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Strength Training 101

Last Updated on September 29, 2017 by Jeff

The benefits of resistance-based strength training are incredibly diverse and numerous. To name just a few, they include: 

  • Increased strength and muscle toning, which helps you look great while protecting joints from injury. 
  • Better flexibility, mobility, and balance. Contrary to popular belief, strength training can actually improve flexibility as long as proper stretching and a full range of motion are employed.  
  • Weight management. Though diet and calorie-burning cardio exercises should be the foundation of your weight loss program, strength training can help improve your muscle-to-fat ratio while also increasing your metabolism and controlling cravings for unhealthy junk food.  
  • Mental benefits, including better focus, reduced incidence of depression and anxiety, and a decreased risk for age-related cognitive issues.   
  • Improved stamina and increased energy. Though working out will make you feel initially fatigued, maintaining a regular exercise routine will raise your energy levels over the long run, while preventing you from getting worn out as quickly.  
  • Prevent and/or manage chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease.  
  • Increase bone density and decrease your risk of acute injuries (such as fractures) and chronic issues (such as osteoporosis.) 
  • Sleep better. Studies have shown that regular exercise helps promote a healthy circadian rhythm and improve sleep patterns for the vast majority of participants.  

If you are new to strength training and looking to get started, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. There are dozens of equipment pieces and machines to choose from, and hundreds — if not thousands — of workout strategies to utilize. That´s why we have decided to simplify things and offer a simple intro to strength training for the uninitiated. Regardless of whether you plan on heading to a gym or working out from home, the following two questions can help get you started on a simple plan for beginners.  

What Type of Resistance Training Is Right For Me? 

Ignoring for a moment the plethora of workout machines available (which aren’t all that necessary for beginners) there are three basic types of resistance training to choose from. If you would like to go entirely weight-free to start, you can try bodyweight training. Pushups, pullups, chin ups, squats, lunges, and other similar styles can all provide a low-impact workout that is perfect for beginners. This is a great way of mastering the form you will need later to lift heavier weights and avoid injury.  

Once you are ready to add weight, dumbbells are the most affordable and most easily-wielded weight option. Barbells are more expensive and the baseline weight is heavier, but they do offer increased stability and a higher weight ceiling.

What Are Your Personal Goals? 

If you are focused on building dense muscle strength, then lifting a heavier weight for fewer reps and sets is the way to go. Opting for a lighter weight and more reps/sets, alternatively, will yield larger muscle size and more endurance.  

Regardless of your goals, however, it is important to choose a well-balanced workout plan that works every muscle group. (Though focusing on your biceps might sound cool, such a strategy is dangerous and unsustainable!) At a minimum, every program should include upper body days (bench press, seated row, bicep curls, tricep curls, and military press) and lower body days (stationary lunges, reverse lunges, squats, and toe stands.) 

If you have a gym membership, you may wish to slowly incorporate machines as well — but be sure to work at your own pace. With hard work, dedication, and a learning attitude, you will be an expert in no time!