Strength Training

Strength Training

Strength training (ST) is an exercise that causes the muscles to contract against weight in order to increase strength, endurance, tone, and mass. Strength training is the most essential part of a well-rounded fitness program. A well-rounded fitness program comprise of aerobic training, strength training and flexibility training. The optimal characteristics of strength training include the use of eccentric, concentric, and isometric muscle actions and the performance of bilateral and unilateral, single and multiple joint exercises (2009 ACSM position stands). Moreover, there should be an equal ratio of strength between agonists and antagonists, left and right side, upper and lower body.
Weight can be in the form of dumbbells, barbell, resistance band, own body weight, weight machines or any other objects that resist the muscle contraction. It strengthens muscles, tendons and ligaments, and joints for physical performance.

Strength training is safe for almost everyone. However, some people with heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or arthritis should check with their doctor before they start any strength training.

Strength training increased density of bone and thus reduces the risk of fracture in post-menopausal women. As post- menopausal women lose 1-2% of bone mass annually. Strength training helps to lose weight and helpful in the long term weight maintenance


ST generally involves less reps and heavy weights per set. Many women avoid strength training because they don’t want to develop large and bulky muscles like bodybuilder. Strength training does not give women large and bulky muscles as women do not produce as much testosterone like men, which is the main responsible hormone to make you bulky and masculine. Instead, strength training develops muscle tone and firmer appearance. For a reason, if you just involve only aerobic exercises in your fitness program that can burn fat and loss muscle. So in this situation, strength training will be helpful to prevent muscle lose as strength training increase lean muscle mass. When we talk about strength training, men and women have different tendency to increase muscle mass due to differences things. Men have much more testosterone hormone, so it’s easier to increase muscle mass with heavy weights. Women have much more estrogens and very less testosterone, which will not give you bulky muscle mass at same men level, even if you lift heavier weight.
Strength training program maintain and build lean body mass, but it will not give you bulky appearance. Most women want to get toned muscles because it will give you better appearance. Strength training toned muscles by increasing muscle mass.

Beginners: start with light weight, 1-3 sets of 8-12 reps

Intermediate: with moderate, 1-3 sets with 6-12 reps

Advanced: with heavy weight and multiple sets along with 1-12 reps

As a general rule, 6 repetitions or less primary concentrates on strength; 12 repetitions or more focuses on muscular endurance. Working larger muscle groups first, gradually adding small group assistance exercises.

Progression of strength training:

First you should increase the training frequency, second step is to increase training duration, do more sets, and third step is to increase the intensity by higher weight. When the individual is able to perform the current weight for 1 or 2 repetitions over the desired number for 2 consecutive workout sessions, Weight should increase 2 to 10%. (ACSM)

Our bodies adapt so quickly to exercise stimulus. We can solve the problem by increasing training volume. Progression can be performed by altering one or more of following; exercise intensity, frequency, duration, total repetitions, speed of exercises, rest can be shorted or lengthened or total exercise volume. All of the above may gradually increase.
That means you need to change the workout you do every 2-3 weeks. By doing so, you can maximize your progress.

Types of strength training:

1) Full body strength training

2) split strength training

Full body training: Beginners

Beginners’ tips

I strongly advised to whom never performed strength training before; they should spend a few days performing the workout with light weight for 8 to 12 reps with the aim of getting their body used to the exercise regime. Full body training When you start a strength training program, begin with full body strength training. As a beginner, you should not do many sets or workout. As you gain strength and enter into intermediate-advance phase of fitness program, start split strength training. First you should maximize your workload per body part. Full body strength training hits all of major muscles of the body in a single session. This training trains the entire body at each workout session as you are exercising the same muscle groups multiple times. Full body strength training build a strong foundation for your entire body on which you can progress split strength training regime later.

ST program Use compound movement, symmetrical muscles and multiple joints at one time, help you do more in less time. Hence, it gives you adequate rest in between workouts, so muscles get enough time to get repair. Body will release more testosterone and growth hormone in response to full body training,
Full body strength training should be performed 3 days per week. Compound exercises include 8-10 exercise and stimulate all the major muscles in the entire body and create the greatest change in body composition in the shortest time.

To design your full-body training, choose one or two exercises for
Each muscle group and do 2 to 3 sets of each exercise.

Split strength training: Intermediate and advanced trainer:

Split strength training is great for intermediate to advanced trainers

Split strength training should incorporate large muscles groups along with small muscles.

Split training isolate muscle work that gives you enough time to hit muscles harder.

Moreover, you can target particular muscles.

Split training allows you to perform more sets, more reps, more exercises and you can use heavier weights. In this training, you have enough energy to focus on each muscle group of body. This training engages each muscle more deeply and thoroughly. It’s best to work only 5 or 6 muscle groups during each session. You can perform 3 days per week. In split training, the muscle groups that you are not working will get extra time to get recovery. So you can do more exercise of each muscle.

