4 Things Every Strength Training Workout Needs
When it comes to exercise, movement is movement. But when it comes to building strength, however, not all programs are created equal.
Are you looking for a new program or wondering if your current program stacks up?
One of the critical components of any effective program is your ability to be consistent. Do you go to the gym when you're supposed to? Do you pick weights that challenge you and up the intensity?
Related - 16 Week Strength Training Cycle
Here are the four components every strength training program needs.
Improve Strength Training Workouts
#1 - You Need the Right Amount of Frequency and Intensity
Consistent progress needs consistent exercise. If you aren't challenging your muscles enough when you lift, or you challenge your muscles too much, you'll never have a chance to grow.
Generally speaking, a strength training program will be performed three to four times per week. If you have limited time to train, three days is sufficient — adding a fourth when you can.
You can structure your workout in a couple of different ways — three full-body workouts, or one full-body day with one upper-body and one lower-body day per week.
There are benefits to performing a full-body workout every session, and there are also benefits for running a body part split. Your fitness goals will determine which may work best for you. When performing full-body workouts, you're guaranteed to have an exercise you can look forward to.
On the other hand, splitting your workout into muscle groups, you're able to give your muscles more time to recover before training them again. You can basically add more sets and reps for a split routine than you can with a full-body approach. Studies suggest this could lead to faster muscle and strength gains over time.
#2 - Hit Every Muscle Group
Ensuring you are properly training all muscles is important for a healthy and aesthetic physique. Targeting certain groups while neglecting others will yield serious strength imbalances — ultimately limiting your overall strength.
Your strength routines are pretty simple — you pull things to you, push things away from you, squat, and hip-hinge.
Squats are great for building all-over mass and strength, but they mostly recruit your quads. Hinge exercises work hamstrings. These include deadlifts. Other exercises that are beneficial would be reverse lunges, woodchops, and farmer's walks.
Try to have at least one movement for each focus — press, row, squat, hip-hinge to build a solid strength base. Then select two to three additional movements that you can use lighter loads.
#3 - You Need to Progressively Overload
You could be eating right, exercising consistently, and always making the right choices, but your progress stalls if you don't progressively overload.
In order to progressively overload, you need to play with one or more workout variables — these include the weight you lift, exercise variations, volume, and training intensity.
If you've been benching 135 pounds for 10 reps for a couple of weeks and you feel the set feels lighter, you have a few options. Instead of grinding the same weight, you can add weight, add reps, or try a different variation.
Making small increases in weight and changes in your routine are all you need to progress. Resist piling on more sets and reps and focus on increasing the quality of each rep.
#4 - You Need to Train Your Core
I'm a firm believer of using compound lifts to adequately train your core, but there comes a point where you need more core work.
Performing direct ab work has its benefits and drawbacks. Many of the drawbacks stem from trying to achieve a six-pack without understanding how your midsection works.
If building a better physique and getting stronger are a couple of your goals, you may want to try some bread-and-butter exercises that can help.
No, they won't get you a six pack in two weeks. But they will help you improve performance and overall health.
If you don't know how to activate your abs properly, you will eventually plateau on your big compound lifts. Weak abs are often the reason why someone won't achieve significant progress towards their strength goals.
So how do you train your abs?
I invite you to skip the crunches and sit-ups — they may be doing more harm than good. Instead, opt for exercises that force your core to remain rigid. These include planks and plank variations, weighted carries, and twisting core work like wood choppers.
Save your ab work for the end of your workout so your muscles are fresh for the compound lifts. The stronger your core is, the more power you will be able to produce from your legs.
Your core strength will impact how heavy you can lift.
Wrapping It Up
Choosing the right program to accomplish your goals is important.
Different workout variables can help you achieve different goals, how frequent you train, and how you develop your strength all play a part in making progress.