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When designing a weight-training program, one should follow some basic guidelines. A blueprint is used when designing a building or a car, so that's exactly what you are doing when following these eight simple rules. To review:

  1. Write down your goals. Write down your short- and long-term goals. If you want to lose or gain weight, jot down your ultimate goal. Also write down what you would want your weight to be after a 4- to 6-week period. Be precise!
  2. Keep a journal. Record the results of each workout. If you don't have a chance to write down the results immediately, that's okay. Just make sure to write down what you did sometime before you go to bed that night.
  3. Movement prep. Taking the time to make sure the body is properly warmed up will help ensure that your improvements are injury-free.
  4. A strong "Core". Think of the "core" as an imaginary line anterior of the spinal cord that runs from the bottom of the hips to the top of the shoulder blades.
    Whether you're a stay-at-home mom trying to make time with your busy schedule or a fitness fanatic, make sure you include exercises to keep the "core" strong and functional.
  5. Have variety. Without variety, we can get bored, which leads to very little improvement or simply losing enthusiasm.

    The final three rules:

  6. Do Unilateral Work. Unilateral means "single arm or single leg movements and exercises." As strength coach Mike Boyle states, "Train single-leg movements (unilateral) over double-leg movements (bilateral) but neglect neither." It's important to perform single-leg movements not only for strength but also for stability training and balance. Try doing just a simple bodyweight squat without any support from the arms or the non-weight-bearing leg, and see how far you can bend down without falling.
    A good way to work this into your program is to do double-leg movements one workout, then single-leg the next. Or try going from bilateral front squats to performing single-leg squats with the back leg elevated. For the upper body, perform single-arm dumbbell bench presses or single-arm barbell curls. Any time you have to balance a bar or dumbbell, more deep stabilizer muscles have to be recruited. This makes the exercise more intense and more functional.
  7. Add Compound Movements. If you want to burn calories, speed up the metabolic rate, and add strength and explosiveness - then add "compound movements" to your training. "Compound movements" can be a series of 2 to 4 exercises performed in one set.
    These series of exercises can be as simple as a dumbbell squat into a dumbbell curl followed by a dumbbell press repeated 6 to 8 times. Or, for the more advanced lifter, it could be a bent-over dumbell row into a hang clean, followed by a front squat, followed by a push press for 3 to 6 reps of each. The possibilities are endless, plus you'll get the heart pumping, and you'll also create a lot of "oxygen debt."
  8. Oxygen Debt. I hate to see a client at the gym walking around talking on a cell phone between sets. Rest intervals between sets should be focused on how you feel. When your breathing is almost back to normal and you feel that you can perform the weight being lifted in the rep ranges prescribed, then you're ready for the next set (even before breathing returns to normal). So, create some "oxygen debt" in your weight training workouts. Your body will reap the rewards!
    It's your time, body, and money, so if you're going to spend an hour in the gym it might as well be as beneficial as possible. Try these eight ideas to produce the athletic and fitness level you desire and deserve.