Whereas last month I told you about a minimal equipment set up, in this article I will explain the different components a strength workout should have to make it a full body strength workout. First a couple of words why strength training is an important part of your overall fitness and benefits and why people of all ages should do it.
The benefits of strength or resistance training.
- Strength training makes you stronger and fitter: Muscle strength is crucial in making it easier to do the things you need to do on a day-to-day basis, especially as we get older and naturally start to lose muscle.
- Strength training protects bone health and muscle mass. At around age 30 we start losing as much as 3 to 5 percent of lean muscle mass per year thanks to aging. And just 30-60 minutes twice a week of high intensity resistance and impact training was shown to improve functional performance, as well as bone density, structure, and strength in postmenopausal women with low bone mass.
- Strength training helps keep the weight off. Exercise science researchers have found strength training is helpful for weight loss because it helps increase your resting metabolism (meaning the rate at which your body burns calories when you’re just going about your day, not exercising).
- Strength training helps you develop better body mechanics: it benefits your balance, coordination, and posture.
- Strength training can help with chronic disease management. Studies have documented the many wellness benefits of strength training, including helping people with some chronic diseases manage their conditions. If you have arthritis, strength training can be as effective as medication in decreasing arthritis pain. And for people with type 2 diabetes, strength training along with other healthy lifestyle changes can help improve glucose control.
- Strength training boosts energy levels and improves your mood. Strength training will elevate your level of endorphins (natural opiates produced by the brain), which lift energy levels and improve mood
- As if that isn’t enough to convince you, there’s evidence strength training may help you sleep better, too.
The components of a full body workout:
Since most of us have a relative low training age in strength training, your strength training should be a full body workout (targeting most muscles and should comprise of the following elements /movements:
- Single leg
- Upper body pushing
- Upper body pulling
Now let’s look a little bit more in detail into all of these movements.
Squatting ranges from the simplest form of it (Air Squatting) to the externally loaded squat which can be a simple Goblet Squat up to the Barbell Front or Back Squat. It’s a highly functional movement (just think about getting to sit on a chair or simply going to the toilet). (Loaded) squats work your glutes, legs, hips, lower back, abdominals and adductors.
Bending exercises go from a simple waiter’s bow over externally loaded good-morning’s all the way to the deadlift. Bending exercises work your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, abdominal muscles and lower back muscles.
Single leg exercises
Single leg exercises can be anything from (weighted) lunges to step ups to rearfoot elevated split squats. One of the main advantages of incorporating unilateral exercises in a workout program is, in addition to working muscle groups in the lower body, these movements also place more pressure on the core muscles. The abs and lower back must be more engaged in a single-leg exercise than in a bilateral exercise to help the body balance. Furthermore, unilateral movements can also be beneficial if you have an imbalance between opposing sides of your body. This can create an asymmetrical weight shift, which is when one side carries a greater portion of the load in a specific position or movement. In sports, this can lead to injury.
Upper Body Pushing and Pulling
Since the shoulder is a complex joint allowing us to move in all kinds of direction there is a whole variety of upper body pushing and pulling exercises. Additionally, we can do them unilaterally (single arm) or bilaterally (both arms) and when bilaterally, we can execute the exercise with both arms together or alternating. So there is a multitude of choices to vary up the exercises. Ring rows, seated presses, bench presses, frontal and lateral raises, etc, etc.
Every workout should have some core exercises. Strength is generated from ‘core to extrimities’. When you have a weak core, it will transfer to the rest of your movements.
With core exercises it’s important to target the entire core. Very often people target the anterior core (the front part) whilst forgetting to also develop the lateral parts (the obliques). Here again there is a multitude of choices. There are Isometric (static) holds and isotonic movements (involving muscular contraction against resistance in which the length of the muscle changes). Examples of core exercises are: forearm or side planks, front leaning rest, deadbugs, side plank rotations, russian twists, hollow holds, etc…
Combining it all.
Now that you have the different components of a full body workout, it comes down to combining everything wisely and adding to it repetition schemes, number of sets and the required tempo to get the desired outcome of the exercises. That of courses requires a bit of experience but there are some (basic) principles to follow:
Some basic principles
- Overload: The first thing you need to do to build lean muscle tissue is to use more resistance than your muscles are used to. This is important because the more you do, the more your body is capable of doing, so you should increase your workload to avoid plateaus. In plain language, this means you should be lifting enough weight that you can only complete the desired number of reps. You should be able to finish your last rep with difficulty, but also with good form. When you are a beginner, aim for fewer sets with higher reps
- Progression: To avoid plateaus or adaptation, you need to increase your intensity regularly. You can do this by increasing the amount of weight lifted, changing your sets/reps, changing the exercises, and/or changing the type of resistance. You can make these changes on a weekly or monthly basis.
- Specificity: This means you should train for your goal. If you want to increase your strength, your program should be designed around that goal (e.g., train with heavier weights closer to your 1 RM, or 1 rep max). To lose weight, you might want to focus on higher reps, since that may give you the most bang for your buck.
- Rest and Recovery: Rest days are just as important as workout days. It is during these rest periods that your muscles grow and change, so make sure you’re taking adequate rest between training sessions.
In one of the next article, we will talk about the strength continuum, and training the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.