Extra, extra, read all about it – cardio is out, and strength training is in. Cardio which was once renowned as the be all end all of fitness, has recently taken a back seat and strength training has stepped up in its place. If you’re someone who is completely brand new to the world of strength training and have no clue where to start, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we’ll give you the 411 on strength training for beginners and equip you with everything you need to know, so read on to find out more!
What Is Strength Training?
First up, let’s focus on the basics. So, what exactly is strength training? In a nutshell, strength training is a form of exercise/exercises that challenges your muscles through resistance that can be created by either resistance bands, weights or your own body weight. Unlike cardiovascular exercise, strength training doesn’t require you to torture yourself for hours on the treadmill. Instead, performing 30 minutes of strength training exercises with just a few items of gym equipment around 2-3 times a week is all you need to improve on your mobility, strength and muscle tone.
Benefits Of Strength Training
The benefits of strength training are numerous, some of which include:
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- Reduced rate of injury
- Improved muscle tone
- Increased muscle mass
- Increase in metabolic rate
- Slowing of strength and bone loss
- Increased muscle growth, recovery, power and endurance
- Reduced lower back pain
Additionally, increasing your base strength is a fantastic way of keeping your nervous and muscular systems healthy. You will also help your body better deal with metabolic processes that will allow you to handle and recover from additional training loads.
How Often Should I Strength Train?
This is a common question that many beginners to strength training will ask. At the start of your strength training journey, it is recommended that you train 2-3 times a week, for no longer than 1 hour each session. Always remember that it is vital that you have a rest day between sessions in order to aid muscle recovery and keep you fresh for your next workout.
As you progress, you can increase your repertoire to 4-5 sessions, always remembering to work on different body parts each session. This alternation is important in order to ensure that you do not over train any one particular muscle in order to allow your muscles to recover and prevent injury.
As a beginner, it is important that you start slow. Here are some helpful tips that will assist you in getting started on your strength training journey:
Focus On Form
Ensuring that you master proper form is step one when it comes to strength training. Good form will help you avoid injury and will also enhance your overall performance. If you need assistance with your form, we highly recommend speaking to a personal trainer or someone who is well versed in strength training to ensure that you start off on the right note.
As tempting as it may seem to work with heavy weights, you’ll only end up injuring yourself if you don’t gradually work your way up to heavier weights. The key is to utilise weights that are neither too light nor too heavy. If your weights are too light, you’ll know if you can perform an entire set with minimal effort. On the flip side, if your weights are too heavy, you may find that your form suffers and that your reps are too taxing for you to complete.
Warm Ups Are Key
Just like any other exercise, warming up is key. A good warm up will get your body ready for strength training and will gradually raise your body temperature and increase blood flow to your muscles. Warming up (and cooling down, of course) is the best way to ensure that you minimise post workout aches and pains. 5-10 minutes of light cardio and stretching is all you’ll need, so please don’t neglect your warmups!
Keep It Fluid
After 6-8 weeks of strength training, you’ll want to ensure that you change your routine up to increase difficulty levels and further challenge your body. If you find that your routine is no longer having that much of an effect on your body, we recommend switching it up by increasing your weights, trying out new exercises or even increasing your repetitions.
Sets, Weights and Reps
Figuring out how many reps, what type of weights to use and how many sets to perform will depend on your overall goals when strength training.
If you want to lose weight whilst building muscle – Use a weight that makes it somewhat challenging to complete 8 to 12 repetitions and 3 sets. Always start with 1 as a beginner, and gradually work your way up. Rest for 1 minute between sets and allow least one day of rest between sessions.
If you want to gain muscle mass – Use enough weight that only allows you to complete 4-6 repetitions and 3 sets. Rest for 2 minutes between sets and allow for 2 – 3 days of rest between sessions. As a beginner, you will need to condition your body over a matter of weeks or months to tackle this level of weight training.
If you are looking to improve endurance – Use enough weight that only allows you to complete 12 to 16 repetitions and 1-3 sets. Rest for 30 seconds between sets and allow for at least one day of rest between sessions.
The next time you hit up the gym, why not pick up some dumbbells instead of spending hours on the cross trainer — we promise you’ll understand why so many people are obsessed with strength training. We hope that this article has done its job in introducing you to the world of strength training and all the benefits it can offer your physical health, mental health and strength.