How can I properly begin and quickly progress with strength training? Which strength training exercises should I do when I’m just starting out? How can I build muscle quickly? Do I need to follow a program? How many reps and sets should I do?
These questions are 100% legitimate for those new to strength training. So here we go, let’s take a look at the main points of strength training.
Set your objectives
Setting your objectives is important because it helps you stay motivated.
Generally speaking, a person gets into this discipline in order to gain muscle, lose weight (or both!) and to improve their physique or shape.
Determine your reasons in order to set your goal. It should be realistic. Looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Miss Bikini in six months is impossible.
However, if your goal is ambitious, break it down into several goals, like milestones to reach.
How does a strength training session work?
Each strength training session is done in three parts:
- Warming up
- Strength training
When starting out, it’s best to have a training program or a coach. As a beginner, it’s hard to know what to do and how to do it (and this makes sense), despite having many resources on the internet.
If you don’t want to break the bank with a coach, the Fitness Coach app is a perfect alternative. It’s great for beginners as well as intermediate and advanced athletes. The app generates a training program based on your level, so you can progress at your own pace towards your goal. There are several coaches and hundreds of different exercises.
It’s great for when you want to understand the basic movements of strength training and learn how to perform these movements correctly in any setting, with or without equipment (no need to go to the gym).
Don’t skip the warm-up
Warming up is essential. Its primary purpose is to reduce the risk of injury and, more broadly, to prepare one’s body for exercise. It should be progressive and last approximately ten minutes.
Focus on cardio exercises to raise your body temperature and to prepare your cardiovascular system. You can do some jump roping, jumping jacks, squats or lunges to recruit different muscle groups in your body and increase your heart rate.
Depending on the type of session (full body, lower body, upper body, etc.), you can choose your exercises accordingly. Do some exercises without weights or with elastic bands to solicit the muscles you’re about to work on.
The further you get into strength training, the more you’ll need to think about incorporating mobility movements.
Strength training session for beginners
Duration, frequency, number of exercises, etc. Let’s get to the heart of the matter.
Duration of strength training session:
45 minutes to one hour, excluding warming up and stretching. If the session is too long, you’ll exhaust yourself and lose performance and results.
Two or three sessions, when you’re just starting out, is enough and provides good recovery (which is just as important as the session). Make sure to space out your sessions. For example, if you choose to do two sessions, you can do a full body workout on Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays. With three sessions, you can also do a full body workout or mix your body zones (lower body/upper body) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, or Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Note: Overtraining is the best way to stop progressing.
Number of exercises:
This depends on several parameters. Obviously, it’s pretty customizable. Four to six exercises are consistent with a simple and effective session.
Number of sets:
A set corresponds to the number of repetitions. For example, four sets of ten squats means you’ll do ten squats four times with a break between each set. If you’re just starting out, you can do three to four sets per exercise.
Number of repetitions:
This depends on your goal. For people who want to gain mass, very short sets are recommended, with a maximum of eight reps per exercise. For those seeking to lose weight, long sets (12 to 15 repetitions) are recommended. These are just basic guidelines. You can combine the two perfectly. In fact, it’s even better to vary the way you train in order to progress.
Between each set, take some rest time. 30’’, 60’’, 90’’, 120’’. You can also vary this to boost your workouts.
This is unique to each individual. Ideally, the last three to four reps should be very challenging.
Stretching at the end of the session
Stretching aids in recovery, provided it’s done correctly. It shouldn’t be too long or too intense, or it’ll accentuate micro-tears to the muscles. This is not the time to spend several minutes trying to limber up! We’re just looking for a little tension; just a few seconds to release the pressure.