These past three weeks I’ve highlighted the three most common tools for strength training: Bodyweight Exercises, Weight Machines, and Free Weights. Each of these has its own set of positive and negative features, but none are considered the end-all-be-all of strength training.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless tools out there that can help you improve muscular strength. Resistance bands, cable columns, hydraulic machines, suspension bands…the list can go on and on. All of them have pros and cons, and I would recommend you try a few of them to find which you like the most.
But since we’ve talked about the big three tools out there, let’s talk about how to put all of that knowledge into action.
Designing a Strength Training Program for You
There are several factors that should be considered when you begin a resistance training routine.
Determine Your Goals
It’s common for an individual to jump into a new training program and just take off. He or she may only repeat a small handful of exercises previously used, or go all out – trying any and every exercise he or she has ever seen.
So let’s slow down, take a step back, and ask ourselves:
What do I want to accomplish with strength training?
Am I looking to improve my posture? Build muscle mass? Gain more stability? Correct a muscle imbalance or injury?
It is important to know where you want to go, then figure out the best way to get there. Knowing your goals will help to develop a majority of your exercise routine. Meeting with a personal trainer is a great way to determine these goals and start you down the right path.
This can, at times, be a difficult idea to grasp, especially with folks that used to be very active and/or exercise regularly. You remember being able to perform at a certain level, so you jump right in where you left off. I could do it then, I can do it now, right?
The biggest problem here, and the biggest reason you should start slow, is that you need to learn (or relearn) how to perform each exercise with GOOD TECHNIQUE. It is much easier to learn with a lighter, more manageable level of resistance, and it will avoid risking injury early on in your routine.
That’s not to say you can’t get a good workout during those first few sessions. You can still tire yourself out and make physical improvements with these lighter workouts. Just make sure the level of intensity is appropriate so you can get your body used to the proper form.
Lastly, remember to make this a commitment for the long term. You can see tremendous improvement early on in a resistance training program, but the major physiological gains occur over time.
Be sure to choose exercises (and equipment) that make your workout enjoyable. And always keep in mind those goals you’ve set to help you stick with it.
What successes or failures have you experienced with strength training programs? Tell us about it in the comments below!