5 Beginner Tips for Strength Training: by Ollie Thompson
1. Leave your ego at the door
First things first, one pitfall many people encounter when embarking on a strength programme is their ego. Ever walked into a gym and seen somebody trying to lift much more weight than they can handle? Bright red face, shaking, with a look of regret in their eye… I’m sure you’ve seen this all too often.
Lifting heavy weight and pushing yourself to your limits has its place and can be a hugely effective method of placing your body under the additional stress required to get stronger. However, you want to do so in a sensible and strategic way, ensuring you’re overloading with intent and not simply lifting more than you can safely manage in order to impress the person next to you. A primary reason why at 360Athletic we ensure each member works with the appropriate weight relative to themselves and their current capabilities. We ensure that all of our members lifts are tracked on our members blackboard to keep a safe and effective training programme.
We are all at different stages of our fitness journeys. Respect where you are at and lift sensibly. The last thing you want is to get injured two weeks into your programme and lose all momentum.
2. Focus on compound movements
Exercises can be broken down into a range of different categories. Two of the most important being compound exercises and isolation exercises. When it comes to strength training, you want bang for your buck, right?
Well here is where understanding these 2 types of movements comes into play. Essentially, a compound exercise is a movement that facilitates more than one joint to be in action throughout the exercise. Think squat, deadlift, press, pull, lunge etc. If we look at a lunge for example, primary joints in action are your hip, knee and ankle to a certain degree. Now if we look at an isolation exercise (whereby there is only one joint in action) such as a leg extension, we can see that only the knee joint is being used, isolating one muscle; the quadriceps.
From a physiological standpoint, movement at a joint is created from the activation and contraction of a muscle. So, simply put; the more joints in action means the more muscle in action, and the more muscle in action means that the more weight can be lifted. This means that greater stress is placed upon the body when compound movements are being performed. Thus, generally, compound exercises enable a greater degree of physiological adaptions to be made which is what we effectively seek to achieve when strength training.
3. Control the weight:
Lifting weight and placing your body and muscles under resistance can be a little uncomfortable, especially when embarking on a journey of building muscle, where muscular overload is pivotal in programming. When put under stress, our muscles fill up with blood, our breathing accelerates and a burning sensation is likely to be endured in the muscle as we begin to fatigue specifically during those final few repetitions.
A vital factor of strength training is ensuring that the muscles and body parts that are being targeted are effectively activated throughout the exercises. During this time of muscular stress and fatigue, it is vital that the aforementioned factors do not cause us to quit or begin to train sub-optimally; rushing through reps or altering our technique to allow extra muscles to assist.
A common mistake that can jeopardise progress is the rushing of movement. Simply lifting a weight as fast as you can and completing each set in record timing will reside in a subconscious muscle disengagement and a subsequent reliance on momentum.
Time under tension is a factor we should always have in the forefront of our minds during a workout and is absolutely essential in the effective growth of muscle and subsequent strength. The concept of ensuring that with each repetition we are controlling the resistance through the movement, making sure we do not rush is vital in an effective strength programme.
4. Track your progress:
As mentioned in point 1, here at 360 we use our blackboard for all of our members to track their weights and lifting progress. This enables both the coaches and members to ensure an overloading principle is being applied, members are being pushed and progress is being made.
Tracking your performances in your workouts, in particularly the amount of weight used and total volume completed in compound exercises, is a key part of the process to pushing your body to encourage the adaptations required for progress.
5. Don’t neglect bodyweight training.
It’s not all about picking up the heaviest dumbbells or placing the most plates on the bar. Bodyweight exercises have found themselves falling into a HIIT category in recent years, causing many people to believe that avoiding weights and using your bodyweight alone as resistance is for high intensity sweaty sessions only and therefore surely cannot be used to effectively work the muscles, let alone build strength.
However, this is false and here at 360 we love to utilise bodyweight exercise, often pairing bodyweight with weighted movements. With the adoption of the correct training protocols such as time under tension and correct technique, utilising bodyweight exercises are in many cases more appropriate and effective than weight bearing. We believe that controlling your own bodyweight through a variety of movements is the bread and butter of training. You must earn the right to place a weight in your hand or bar on your back.
It’s always important to remember that our body and muscles do not know whether we are holding a dumbbell, a kettlebell, a barbell or resistance band. Our body simply knows that it is being put under stress and the muscles are being placed under tension. Therefore, assuming bodyweight training is performed correctly (adopting training principles mentioned above) our bodyweight can generate just as much stress on the muscles as a dumbbell or barbell would.