Desiging Your Own Strength Training Program
Finding a good strength training program is easy – it’s doing the work that is the actual hard part. But if you’ve reached the decision to get stronger then you’ve made a wise choice: people who are strong simply excel at things in the fitness world at a higher level than others. Whether your goal is to lose weight, gain muscle, excel at a sport, or just to try and get better at cleaning your house and raking leaves – strength training needs to be at the core of what you do in the gym.
UEFP will occasionally supply our readership with workout programs but we also get the point that some people just like the DIY approach. For that purpose, we’re going to cover some of the basics of what you should look for in a strength training program, however, you’ll have enough knowledge at the end of this to design a basic program.
Of course, knowing what you’re doing is a big plus. In a research study done to show the effectiveness of program design, researchers found that those who followed a basic approach of 3 sets of 10 repetitions with no other plan in place had no gains whatsoever in strength (1). That’s 12 weeks of training, down the drain. Oh, and that group that followed a plan? They had a 28% increase in bench press strength.
With that being said, here’s the basics of a good program:
Basic moves – A program’s main focus shouldn’t be on the leg extension. The big money moves – squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press are what we’re doing here, and seeing the weight pile on the bar is what this game is all about. Save the curls after you’ve knocked out 5 sets of heavy bench presses.
Overload- It’s not much of a strength program if you’re not getting stronger. That means that as each week progresses, you’re lifting weights that are heavier and heavier. It’s the principle of overload – you need to expose your body to a new stress in order for it to change (2). This is also when people start to get psyched out at the weight that they’re lifting (I’ve had clients QUIT before because they would get so strong that they would actually get nervous about working out). Don’t let this happen to you
Sets, Reps, etc- A beginner will do just fine with 3 to 5 sets of 5 reps. They key is the rest between sets – ideally you should be resting a minimum of 2 minutes between sets. The heavier the weight, the more you need to rest. So a deadlift workout could look like this:
Set 1, 135 pounds x 5 reps, rest 2 minutes
Set 2, 185 pounds x 5 reps, rest 2 minutes
Set 3, 205 pounds x 5 reps, rest 3 minutes
Set 4. 225 pounds x 5 reps
At most, 4 days will do the trick but I’ve seen people get strong on just 2. Plan based on your schedule.
Rest- Exercise is a stress, and strength training done for too long can fry out your nervous system. Recovery is critical to getting stronger, so for every third week of hard work, rest a week. Research shows that athletes that function on this 3;1 ratio have the most strength gains, and those who go above 3 weeks of hard training need more weeks to recover (3). Of course, you can’t recover on a poor diet. Researchers suggest that consuming 20-25 grams of liquid protein can help speed up recovery (4).
Getting strong initially doesn’t require a bunch of gizmos and flash – just lift something heavy. With these tips laid out, don’t wait any longer and starting getting strong!
1. Monteiro, A.G. et al. “Nonlinear Periodization Maximizes Strength Gains in Split Resistance Training Routines.” (2009) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23;4, 1321-1326
2. Heyward, Vivian A. Advanced Fitness Assessment and Exercise Prescription 5th ed. Champaign, Ill : Human Kinetics. 2006, pp. 44
3. Turner, Anthony. “The Science and Practice of Periodization: A Brief Review” (2011) Strength and Conditioning Journal 33;1, 34-46
4. Churchward-Venne, T.A., Burd, N.A, Phillips, S.M. “Nutritional Regulation of Muscle Protein Synthesis with Resistance Exercise: Strategies to Enhance Anabolism” (2012) Nutrition and Metabolism 9:40