With more research and physical evidence of the effects of strength training, more and more people are adding it to their routine.The old beliefs about strength training being only for men are slowly starting to be seen as false. Furthermore, strength training is finally starting to get a better reputation with everyone, no matter the sex or goal.
However, if you live under a rock, and still believe that lifting weights will make you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, or that cardio is the only way to lose weight. Then allow me to give you a little update.
Lifting weights is not just for men.
Strength training is actually very beneficial for fat loss and body recomposition.. I would even say it’s more beneficial than cardio.
Gaining muscle, strength and size, is not easy and does not happen overnight.
Strength training is good for your overall health, longevity and quality of life.
Everybody should be doing some form of resistance training weekly.
The only problem with lifting weights becoming a ‘fad’ is the amount of information about it. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to educate you on one of my favourite subjects, strength training. I will go over the proper way to incorporate strength training into a routine, what exercises are best, what rep ranges you should be doing. I will also explain different workouts for men, women and how to make sure you reach your goals.
Strength Training’s Place in your Routine
Of course everyone has different goals and preferences when it comes to their workouts. However, I do believe strength training should definitely be apart of everyone’s routine. In order to get the most benefits from lifting weights, it should be done three days per week. And if you only plan on working out three days a week then I do suggest that it takes priority over cardio. That being said, you can do both, I just recommend starting with strength and ending with cardio.
One important thing to remember when it comes to strength training is that you cannot work the same muscle group on consecutive days. That means if you are doing a full body workout you will want to plan your workouts so you always have one full day of rest in between. However, if you want to do a split routine where you do upper and lower body exercises on different days, then you could do those on back to back days.
Rest and repeat.
The main point to remember is that you cannot workout the same muscle group on back to back days. The recommended amount of rest is 24 – 48 hours between workouts. So keep that in mind when you are planning what days and workouts you will be doing each week.
What Exercises Are Best
One of the great things about strength training is that there are so many different exercises. Therefore, if you are like me and need variety then strength training is the perfect way to help keep things exciting in the gym.
With that being said, contrary to popular belief, you do not and should not switch up your workout every single day. The first few weeks of strength training are actually your brain and body learning how to do the exercises. This means if you switch up your routine too often your body actually never gets stronger or gains muscle because it is constantly trying to learn how to do new movements.
However, in order to get the most bang for your buck I recommend doing more compound exercises than isolation exercises, especially if you are doing a fully body workout. Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups at a time and are usually done with free weights or body weight. Example of compound exercises are squats, lunges, and push ups. Isolation exercises only work one muscle at a time, such as the leg curl machine or bicep curls.
Why compound exercises are more beneficial
The reason I recommend compound over isolation is because not only will the work the intended muscle, but you can work multiple muscles at once. Therefore making compound exercise more efficient. Plus compound exercises are more metabolically challenging meaning that they will burn more calories during the workout as well.
For example, if you want to target your thighs you might think you want to use the leg extension (quads) or adductor (inner thigh muscles) machines. However, if you were to do squats instead not only will you work your quads and inner thighs, but you will also be engaging your core, hamstrings (if you get low enough), glutes and many more stabilizer muscles. Furthermore, I don’t know about you, but doing 12 squats gets my heart rate up a lot more than doing 12 reps on the leg extension.
The higher your heart rate gets, the harder your body is working. Therefore the more metabolic effect you will get from the exercise.
Examples of compound exercises:
- Squats (goblet, barbelll squat)
- Chin ups (band assisted)
- Lunges (reverse, static, walking, lateral)
- Push ups
- Bent over row
- Step ups
- Glute Bridges
** if any of these cause you any sort of joint pain ask for help, make sure you are doing it properly, or go see a Doctor.
In the end, the only bad exercises are the ones you don’t do. So if you are not comfortable or confident doing these exercises by all means start with the machines. However, I do recommend seeing a trainer or getting help so that you can learn and get confident with proper form.
There are many different rep ranges you can utilize in order to see results. Normally they say if you are looking for pure strength gains you should go low reps, less than 5. Furthermore, if you are looking to “tone up” you should be doing 15, 20 or even 25 reps.
Woah. That’s a lot of reps.
And very unnecessary.
As a matter of fact, 15+ reps is actually considered endurance, so you aren’t even working on strength at that point.
Ladies, and gentlemen, even if you don’t want to “bulk up” you should not be doing more than 12 reps in your strength training workouts.
If you are a beginner I always suggest starting with reps in the 10-12 range. This is so that you are doing enough reps to learn the movements, and gain strength, but don’t have to lift too heavy to ‘feel the burn.’ In fact, you could stay in the 10-12 rep range forever if you really wanted to.
In order to achieve “muscle tone,” you need muscle.
Therefore you need to challenge those muscles with weights and rep ranges that will stress them enough to grow. Don’t scare yourself out of lifting heavy because of what you think you will look like.
I can guarantee you that lifting heavy is not going to make you look “bulky,” even gaining a little bit of muscle is hard work. You will not wake up one day and “bulk up.”
If you are more advanced, or have been doing the same rep ranges for a bit and want to pump up your intensity a little bit you could do some exercises in the 6-8 rep range. Just ensure that when you decrease the rep range, you increase the weight used. If you start doing less reps with the same weight then you regress.
Another thing with lower rep ranges is that they are more taxing on your body and nervous system. Therefore you will want to give yourself extra rest time between sets as you decrease your reps.
That is why it is important to make sure your form is correct. Especially as you start moving to lower rep ranges and heavier weights. Form and safety takes priority over weight and ego any day.
In conclusion, start with 10-12 reps. Once you feel confident in your form and workouts and want to challenge yourself more you can move to lower rep ranges. And remember, unless you are aiming for an endurance workout, stick to under 15 reps.
Strength training differences between men and women
There are actually much less than you would think.
Other than the obvious fact that most men are typically stronger than women, there are not many difference. As a matter of fact, men and women could do the exact same workouts and both see positive results towards their goals.
One of the main reasons I design male and female clients’ programs differently is due to personal preference. Most men like to do more arm exercises, like bench press, while women like to target their legs. However, I still make all of my male clients do leg exercises and women do upper body work.
An important part of every program in order to see the best results and keep your joints and body healthy is balance. Therefore you should be working every muscle group.
How to make sure you see results
The only way to gain strength is to put a stress on your body that it is not used to. You create this stress by pushing your body out of it’s comfort zone (what’s easy). Then your body adapts by getting stronger so that the stress is no longer hard. Therefore, as you get stronger and better you have to continue to challenge yourself so that you can continue to see results.
If you are able to do 15 reps without feeling a burn, it’s not going to make a difference. Once you can do all your sets with 12 reps easily, increase your weight.
Change comes from effort. If it’s easy, your body won’t need to adapt.
Lift heavy and challenge yourself. Rest. Repeat.
For more on how to make sure you will see results from your workout routine, check out this blog.
To watch my short vlog about increasing your metabolism (spoiler alert: strength training is a big part of it) watch here!
If you want to combine strength training with the best “dieting” habits, head over to this blog to learn how to get results from any diet.