Strength training is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing movements in the fitness industry – and for good reason. We view it as the most efficient form of structured exercise available.
More-so than any other form of exercise, strength training has a wide range of benefits, including:
Build lean muscle
This has a direct impact on your resting metabolism and insulin sensitivity – two contributing factors to long term weight management.
Improved strength and range of motion in muscles, tendons, and ligaments
Making you more resilient to injury and increasing your capacity to recover from injuries.
Improved posture and energy levels
Giving you the confidence and motivation to be more active and less sedentary throughout your day.
By improving in all of these areas, you’ll set a foundation for a more fit and active lifestyle.
And it’s for these reasons why we recommend prioritizing strength training over other forms of structured physical activity (yes, even more than cardio!).
If you want to perform strength training in a way in which you can experience all these benefits, there are certain rules you’ll want to adhere to. In this article, we’ll cover each one in depth.
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Rule #1 – Focus on Form
Nothing can kill the progress you make while strength training than experiencing an injury, and poor form and training technique is the #1 way injuries occur.
But that’s not the only reason to focus on good form. Using proper technique is essential for restoring the body’s muscular balance that is often lost over time. By having muscular balance, you improve posture, flexibility, and stability.
If you want to maximize the effectiveness of each exercise, it’s imperative you have proper form. For in-depth video instruction on the exercises we use with our own clients, visit our YouTube Channel.
Rule #2 – Strength train frequently
For the best results, we recommend individuals follow a strength training routine three days per week, accommodating for a day of rest in between each training day.
By strength training three days per week, you not only achieve the minimal recommendation of weekly physical activity, you do it utilizing the most beneficial form of exercise.
For beginners, this sets a solid foundation for better and more frequent regular movement throughout the week. We’ve witnessed our own clients naturally start moving more as a result of their newly found strength, posture, and improved energy levels.
For more active individuals, three training sessions per week gives your body the foundation it needs to maintain your level of fitness over the long term. Lingering injuries become less prominent, and performance naturally improves – fueling sustained levels of activity as you age.
Rule #3 – Prioritize “compound” exercises
Exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups and multiple joints such as squats, push-ups, lunges, and rows are what are referred to as compound movements.
These exercises should be prioritized over what are referred to as “isolation exercises” – such as bicep curls or shoulder raises.
Not only do compound movements engage multiple muscle groups of the body, they require the core to be used as a main stabilizer, making them extremely functional for daily life and activity.
Within any given workout, you’ll want to incorporate between 6 to 8 exercises, with 4-5 of them being a compound movement and the remainder being isolation movements.
Rule #4 – “Superset” exercises when you can
When we think of strength training, most of us don’t typically think of breaking a sweat or elevating our heart rate. This is where supersets come into play.
By pairing one exercise with another, your heart has to pump blood from one section of your body to the other. This greatly increases the metabolic demand on your body, improving your cardiovascular fitness while still prioritizing your strength.
For the best effect, we recommend pairing opposing muscle groups together, such as dumbbell presses and rows. For an even more metabolically demanding superset, you can pair an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise.
Rule #5 – Strength train optimally
The majority of your training should consist of 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 15 reps for each exercise. How much work you perform depends on a variety of factors such as:
- Your age
- Experience level
- Fitness level
- Time you have
For beginners or people who are more deconditioned, you can get a lot out of doing 2 sets of an exercise. While a more experienced individual might need an additional 1-2 sets of the same exercise to experience similar benefits.
Rule #6 – Push to the optimal intensity
Unlike other forms of structured exercise, research shows you can experience a great deal of gains from strength training without killing yourself in the process.
In each exercise, you should finish your set when you’ve completed your desired number of reps with 2-3 good reps still left in the tank.
This will allow you to experience all of the benefits from your training while still being able to move the next day.
To better gauge what that feels like, at the end of your workout, you should finish with a rate of perceived exertion (how hard you think you worked) of roughly an 8 out of 10.
Rule #7 – Rest adequately
When it comes to rest, there’s two aspects we want to consider:
During the workout
Make sure you’re resting as long as you need to recover physically and mentally from each exercise. You want to be rested enough that you can focus on your technique while being able to push yourself to the optimal intensity.
For stand alone exercises, this rest period is typically 45-90 seconds between sets. For exercises that are paired together (supersets), the rest period is typically 30-60 seconds between exercises.
After the workout
Ideally, you’ll want to have a day of rest in between workouts. This will allow protein synthesis to take place so you can build lean muscle and recover from the workout.
With that said, if you’re training different muscle groups in each training session, you can perform back to back training days without much sacrifice to performance.
What to Do Next
We’ve outlined some of the most important rules to take into account for a safe and effective strength training routine. In order to start implementing strength training into your routine, follow these steps:
Visit our YouTube Channel
Get the best cues and tips for how to perform exercises correctly for safe, fun, and effective training.
Organize your schedule
Taking your current exercise routine and daily schedule into account, aim for 3 training days on your calendar. If you’re just getting started or are extremely physically active, start with 2 days and build from there.
Consider working with a professional
If you’re relatively new to strength training, or you’re just not seeing the results you’d like to see with your current routine, consider working with a professional. They’ll make sure you’re using proper form, pushing to an optimal intensity, and help you scale your workout over time for the results you can see and feel.
Want help becoming the leanest, strongest, and healthiest version of you?
Most people know that exercise, eating well, sleep, and stress management are all important in looking and feeling their best.
Yet most struggle with applying this information in the context of their busy, sometimes stressful lives.
That’s why we work closely with our clients to help them reduce body fat, gain strength, and build lean muscle so they can improve their health…regardless of what they have going on around them.
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