Tips for Those Who Are New to Strength Training

April 27, 2015

Here are a few quick tips on the best way to strength train.

First off, how about some suggested exercises? The best exercises for strength training are compound barbell exercises (squats, deadlifts, overhead or bench presses) or Olympic lifts (clean, snatch, and jerk). Lift heavy with low reps, and over time you can add more weight or do more reps as you get stronger. You might think that lifting heavy will make you slower or less flexible, but if you pair it with a good stretching routine it’s actually the opposite. Also – skip the machines. Basic fixed-path movements that isolate target muscles are often unnatural and can cause injury. While there are a few machines that have their uses – especially in rehabilitation, the majority of your routine should utilize free weights.

Don’t forget to “deload” every once in a while. Either if you experience symptoms of overtraining/consistently feel “beat up” from your training, or have a scheduled regular week (every 4-8 weeks). You can take the week off entirely if need be, or do a combination of (for example) light conditioning, lifting lighter or fewer reps than your usual routine, or doing different less intense exercises (such as lunges in place of squats).

Some more specific tips:

If you want to get more “powerful” (Power in a physics sense is the amount of work you can do in a certain amount of time – in a strength training sense, you can relate it to lifting more “explosively”) first you need to build up a solid strength base, and then work on introducing the occasional, explosive element into your routine. For example, some box jumps (5×3 once a week). Add more power work only when you aren’t seeing an improvement in what you’re already doing, even though your strength is increasing. Consider some plyometrics, where additional force exaggerates the stretch reflex (so jump off the box and immediately onto another one). But use it sparingly, since it’s high impact and increasing frequency doesn’t significantly improve the results you see.

Don’t have access to a gym? If you’ve got a barbell at home, you can still do deadlifts, front squats, overhead/push presses, bent over rows, or dead stop zercher squats. Throw in a bench and then you’ve got bench presses and floor presses, and if you can improvise a platform to rest the weight do some bottom squats.

Need to work on your grip? There’s a couple of different types, of course. Crushing (closing your hand against resistance)? Best way to do that is grippers. Pinching (also involves your thumbs)? Put two weight plates together – smooth sides out – place your hand on top with fingers on one side and thumb on the other, then try and lift. Wrist strength? Use a wrist roller (which you can make yourself with weights, a cord, and a PVC pipe. Twist the pipe hand over hand, and do it both ways ‘round to work both the front and back of your forearms. Finally for support grip (keeping your hands closed when something is pulling it open) try barbell holds and towel pull-ups.

Pasadena Personal Trainer Ron Le Fitness

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