Strength Training for Beginners
So you’ve decided to get buff. You’ve had a chat with an expert (that massive guy in the gym who always trains his chest) and he’s told you that all you need to do is four weeks of bench press and a tub of his ‘special sauce’ and you’ll be huge too right? Wrong! Producing a good, strength based physique is something that will take time, perseverance and hard work. The good news is you’re here and we?re going to start together with a great beginner’s routine.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was a strong body
Strength training provides remarkable results in the initial stages of its initiation. You will see your body blossom over the initial 6-12 months as your new strength and nutrition programme unleashes your hidden potential previously hidden from the world. Besides the prospect of being ‘buff’ there are a number of other benefits offered by adopting a strength training programme. You will be reducing the risk of osteoporosis by increasing bone density. Inevitably you will gain muscle, burn calories more efficiently and find it an easier task to control your weight. As you experience an increase in muscle mass you will also notice an increase in your stamina and the feeling of fatigue will come at the latter stages of your workouts rather than the start. To add to the aesthetic benefits you will get from strength training, you will also discover that you are less likely to suffer from insomnia and you will have an improved sense of wellbeing. Where to start? Before taking part in any fitness activity you should always consult a doctor just to make sure you are going to be physically able to take part in your new routine. To begin with you should train 3 days a week utilising a rest day in between training days and two rest days at the end of each week. For example; you could train Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and your rest days would be Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Ensure you are fully hydrated as water is one of the major constituents of muscle. Choosing the right programme Now this is the difficult part. Everywhere you seem to look these days you come across a training programme. One day per body-part, split-routines, isometric-training the list goes on. Fortunately, as a beginner, the choice of exercises should remain basic and in the form of compound movements such as; squats, deadlifts, bench-press, military-press, bent-over rows, upright rows, chins, dips, cleans and shrugs. For the beginner, engaging the entire body during each workout is paramount for building the foundations of a strong physique. If your aim is to promote fat loss then three total body workouts each week is the best proposition for this also.
Reps, Sets and Rest Time
The aim of any strength training programme is to increase strength and muscle mass. In order to do this you need to recruit the maximum number of muscle fibres possible. In order to accomplish this you have to maximise the amount of effort used for each rep. Now, in order to maximise the number of muscle fibres recruited,keep the reps in the 8-10 range and use heavier weights utilising a 60-90 second rest period between sets. For the initial 4 weeks aim to complete 2-3 sets per exercise this way, with the total number of sets for each training period not exceeding 18.
Eating and Supplements
Although protein is the most commonly quoted macronutrient for muscle growth it is important not to fear or neglect carbohydrates as they represent an important part of your growth and repair process. Carbohydrates have been somewhat maligned in the press for the past few years with the introduction of the Atkins diet and ketogenic diets, but although the main aim of these diets is fat loss, any strength training routine will benefit hugely from the addition of sufficient carbohydrates. For a beginner’s programme the best ration of macronutrients would probably be 45-50% protein, 30% fats (good fats) and 20-25% protein. A good estimate for protein intake is approximately 1 gram per pound of body weight, with all nutrients consumed across 5 or 6 meals throughout the day. In terms of supplements, recovery is king and those supplements that promote recovery will be your best training partners. Recovery will allow your muscles to recuperate after a training session and allow you to return to training in the shortest time possible. The 3 supplements on any beginners shopping list should be; BCAAs, glutamine and Whey Protein. Later on as you become more accustomed to your training routine you can also introduce creatine to further enhance your training and aid recovery.
An Example Strength Training Programme for Beginners
Squats 3 sets of 8-10 reps (1 minute rest between sets) Bench Press 3 sets of 8-10 reps (1 minute rest between sets) Bent over-rows 3 sets of 8-10 reps (1 minute rest between sets)
Deadlifts 3 sets of 8-10 reps (1 minute rest between sets) Chins 3 sets of 8-10 reps (1 minute rest between sets) Military Press 3 sets of 8-10 reps (1 minute rest between sets)
Shrugs 3 sets of 8-10 reps (1 minute rest between sets) Upright rows 3 sets of 8-10 reps (1 minute rest between sets) Dips 3 sets of 8-10 reps (1 minute rest between sets)
Notes on form and function
It is essential to start your new programme using exemplary form as any bad habits you develop from the outset will be difficult to reduce later on. You will have plenty of time to fill the barbell with floor smashing weights, but for the first few weeks practice perfect form and technique. If your form is correct it can also be the best indicator of the volume of muscle fibres you are recruiting during each exercise. As a generalisation, when you can no longer fully extend and complete a full rep of an exercise, you no longer have full muscle fibre recruitment. At this point you may be at risk of using other parts of your body to support the movement.
A final note
Although it may not seem the case as a beginner about to embark on your first strength training workout, you are in quite an enviable position. At this point you will experience the biggest strength gains, build muscle faster and generally see the biggest change in your physique than at any other time during your training. Enjoy the early months of your training as they will inevitably bring the biggest rewards to your physique, and when the time is right you’ll be ready to progress to an intermediate programme.