PUSH-PULL split strength training: Push-pull training is one of the best split training routines. When you perform push-pull training, it should alternate between push movement and pull movement.
Push training used upper and lower body muscles to push weight away from you and pull training pull weight towards you.
Push exercise: bench press, leg press, overhead press, squat, triceps dips, calf raise, quadriceps, chest, front deltoid, calves, triceps, hip adductors, lateral deltoid may work with push.
Pull exercise: bent over row, upright row, deadlift, weighted pull ups, biceps curl, shoulder shrugs, rear delt flyes, cable crunches, back(latissimus dorsi and teres major), hamstrings, whole back (bent over row, lying row, with dumbbell or cable etc.), hip abductors, lateral deltoid, biceps, hip flexors, upper trapezius, abdominal, obliques (may work with push)
Shoulder muscles involve both pushing and pulling movement, so it is bit difficult to put them in any group. But since anterior deltoid work with chest movement so it is useful to include it with push training.

Anyway, it’s your personal preference to choose any training method. You can try one routine for few weeks and you can make your own changes.

PUSH-PULL exercise:

Workout 1-day-1: chest, shoulder and triceps (bench press exercises warm up delt and triceps so go in this sequence only)
Workout 2- day 3: upper back or general back and biceps (same here upper back exercises has assisted by biceps)
Workout 3 day-5: legs-(quadriceps, hamstrings and calves), abs

Week 1 Muscle group Exercise
Day 1 Chest, shoulder and triceps Bench press or decline bench press or incline bench press; dumbbell flyes;
Overhead press; lateral dumbbell raise;
Triceps extension; triceps dips.
Day 3 Back and Biceps Dumbbell row or bent over row; pull down or pull ups;
Biceps curl with dumbbell or barbell, Cable row
Day 5 Legs and abs Leg press, leg curls; squats or lunges-; calf raise-; crunches or reverse crunches

Strength training Safety:

Keep your back straight when lifting. Don t hold your breath when you lift weight.
When you are in the middle of session, and something doesn’t feel right to you, whether you feel pain or you feel a “pop”, stop the exercise and have a doctor check it out
Don’t lock your joint while lifting weight. Lock joint can put lots of stress on joints, which may lead to injury.
Don’t bend and twist the spine excessively that can cause lower back pain.

Before you get started:

  • Gradually increase weights, begin with suboptimal weight rather than a maximum weight to prevent injury
  • Don’t sacrifice with proper technique and good body mechanics just to add more weight.
  • Listen to your body when lifting.
  • Never hold breath while exercises. Failure to breathe properly can cause blood pressure to become dangerously high. This can cause dizziness, fainting and headache.
  • Start with warm up to prepare your body for exercise and prevent injury. Warm up exercise warm the muscles, ligaments, tendon and joints, and make them ready for exercise.
  • End with cool down to prevent pooling of blood in the extremities. Cool down should be in the form of flexibility exercises that relax the muscles, joints and overall body.
  • Exercise program should be light during starting of first few weeks. Your focus should on proper technique and good body mechanics.
  • Listen to your body based on an overall sense of feeling of exertion
  • Muscles which have been trained should be rested 24 hours to 72 hours before you start the next session to repair them
  • Go through full ROM to improve flexibility
  • The intensity of exercise program depends on the number of sets, repetitions, the rest between sets, and weight lifted. The intensity can be varied to your goals and activity levels.
  • The core muscles should be stable and tightened while performing strength exercises at all times, so back is never arched and pelvic should not tilt anterior,
  • Start slowly so that your body gets used to the increase in activity, increase heavy weights gradually to prevent injury,
  • Don’t lock the knees or elbows joints while exercising, keep them around 90% extension
  • Rest is must between sets. Endurance training requires short rest or no rest while moving from one muscle to another muscle group. Strength training requires longer rests between sets.
  • You should workout around 3-5 times a week. Our body requires around 48-72 hours rest between exercises of the same muscle. Sufficient time is an essential for muscles to rebuild and recover.
  • Start slowly and gently and take around 2-3 seconds to lift the weight and 2-4 seconds to lower the weight.
  • The weight should be heavy enough that allow you to do proper all your repetitions.
  • Work on a full range of motion
  • Keep your body in good alignment that will enhance exercise benefits and lower risk of injuries.

