7 Markers of a Solid Strength Program
1) Your program must have clear goals and objectives.
You need to be able to articulate what your goal is. If you don’t have a plan, then it’s not really a strength training program. If you’re just going through the motions, then it isn’t really a strength training program either.
2) Your program needs to include exercises that target specific muscle groups.
For example, if you want to build bigger biceps, you’ll need to do curls (and other compound movements). If you want to get stronger at bench press, you’ll need to do rows and other isolation movements. There are no shortcuts here; your muscles will thank you later!
3) Your program should be progressive in nature.
Progressions should occur over time with each workout session. A good progression scheme would look something like this:
Week 1 – Squat 3×5, Bench Press 2×8, Deadlift 3×6
– Squat 3×5, Bench Press 2×8, Deadlift 3×6 Week 2 – Squat 4×4, Bench Press 5×3, Deadlift 6×2
– Squat 4×4, Bench Press 5×3, Deadlift 6×2 Week 3 – Squat 5×3, Bench Press 7×2, Deadlift 8×1
You get the idea. You should be challenging yourself.
4) Your program should have a solid nutritional aspect to it.
If you’re not eating right, then all your hard work in the weight room will be ineffective. The importance of nutrition cannot be stressed enough!
5) Your program should include assistance exercises.
Assistance exercises are like the icing on the cake. They help to target specific needs and/or muscle groups that you might be lacking. For example, if you really want those tree trunk legs, then you need to do some dedicated quad and hamstring training.
6) Your program should consist of “periodization”.
This means that you’ll switch up your workouts over time. For example, you may start off doing higher volume and lower weight when you’re first starting out. As you get stronger and build some work capacity, you’ll start lifting heavier weights for lower reps.
This allows for long-term progress and stabilization of gains.
7) Your program should be enjoyable and challenging.
If you dread going into the gym, then something is wrong. The gym should be a place where you enjoy going to. Having fun is encouraged!
The 7 guidelines above are just that … guidelines. You don’t need to follow them word for word. There are no secret strength training techniques that you’re missing out on.
You just need to make sure that you have a good, solid, progressive plan in place and that you challenge yourself over time.
Your program doesn’t need to be complicated, and you don’t need a “specialist” to help you; you just need the basics, along with an intuition on your part of what your body is telling you.
How do I start a strength training program?
Like I mentioned in the previous question, there are no secret techniques or programs that you have to follow. There is no magic pill or special workout equipment you have to do. In fact, if anything, you need to avoid the latest and greatest fads at all costs.
The basics of starting a strength training program are very simple:
1) Decide on your goal(s).
What are you trying to accomplish? Get stronger? Lose weight? Gain muscle mass?
2) Based on your goal, pick 2-3 exercises that are focused in that area.
For example, if your goal is to gain strength and lose weight, then focus on compound exercises like the squat, deadlift, bench press, etc. These exercises will help you to achieve your goals. See ExRx for more free exercise guides.
3) Start doing the exercises you picked at least 2-3 times per week.
Again, pick a goal that’s going to be challenging, but not overwhelming. Something you know that you’ll be able to stick with.
4) Make sure that you’re eating enough food.
You don’t necessarily need to eat like a lumberjack, but you do need to make sure that you’re getting enough calories so that your body has the fuel it needs for strength training and recovery.
5) Don’t obsess over the small stuff.
The latest super supplement or amino acid complex isn’t going to make or break your goals. As long as you have a good balanced diet, you don’t need to worry about getting every little detail perfect.
What are the best exercises to help me reach my goals?
This is completely dependent on your goals. Also, some exercises are just “better” for your body than others.
For example, if your goals are to lose weight and tone up, then exercises like crunches, sit-ups, and other abdominal exercises are NOT the way to go (see #1 in the list below). Most of these exercises put excessive stress and strain on your back. When you’re overweight, your body is constantly compensating for the excess load, which can lead to back pain and discomfort.
If you’re overweight, then your best bet is to focus on exercises that work the largest muscles in the most effective way. This will provide you with the most benefit with the least amount of pain and discomfort. See list below:
1) Compound Exercises – These are exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time.
They are also referred to as “free-weight” exercises because you don’t need any equipment beyond a barbell or dumbbells. The deadlift, back squat, bench press, military press, and the overhead shoulder press are all great compound exercises.
2) Body Weight Exercises – Another great way to work the larger muscle groups in your body is to just use your own body weight.
Push-ups, pull-ups, dips, burpees, and jumping jacks are all good examples of body weight exercises.
3) Stationary Bike – This is a good option for lower body workouts if you don’t have access to free weights or any type of home gym machine.
The key to any type of exercise program is to find something that works for you. There are so many types of equipment and exercises out there, so you need to experiment and find what’s right for you. I have a friend who owns a big box gym.
For the longest time, she was doing three hour workouts on the treadmill. She started to get bored and realized that she didn’t feel like she was getting a good workout. She had been telling me for months about this “really cool” suspension strap that her gym had bought. It has now been several months since she got those straps and she only uses them for warm-up and cool down. She spends the bulk of her time in the weight room now.
The moral of the story is that you need to find something that is challenging and fun for you. If you switch up your routine every couple of months, you’ll continue to see progress and you won’t get burned out.
This ends part one of this three-part series. Check back next week for part two where I go into detail about nutrition.
Until then, take care!
You Can Do This!
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Get on the waiting list now, before it’s too late!
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Tags: Beach Ready, body weight exercises, compound exercises, list of exercises, lose weigh, Summer Beach Ready, yoga
Sources & references used in this article:
Meta-analysis of the effects of exercise training on markers of metabolic syndrome in solid organ transplant recipients by C Li, J Xu, W Qin, Y Hu, H Lu – Progress in Transplantation, 2018 – journals.sagepub.com
The effects of ten weeks of lower-body unstable surface training on markers of athletic performance by EM Cressey, CA West, DP Tiberio… – Journal of Strength …, 2007 – search.proquest.com
Time course of performance changes and fatigue markers during intensified training in trained cyclists by SL Halson, MW Bridge, R Meeusen… – Journal of applied …, 2002 – journals.physiology.org