Are you ready to get stronger and build some serious muscle? Whether you’re a gym regular or a complete novice, strength training is essential to any fitness routine.
However, you can build muscle strength and achieve your fitness goals with the right mindset and approach.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gym-goer, this guide will provide valuable insights to help you maximize your strength training and achieve the desired results. So, let’s get started!
What is Strength Training?
Strength training is the best way to fight muscle loss, build new muscle, and improve muscle mobility.
Strength training, also referred to as resistance or weight training, entails using weight machines, free weights, or one’s body weight to work out a specific muscle or group of muscles.
Most training programs incorporate strength training due to the significant benefits that have been demonstrated in various clinical trials on exercise. This suggests that training like a power-lifter rather than a bodybuilder may be a more practical approach to gym workouts.
Strength Training Exercises
Strength training can be practiced at the gym by using a combination of weight machines and free weights.
Squats are a versatile exercise that targets the core and lower muscles, such as the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, and can be performed using various equipment such as weights, yoga balls, or barbells.
Proper squatting technique ensures that the knees align with the feet and the downward bending motion goes lower than the knees. Squats promote the production of hormones essential for muscle growth, making them an effective exercise for building muscle throughout the body. Additionally, squats tone the lower body and improve calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps strength.
Another benefit of squatting is that it can aid in removing waste from the body by improving bowel movement.
The deadlift is a compound weight exercise involving bending at the waist and hips to pick up a weight and then standing straight up. It targets the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings, making it an effective exercise for boosting functional strength.
In addition to targeting specific muscle groups, deadlifts also promote the release of anabolic hormones, aiding in muscle growth and recovery. Deadlifts also support proper alignment of the hips, shoulders, and spine, enhancing overall posture and reducing the risk of injury. Finally, the exercise improves core strength, providing stability and power for other exercises and daily activities.
The bench press exercise targets the upper body muscles, including the shoulders, arms, and chest, and can enhance endurance. This compound exercise can be modified with variations such as the incline, decline, and narrow grip bench press.
To allow the muscles to recover effectively, performing this exercise 2-3 times a week is recommended. The number of sets required will depend on the fitness objective, with 4-6 sets being optimal for strength gain and 2-3 sets for improving muscular endurance.
Bent-Over Barbell Rowing
The bent-over barbell rowing exercise is considered one of the most effective exercises for increasing strength. This compound movement targets various muscles, including the latissimus dorsi, lower back, hamstrings, and biceps, and can help build lean muscle mass.
Incorporating this exercise into your training routine strengthens your back and improves overall muscle development.
The military press is a highly effective exercise for strengthening the deltoid and surrounding muscles of the shoulder. This exercise is known to provide stability to the shoulder joint while promoting strength and muscular development in the targeted muscle groups. Incorporating the military press into your workout routine can help you achieve better upper-body strength and shoulder mobility.
Another effective way to toughen the upper body is to do push-ups. They can be done everywhere without any equipment. This exercise primarily targets the pectoral, shoulder, and tricep muscles, making it an effective way to strengthen the upper body. Adding a variety of push-up variations to your workout routine can help you achieve better results.
Maintaining proper form while doing push-ups is crucial to avoid experiencing back or shoulder pain. Beginners can start by performing push-ups on their knees if they find the exercise challenging. Additionally, the intensity of push-ups can be increased by modifying the exercise in various ways.
Plank is deemed the most effective exercise to build the core and keep your tummy tight. Furthermore, planks engage multiple muscle groups and contribute to better posture and flexibility.
Planks can help boost metabolism and burn more calories. If you are doing a plank for the first time, start by holding it for one minute each day and gradually increase the duration to 5 or 10 minutes to maximize its advantages. Side planks can also be incorporated to improve flexibility.
Burpees can effectively burn calories when performed at high intensity due to their full-body workout. With no equipment required, the standard burpee involves a push-up followed by a jump. While they may be challenging, burpees offer the advantage of improving strength and cardiovascular fitness. The cardio benefits of burpees include better heart function, increased lung capacity, and healthy blood pressure levels, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
Overhead Triceps Extension
This particular workout effectively enhances and fortifies the triceps muscles, as it entails holding a weight above the head, which also activates the core muscles to stabilize the movement. To perform this exercise, an individual may use a single weighty dumbbell or a pair of them, and it serves as a valuable method for strengthening the entire triceps.
The dumbbell row is a highly effective exercise for building a strong back while contributing to developing grip strength and well-defined biceps. However, starting with a reasonable weight load and maintaining proper form throughout the exercise is recommended, ensuring that the back remains straight and not arched. If you’re looking to achieve an aesthetically pleasing back shape, the dumbbell row is an ideal choice.