Benefits of Strength training:

  • Increase strength of muscles, tendon and ligaments
  • Increase bone density and prevents osteoporosis
  • Increase metabolic rate by increasing the calories you burn, the more calories you burn, the more chance to Reduce body fat
  • Increased muscle tone and appearance
  • aids in rehabilitation –strengthen the muscles around joints to prevent from injury
  • Improve balance, strength and functional ability in older adults
  • Increase metabolic rate, improve bone density, increase strength, power and endurance, prevent from injuries,
  • Prevent injuries by developing a core strength base within the body
  • It creates a sense of stability in the entire body which allow us to stress full bodies more during strenuous activities.
  • Reduce the risk of coronary heart diseases and type 2 diabetes
  • Reduce the risk of colon cancer,
  • Maintain and reduce weight
  • Improve balance and coordination
  • Preserves functional activities,
  • increase bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis
  • ST improve balance, coordination and agility
  • Reduce weight or maintain weight,
  • Back strengthening exercise alleviate CBP
  • Making ADL activities easier.
  • Increase muscle strength, so you are less chance to get muscle injuries.

Strength training Principles:

1) Overload
2) Specificity
3) Variation


you must provide enough challenge to strengthen your muscles more than they are used to. Increase loads gradually and progressively. Training loads should become more intense as times goes. You would continue to increase loads until your goal achieve. If load is not increased over a period of time, it shows very little improvement.

Specificity Strength exercise must be specific to your goals as exercise should be functional in nature. Exercise should be specific to the type of strength required, and to the particular demands of the event. So you should have knowledge of particular types of muscular activity related particular event. Other factors like range and speed of movement, which muscles are involved with that specific event, which energy systems involved, intensity of that particular event.


Strength training program should be changed every 2 weeks due to rapid adaptations of the neuromuscular system to the exercise stress. Hence your exercise regime should have variation to avoid physiological staleness and prevent from boredom. In short, same exercise load for an extended period of time can accommodates your body to the training and gain reduces. So it is an inefficient to use the same workout program for long duration.
Variation should be by altering training volume such as repetitions, sets, intensity, duration, frequency, velocity (slow, medium or fast) training method, workout, or loads of training. You can also alter the mode of contraction of muscles such as concentric, eccentric or isometric contractions of muscles.

Strength training load:

The strength training load is in the range of 60% to 100% of RM. There is a relation between % of RM and repetitions.
Below chart shows you the relationships of % of loads to number of repetitions

% RM Repetitions %RM Repetitions %RM Repetitions
60 17 75 10 90 5
65 14 80 8 95 3
70 12 85 6 100 1

Selection of exercise;

As a beginner, you should choose full body exercises rather than splint exercises. Full body training is much more likely to stimulate day to day functional activities. For example, in day to day life we use many muscles and joints for functional activities. Keep isolated movement in mind during intermediate and advance training.

The arrangement of exercise;

For maximum effect, start your session with warm-up activities to reduce the risk of injury. Then go to the actual workout session. End with a cool down.

Order of exercise can be:

Large muscles group or multiple joints exercises should perform before small muscle groups or single joint exercises.

Whole body training for beginners

Push and pull muscles training for intermediates and advanced trainers
Perform exercises for weak muscles or joints of individual before stronger part of body
If power training is with your workout routine, perform power workout before other exercise session
Perform more intense exercise followed by less intense workout

General strength training quick tips

To increase endurance: higher repetitions with light weight
Build endurance: your starting weight should be 50% of your maximum lift, with 2 sets of 20 reps, 30 seconds rest between each set.
To build strength and muscle mass: increase the weight of lifts and decrease the repetitions.
Lose weight and tone body: starting weight should be 75% of your maximum lift, with 3 sets of 10 reps, 1 minute rest between each set,
Build bulk: your starting weight should be 90 % of your maximum lift, with 4 sets of 2 reps, 2 minutes rest between each set.
Rest days are most important part of strength training exercise. During your lift, tiny fibers in muscles tear. During rest, you body has the chance to repair these tears.


Untrained individuals- slow and moderate velocities
Intermediate training- moderate velocity
Advanced training- unintentionally slow to fast velocities is recommended. The velocity selected should correspond to the intensity and the intent should be to maximize the velocity of the CON muscle action. (2009 Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults ACSM) Risk factors of general exercises: If you feel anything below signs, stop exercises and consult your health care provider:
Dizziness and fainting
Nausea and vomiting
If you feel fatigue
Shortness of breath
Blurred vision
Muscular or skeletal pain
Excessively increased heart rate


Fatigue is known as tiredness or exhaustion; it can happen if you exercise beyond your physical ability.

Signs of fatigue:

Feeling tired
Fatigue that stay for long duration
Increase resting heart rate
Slower recovery or repair process after workout
Lower in performance of strength
Joint or muscle pain or aches
Constant soreness
Injuries due to overuse
Poor Concentration

Keep hydrated:

8-10 ounces water before exercise
3-4 ounces every 20 minutes during workout
Cool water is appropriate to drink
16 ounces for every pound of weight lost due to exercise (need to change sentence)


2009 ACSM position stands

2009 Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults ACSM