Strength Training for the Everyday AthleteSubmitted by SharpHealth Team on Friday 8th October 2010
- Why strength train?
- How do you start?
- What should you do?
You don’t need to be a hulking bodybuilder to see the benefits of strength training. Every athlete, regardless of age or ability, can profit from consistent strength training. Too much, you say? Relax. If your idea of strength training is lifting massive amounts of iron over your head until a buzzer sounds, then you will be relieved to know that it isn’t that complex or strenuous.
Why Strength Train?
The goal of strength training is to strengthen the muscles you use in your sporting activities and daily life. As with other forms of exercise, this activity promotes fat burn, but also systematically builds muscle. How does it work? When you train with weights, you're using muscles to push against the extra pounds. This strengthens and increases the amount of muscle mass in your body by making your muscles work harder than they're used to.
But strength training is not limited to lifting weights. You can also strengthen your heart and lungs by "pushing" those muscles with aerobic exercises such as running or biking. These activities force your muscles use more oxygen, more often, thereby making them stronger.
The key is, build hard and slow. Of course, because of this slow-build process, it is easy to become discouraged in the early stages of your strength-training program. Results won’t happen overnight.
How Do You Start?
Getting started is always the most difficult part of any training program. A SharpMan interested in strength training should first determine his goals for the program. Are you looking to get huge? Or are you simply looking to stay toned and fit? Regardless, you are going to need some help.
Check out your options before starting a program. You can train yourself or you can have someone help you. Doing it yourself is obviously less expensive, and in some ways may be more effective. While you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to get a great strength training session in, everyone needs a little extra push once in a while. Working with a professional trainer or a workout partner with similar goals can make a huge difference.
The other option is joining a gym. Gyms and health clubs provide you with a variety of machines and classes that can help you focus training and maintain your interest. But realize that it is your own consistent motivation, and not the "fanciness" of the gym that will keep you going. (Not sure which gym offer is right for you? Check out SharpHealth’s How to Find a Health Club.)
Many gyms also have personal trainers on staff. Asking questions about the proper use of a machine is generally free, and you can also sign up for a personal session for a fee. Some gyms even allow workout partners to "double up" on a trainer’s schedule, thereby cutting the fee in half.
No cash for a trainer? Get a buddy to join and go with you. A workout partner is a great way to make sure you make it into the gym on those lazy mornings.
What Should You Do?
There is no secret formula for gaining strength. We are all different, and therefore all have different needs. One thing is clear: spread the wealth. Don’t focus on training just one area of your body. If you want huge biceps, you shouldn’t only do curls. The best strength-training program is one that works your entire body.
Here are some sample guidelines that all SharpMen can follow when starting a total body strength training program. Remember to focus on quality and not quantity when doing the following exercises. A good rule is to do two to three sets of 10 repetitions with adequate recovery time in between:
- Get warm. Start slow every time. To avoid injury, take five to 10 minutes to warm up before every workout. Easy cycling or jogging is a good way to get loose.
- Upper body. Bench presses, dumbbell curls, pull-ups, push-ups, and barbell curls are great overall strength training techniques.
- Lower body. Running and biking are great, but leg presses, lying leg curls, calf raises, and squats are just as effective. Choose one exercise for each major body part.
- Abdominals. Sit-ups are the most effective way to work your abs. Make a point of doing upper and lower abdominal exercises. You’ll find that getting those lower abs to burn is a lot harder.
- Cool-Down. Finish off all of your workouts with a five to 10 minute cool down. Again, biking or easy jogging followed by stretching is best.