What are the Benefits of Strength Training?
Research has shown significant health benefits of weeks of resistance training. Let’s explore them in detail.
Incorporating strength training into one’s fitness routine can significantly impact the resting metabolic rate (RMR), which refers to the number of calories an individual burns while at rest. By engaging in strength training, the body’s ability to burn calories increases, leading to a faster metabolic rate. Additionally, the body continues to burn calories even after exercise.
A study was conducted on healthy men aged 50 to 65 to investigate the effects of strength training on RMR. After 16 weeks of a heavy resistance training program, the study found a substantial increase in RMR, accompanied by an increase in fat-free mass. This suggests that strength training can not only enhance RMR but also aid in building lean muscle mass.
Decrease Body Fat
Maintaining a low body fat percentage is a common health goal for many individuals, and resistance or strength training can be a valuable tool in achieving this objective. Excessive body fat has been linked to a higher risk of developing various health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure, making maintaining healthy body composition and waist-to-hip ratio crucial.
In a controlled trial involving 40 menopausal women, it was found that combining resistance training with a balanced and nutritious diet is an effective strategy for reducing excess body fat. This suggests that resistance training combined with a healthy diet can be a beneficial way to promote a healthier body composition and potentially reduce the risk of associated health problems.
Build Lean Muscle Mass
As we age, our bodies tend to lose muscle mass, making it crucial to incorporate strength training exercises to increase and maintain lean muscle mass. Athletes and bodybuilders train each muscle group weekly to enhance their strength and overall body composition.
A study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science found that high-frequency (three sets per week) and low-frequency (nine sets per week) strength training resulted in greater gains in strength and lean muscle mass among individuals after eight weeks of training. This suggests that both high and low-frequency strength training can effectively increase lean muscle mass and strength, making it a suitable form of exercise for individuals looking to improve their overall health and fitness.
Promote Healthy Bones
Resistance training exercises exert temporary stress on the bones, which triggers bone-building cells to rebuild and strengthen the bones. The protein sclerostin, produced in bone cells, plays a crucial role in regulating bone formation. Prolonged periods of inactivity may decrease skeletal muscle contractility, resulting in a decline in muscle mass and strength.
Research has shown that strength training can help increase the tissue density of bones, making it an ideal intervention to prevent bone loss and increase bone mineral density. This suggests that incorporating strength training exercises into a regular exercise routine can help promote bone health and prevent conditions such as osteoporosis.
Facilitate Physical Function
Good body mechanics refer to the efficient use of our body’s strength when performing various activities such as moving, sitting, standing, lifting, and carrying. Multiple studies suggest that strength, power, or body composition improvements can enhance physical function.
Strength training exercises can contribute to joint mobility and flexibility, thereby improving balance, body posture, and coordination. It also helps maintain a healthy spine and reduces the risk of injury. Incorporating strength training exercises into our daily routine can improve our overall physical function and reduce the likelihood of developing posture-related issues or injuries.
Boost Mental Health
While aerobic exercises are commonly known as effective stress-busters, resistance exercises can also provide significant physiological and psychological benefits. In addition to improving physical health, strength training has been shown to enhance mood, cognition, and overall quality of life.
Several clinical trials have suggested that strength training can improve self-esteem and reduce the risk of stress, anxiety, and depression. Resistance training has been found to regulate cortisol levels and their activity, leading to improvements in anxiety-related symptoms. By incorporating strength training into our exercise routine, we can improve our physical and mental health, leading to a happier and healthier life overall.
Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risk
Include strength training exercises in your workout routine to keep your heart healthy. Elevated blood cholesterol levels increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disorders.
Regular strength training improves blood circulation, prevents LDL cholesterol from rising, and strengthens blood vessels and overall heart function.
Minimize Diabetes Risk
Strength training is an effective strategy for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, reducing diabetes risk, and enjoying metabolic health benefits 7. People with diabetes must consider resistance training to improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control and prevent resistance.
During strength training, the body primarily utilizes glycogen stored in muscles as a source of fuel. However, when the stored glycogen gets depleted, the body releases additional glycogen from the liver and bloodstream. This process helps to decrease the levels of glucose in the blood directly.
Reduce Injury Risk
Achieving muscle balance involves strengthening a group of muscles to improve their strength. When certain muscles are weak, it can lead to early fatigue and potential damage. Additionally, muscle imbalances can increase the risk of strain and ligament tears.
