Strength Training for Beginners
You’ve decided you want to get stronger, congratulations! If you’re new to strength training, you probably have many questions – what goals should I make? How do I do it? When will I see results? This post will get you started on your journey.
Strength training goals
Depending on your age and lifestyle, your goals for getting stronger can widely vary.
The good news is, regardless of your goals for strength training, the starting point will be very similar. As your training progresses, it will become more specific. This blog focuses on how to start.
Common questions about strength training
You need to take a well-balanced approach to strength training. Whether young or old, athlete or coach potato, when you start strength training don’t think about focusing on specific muscles. You need overall strength, which means you need to exercise all your muscle groups.
What if my goal is to get bigger biceps, or visible abs? If you’re just starting out, you need to forget those goals and increase your overall strength first. Aesthetic improvements will occur over time if you are focused and consistent.
Do I really need to strength train? Can’t I just walk, jog or do some other kind of cardio training and get the same results? If your goal is to get stronger, then the only way to do that is to strength train. Your muscles must be put under a load for them to get stronger. Cardio activities are great for exercising your heart, burning some extra calories and increasing your muscular endurance. But they aren’t a substitute for strength training.
What if I don’t want to bulk up like a body builder? Unless that is your goal, there is absolutely no chance of your body looking like that of a body builder. They focus on a specific training regimen over years to achieve their results. Your objective is to get stronger. You’ll just end up looking like a healthier, fitter version of yourself.
Shouldn’t I avoid strength training if I’m older? No. Strength training can begin as early as the teenage years, and is beneficial to men and women regardless of their age. As we age past our 20’s, we naturally begin to lose muscle – this is called Sarcopenia. To keep your muscle mass and avoid many of the issues associated with aging, it is important for everyone to do some form of strength training.
How does strength training help me better perform as an athlete? Strength training helps athletes perform better in their sport. The type of training you do depends on the kind of sport you do – you can train for muscular endurance for sports like running or rowing, or you can train for explosive power for sports like sprinting or CrossFit.
How is muscle built?
There are three primary steps to building muscle:
Another term for this process is called Hypertrophy. This process, if done consistently with gradual increases in load, results in increased overall muscle strength. This is called Progressive Overload.
If you’re out of shape and just starting out with strength training, bodyweight training is a great place to start. You don’t need any special equipment other than your body, and you don’t need to go to a gym. Many fitness professionals promote bodyweight training as a great way to keep physically strong, regardless of your fitness level.
As stated above, your objective is to train all your major muscle groups, so you’ll need to do a variety of exercises, targeting your upper body, your lower body and your core.
Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions of the following exercises:
Pushups (works the chest, arms, shoulder, triceps, back, and neck)
Depending on your fitness level, this might sound easy or hard. The great thing is that you can adapt pushups to any fitness level. For beginners, you can lean against a wall and push yourself away. Then you can work up to doing pushups off a chair for support, or just from your knees. There are MANY advanced variations to pushups. You can do the standard pushup, you can elevate your legs on a chair or ball. You can vary your hand placement from wide to narrow. Check out this site for more ideas.
Planks (works all your core muscle groups)
There are many variations to the plank as well, but even a standard plank can be demanding for someone who is already fit. To make it harder, simply hold the position longer. A beginner can start at 15 seconds, more advanced can take it up to a minute or longer.
Dips (works your arms/triceps)
Click above for a video on how to do a dip. Here are some variations on the standard dip.
Squats (works your legs)
Squats are are a great lower-body exercise. Click here for a video showing proper form for a body weight squat.
Mountain Climbers (works your core, including abdominal, lower-back, and hip muscles)
Mountain climbers are a great core exercise, plus they work your heart and cardiovascular system as well. They can be a bit challenging for a beginner, so watch the video on the form and do what you can.
Burpees (works most body muscles)
Burpees are an intense fully body exercise, they burn calories fast. Plus, research shows that high intensity exercises like burpees burn up to 50% more fat than moderate exercising. These will be a challenge for beginners, so you should start out extremely slow.
To introduce hypertrophy and progressive overload into your bodyweight workouts, you’ll want to increase the number of sets and repetitions you do over time. You can also incorporate more advanced versions of each exercise. The basic idea is to keep pushing your body and not acclimate to a specific workout.
Nerd Fitness - Strength Training 101: Where Do I Start?
Quick and Dirty Tips: How to Start Weight Training
It isn't hard to get started with strength training. With the right information, consistency and a workout plan in place, you'll be able to get started and start noticing the many benefits that strength training has to offer.