Wondering about starting out on Strength Training:
Here are a few questions answered:
1 Firstly what is Strength training?
Strength training means using machines or free weights to increase the tone and quality of the muscles in your body. Many might picture a body builder with ripped muscles, but strength training is not necessarily that. Though you can take it to that limit, but I guess you should read further for more clarity.
Few of the common questions that might be in your mind if you are new to it:
2 Why do we require strength training?
Strength training is a must if you intend losing weight or want to look younger. I have disused this further in a post Preventing Muscle Mass Loss.
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3 Is it only for gents?
No. Strength training is not only for the men. Women can get well toned and lose considerable amount of body fat using strength training. If you are a lady you might be worried about gaining too much muscle and looking unfeminine. But this is not the case; due to different hormonal make up, women will not put on muscle bulk like men do.
A word of caution:
Before starting off on an exercise routine consult your doctor just in case there is anything you should be careful about. Also, initially train under a qualified trainer, to ensure you are doing the workouts right and to maximise your progress.
Let me start off in the sequence you would be needing this information for better assimilation:
Any things I need to know before I start at a gym or starting up a strength training routine?
4 Few gym etiquettes that should be followed:
- Carry a towel and clean up after using any equipment.
- Do not hog any equipment or machine – Others might want to use it. You might also share equipment in between sets.
- Store all equipment after use.
- Many people come to a gym to workout, other to work out and socialise, however do not socialise at the expense of your training routine.
- Keep your phone away or on silent. If you have to take a call, be considerate about others as not everyone might be interested in overhearing your conversation.
5 Mistakes to avoid:
- Not following proper form. Form means the way you do the strength training routines. By following the right form you will prevent injury and maximize your gains.
- Not paying heed to your body. Not paying attention to pain. If for any reason you are getting pain whilst doing any routine, it is foolish to continue. Either you might be using too heavy a weight or your form might be wrong.
- Using too little weight. If you can do 50 reps of a certain exercise, that means the weight is too light for any strength training routine.
- Not getting a trainer to show you the correct form.
- Being unaware of, or not concentrating on nutrition and hydration.
- Not tracking your progress. A lot of mobile apps and websites are available to track your progress in the gym. If you are not tracking, you will not know how far you have come.
6 How often should I strength train?
Anywhere from 2 to 4 times a week is ideal. You must account for leaving rest days in between to allow your body to recuperate.
7 Warming up:
Warming up means getting your body ready for the workout routine that is to follow. Ideal warm up would consist of doing some aerobic exercises like using a treadmill, stationary bike, elliptical trainer, etc. to move your muscles.
However a new approach to warming up is to do light weight of the sets you will be doing for your regular strength training routine. For example say you will be doing squats with a 20 kg barbell. To warm up you might start with body weight squats, then use a 5 kg barbell, and increase the weight in stages till you reach 20 Kgs. This prepares the muscle groups you will be using.
8 Type of exercises:
As a beginner to Strength training, I would suggest using more of machines than free weights.
This is because machine isolate a specific muscle or muscle group whilst you workout. With free weights a lot of other muscle groups come into play for example core muscles when doing squats. You will eventually want to train with free weights to get an all-round development, but you can focus on that a little later.
Most gyms will chalk out a training schedule for you taking into consideration you fitness goals.
9 What Weights to use?
The weight you should be using must be enough to complete each set plus about one rep more.
So, say you will be doing a set of 10 reps, then the weight should be just enough for you to do about 11 reps with good form. If you find that your form is lacking whilst completing the set, then the weight is too heavy; reduce it.
10 How many reps to perform?
For each exercise the ball park figure is about 20 – 60 reps per muscle group in total (Including all sets).
The following figures can be used with respect to your goals:
Goal : Reps per set
Strength : 1 – 10 Reps
Muscle growth : 6 – 15 Reps
Muscle endurance : 12 – 30 reps.
In between sets you should aim for about 30 to 90 seconds breaks. However, if you are using heavy weight then about 1 to 2 minutes is ideal between sets.
Muscles must be stretched to improve their elasticity. With age muscles tend to contract. By stretching them you will improve their tone, flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. However, improper stretching too can result in injury. So it is advisable to ensure that you have a trained instructor around, when you are initially doing stretching.
12 Cool down:
Just like warming up your body has to cool down properly to promote proper recovery. Also never have a cold shower without cooling down. It you do this, you will be setting yourself up for muscle cramps.
To cool down you can try aerobic exercises again or stretching the muscles that you have just used.
Hope this article has been informative in helping you get started. Kindly share if you liked it.