By engaging in strength training, the body can achieve optimal alignment and reduce the risk of injury. Proper alignment allows the body to engage in intense physical activity without negative impact.
Resistance training is like an opportunity to develop a healthy relationship with the self. It can regulate mood and increase self-esteem.
Studies conducted on adolescents and children have demonstrated that resistance training might impact ‘the self’ in youth 8. Exercise can improve overall physical appearance and boost confidence, especially among individuals who always feel conscious of their looks.
Reps and Sets for Strength Training
Before discussing how many reps and sets are suitable for strength training, we must understand the difference between them.
Reps refer to the repetitions or the number of times an exercise is performed.
Sets are the number of times a specific amount of reps are done.
The intensity of resistance training and the number of repetitions performed in each set have an inverse relationship. Higher intensity requires fewer repetitions to reach the point of muscle fatigue, which stimulates deep muscle fibers to build strength.
According to research, adults should aim for 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions per set for each muscle group, with a rest interval of 2 to 3 minutes between sets to improve muscular fitness. For older adults, performing one or more sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of moderate-intensity resistance exercise is recommended.
Tracking reps and sets can help organize workouts and measure progress. However, seeking advice from a certified personal trainer is recommended for beginners in strength training.
|Strength||≤ 6||2-6||2-5 min|
|Endurance||≤ 12||2-3||≤ 30 sec|
Source: National Strength and Conditioning Association, Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning
Strength Training Hacks
1. Train using Body Weight.
Strength training using body weight can be just as effective as free weight training, as they promote stability and mobility. Combining bodyweight exercises with cardio can create a highly effective workout routine.
To design a weekly workout routine, be sure to include exercises that target all major muscle groups. Here are some exercises to try:
Perform a single set of 15 repetitions for each exercise, ensuring you use proper technique with smooth and controlled movements to avoid injury.
2. Train using Free Weights.
Free weights exercises are superb for building overall functional strength. They are done using dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells. Free weights allow moving freely, unlike machines.
Free weights enable us to move each body side independently and improve balance and focus.
It is essential to understand the proper form, and if you are a beginner, start with light weights and gradually intensify the load as per strength and endurance.
Common exercises done using free weights are:
- Overhead shoulder press
- Floor press
- Single-arm dumbbell row
- Barbell back squat
- Floor chest fly
- Bench press
Train Using Cable Suspension
Suspension training involves using ropes and cables to use your body against gravity to facilitate resistance. It delivers a total body workout and a suitable approach for building strength, losing fat, and improving endurance and flexibility.
Cable machines come in various forms, like single or dual pulleys and adjustable height grips. Suspension strength training is a complete package to strengthen the core and enhance balance, power, and coordination in one workout.
Common exercises include:
- Squat and Fly
- Clock Press
- Low Row
- Tricep Press
- Ham Curl
- Side-Plank Tap
Cable suspension training improves the range of motion during stiffness and stronger joints. Training in a standing position using cable machines recruits almost every muscle in the body. Whole-body exercises make you work harder, bringing a solid cardiovascular response.
If you plan to try cable suspension strength training, it is advisable to do it under expert supervision.
In conclusion, muscle strength at the gym involves resistance training, cardio, and proper nutrition. Body weight exercises and free weights can both be effective for strength training, but it’s essential to maintain proper form and gradually increase the load. Seeking guidance from a certified personal trainer is recommended, and consistency and dedication are key to achieving optimal results.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to build strength at the gym?
You can use a combination of strength training exercises to build muscle strength at the gym. You can lift free weights or use weight machines. The important thing is to focus on your core, increase weights with fewer reps, avoid overdoing and increase weights gradually.
What are strength training exercises?
In strength training exercises, we gradually increase physical stress on the muscle by progressively increasing load so that they keep adapting and getting stronger. Popular strength-building exercises include deadlift, squats, glutes bridge, and plank.
How do strength training and muscle building differ?
Muscle building focuses on growing new muscles and increasing their size. In comparison, strength training is done with the purpose of improving the functional ability of muscles.
What is strength training? Can it be done at home?
Strength training requires performing resistance or weight training. It can be skillfully done at home.
Which are the best exercises for increasing strength in the gym?
– Bench Press
– Barbell Pullover
– Leg Press
What are the best strength exercises for women?
– Kettlebell Swing
– Dumbbell Chest Press
– Split Squat
– Hip Thrust
Can you build strength without building muscle?
Yes, it is possible to gain muscle strength without increasing the size by lifting heavy weights with fewer reps. Keeping the volume low doesn’t trigger growth factors.