When you hear the word “strength training,” you might think of a person with muscles bulging from their skin, lifting barbells and dumbbells in a gym. But that’s only one aspect of strength training. Strength training has many health and fitness benefits. It builds strength and muscle mass, and it helps reduce the loss of muscle and strength that comes with aging. Working your muscles against resistance will boost your metabolism and improve your metabolic health. For example, strength training improves insulin sensitivity and that helps lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
#1 Use Progressive Overload Always
Progressive overload is a must if you want to make progress when it comes to building muscle. Simply put, progressive overload is essentially increasing the amount of weight you lift over time. It is one of the fundamental methods and rules of muscle building that will help you build an impressive physique. The reason why progressive overload works so well, and why it’s so powerful in helping you build muscle is because your body adapts to the stress you place on it.
Progressive overload refers to the gradual increase in training stress that eventually results in greater gains in strength and muscle mass. If you’re an experienced lifter, PO might seem intuitive. But if you’re just starting out, it may be one of the most important concepts to grasp. Without progressive overload, your strength gains will eventually plateau since your muscles have adapted to our training.
How do you increase progressive overload?
- Increase the weight or resistance.
- Increase the time under tension by lifting more slowly.
- Increase the number of repetitions, exercises, or sets you do for each muscle.
- Increase the frequency of your training sessions.
If you aren’t using progressive overload, you’re not getting the most out of your strength training. You should increase progressive overload as the exercise gets easier at your current level of training. It’s a fundamental concept behind muscle growth.
#2 Focus on Compound Movements
Compound exercises are one of the best ways to strengthen and build muscle tissue. That’s why they should be the bulk of your training. They offer the most “bang” for your training buck. Many fitness trainers believe compound movements should make up 75% of the strength-training movements you do.
What are compound exercises? These are movements that cause multiple muscle groups to work in unison for a joint motion in order to move a specific weight, or piece of equipment. For example, during an incline chest press, the chest muscles (pectoralis major and pectoralis minor) contract to push the weight upward towards the middle of the body while the triceps and shoulders assist by providing power on each side of the movement to straighten the arm.
Other compound exercises include push-ups, pull-ups, bent-over rows, triceps dips, squats, lunges, and deadlifts. These are the biggest calorie burners too since they cause many muscles to move at the same time.
#3 Stay Consistent
Some people underestimate the importance of consistency. It matters! One of the hardest things to do is to consistently workout. You have a great week of going three times, but then follow that up with two straight days of slacking off. The only way you’ll get there is to take your training seriously. It can’t be an on and off again thing. If you find yourself slacking off, keep a fitness journal to keep yourself accountable. Write in each time you train. If you are not consistent during your workout, you will not see results and you’ll become frustrated and wonder why you aren’t seeing changes. It’s because you’re not putting in the work.
#4 Focus on the Movements and Using Good Form
Some people believe the heavier the weight you lift, the faster your muscles will grow. This isn’t always the case. In fact, using great form will stimulate muscle growth more by limiting momentum and ensuring you’re using a full range of motion. It will also lower your risk of injury. Training with impeccable form is also better for your joints. If you’re going to be training for a lifetime, you want your joints to stay healthy. So worry less about lifting as heavy as you can and more about lifting properly. Once you’ve mastered the technique, you can always increase the weight. Don’t rush it!
#5 Give Yourself Rest Days
Speaking of not rushing it, make sure you’re taking enough downtime. It is impossible to talk about training volume without mentioning rest days. Rest days are an essential part of any program that requires a substantial amount of volume, and strength training is no exception. They give you the opportunity to recover from hard training sessions and get more and better quality work when you do train.
After training a muscle group intensely, the muscles need at least 48 hours of rest. If you don’t give your muscles enough time to repair, you’ll limit their growth. Plus, training too intensely too often can lead to a rise in stress hormones like cortisol that cause muscle breakdown, the opposite of what you want. That’s why rest days are important if you strength train.
If you’re following a strength training regimen, rest days are an essential part of the process. If you don’t take at least one day off every week from strenuous resistance training, you can slow your progress or even sustain an overuse injury.
The Bottom Line
Now you know how to get the most out of strength training and it’s up to you to put them into motion. Strength training is one of the few ways to slow down the effects of aging. It keeps your bones strong and increases muscle size while burning body fat. No matter your age or gender, strength training will improve your physique and your health.
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