, to accomplish the goals you set out to achieve and continue making significant progress, it’s first critical to understand the basics of strength and conditioning. Below is a list of 5 strength and conditioning basics we put together for you to get started.
The Basics of Strength and Conditioning: What You Need to Know
1. Train for what you want to have happened to your body
When it comes to working out, you need to figure out what your individual goal is and what you want to have happened to your body. Below is a breakdown of what happens to your body from a strength and conditioning aspect without getting too scientific.
12+ reps = Training for muscle endurance
Muscle endurance is crucial for people who need to use their muscles consistently in a short period of time, for example, athletes.
Swimming is a great example of athletes who would train specifically for muscle endurance. Depending on the distance, some swimmers have to engage every muscle in their body for over 10 minutes straight.
8-10 reps = Training for muscle growth
The benefits of training for muscle growth, also known as hypertrophy, include a slightly faster metabolism, both strength and endurance gains, and improved anaerobic endurance.
Bodybuilding is the prime example of hypertrophy. Usually, bodybuilders achieve huge muscles by isolating each muscle group and working them for extended periods of time. When building muscle, nutrition, particularly protein, plays a huge role in whether or not you achieve the results you’re looking for.
Edit: Because, as with everything, exercise science is constantly evolving, studies have shown that you do not need to strictly stick to the 8-10 rep range anymore to consistently build muscle. The major contributing factor for muscle growth is INTENSITY, lifting to extreme muscle fatigue.
6-8 reps = Training for strength
In order to train for strength, you should do fewer reps with the max amount of weight. Once your body gets past a certain point it’s no longer going to adapt like it once did. This is why strength training, which builds muscle and soft tissue, becomes important.
If a person is bigger in stature and weighs more, it doesn’t necessarily equate to strength. As you can see in the picture above, this man is not considered “large.” Yet, per his body fat percentage, he’s all lean muscle.
A prime example of how strong you are compared to your weight would be body-weight-to-bench-press ratio. For example, a man who is under 20 years old should be able to bench press greater than 1.34 times his body weight if he’s in excellent condition. According to the Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research, if a man is in fair to good condition, he should be able to bench 0.9 to 1.19 of his bodyweight. As age increases, strength declines. For a female lifter, her best performance will come between the ages of 20 to 29 years old. A superior lift would be 0.81 of her bodyweight, while a fair to good performance would be 0.52 to 0.7 of her bodyweight. As her age increases past 29 years old, her strength will typically decline.
3-6 reps = Training for power
Power is strength x speed. This is very important for athletes since you want to be strong and quick during competition.
Football is the best example when it comes to the utilization of power. Each play in football lasts at max 30 seconds. In those 30 seconds, you need to be not only strong when fighting through tackles, but you also need to be quick. Tackling is a great example of quick bursts of strength in order to bring down your opponent.
Another important concept to remember is that there is a correlation between all the reps you’re doing. Just because you’re doing 6 reps doesn’t mean it’s not going to improve your muscle endurance, it’s just a lot less ideal. It’s up to you to decide what conditions you want to put your body through and how you want to use it.
Important Tips For Breaking That Workout Plateau
1. Break out of your comfort zone
We’ve all been there before – our workouts begin to get stale, we stop seeing results, and we hit a plateau. This can be avoided by pushing yourself past your comfort zone and trying new exercises or even doing the same exercises but trying harder. If it starts to burn, that’s a good thing!
Think of strength and conditioning for athletes, known as periodization. Coaches start their athletes at muscle endurance, working that rep number for a certain period of time. Then they move to the next phase, so by the time the season begins, the athletes are at their strongest. Apply this approach to your strength and conditioning workout to continue seeing results.
2. Get your heart rate up
A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute, according to Mayo Clinic. When exercising, the highest your heart rate should ever safely go is 200 – your age. So, if you’re 35 years old, your max heart rate is 185. Now let’s translate that into exercise and results. To put it simply, if you want to try and burn just fat, you should be at 65-75% of your max heart rate. For cardio, you should be at 75-85% of your max heart rate, and for performance, you should be at 85%+ of your max heart rate. Learn more about understanding your heart rate and exercise here.
3. Less is more
You don’t need to lift weights seven days a week to see results. What matters most is the intensity of your workout and how hard you push yourself, not the amount of time you spend at the gym. Intensity is a personal perspective, but many times people have a tough time pushing themselves past a certain point because it’s uncomfortable and outside their comfort zone. Get yourself out of the mindset that the longer you spend at the gym, the better results you achieve. You can get the same results in half the time by doing short, HIIT workouts for 30 minutes a day.
4. Don’t be afraid to try new things
Hitting a plateau is a mental block. In order to get past it, you need to get out of your routine and switch things up. For example, if you have the bodybuilder mentality which includes isolating muscle groups, try doing a full body workout. A full-body workout is not only more beneficial but requires you to spend half the time at the gym to get the same results.