The 12 Point Plan – 2. Strength

Strength Training - 12 Point Plan

Benefits:

Everyone should be doing at least some Strength Training.  There are lots of different forms of this and if you’ve never done any before, experiment a little and see what you enjoy most.

Benefits of Strength Training:

  • Increased Bone Density (and reduced risk of Osteoporosis)
  • Improved Posture, if programmed well
  • Increased Muscle Mass, which increases Base Metabolic Rate (this means you burn more calories at rest)
  • Improved Insulin Sensitivity (and reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes)
  • Improved Body Shape (and feelings of Self-Esteem)

In extreme cases, if someone lacks the strength to get themselves out of a chair unaided, carry their shopping home or put something on a high shelf, the improvements in quality of life to be gained by Strength Training can be dramatic.  This can be a tough journey to remedy though, so better to start now and then keep strong throughout your life to reduce your chances of getting to this place.

Actions:

At least 2 x per week, do a 20-60 minute Strength workout.

Ideally, over the course of the week your programme would include a mix of both bodyweight exercise and weight training movements (see notes on next page for examples of exercises for each).

Strength Training Notes:

You should try to improve both your capacity to control your own body (Bodyweight Training) and your ability to control external loads (Weight Training).

Focus mainly on compound movements (multiple joints) rather than isolated movements (single joints).  These are more like the movements you will perform in everyday life, plus they teach your body to coordinate muscle recruitment correctly.  They’re also more time efficient in your training.

Bodyweight Training – Gymnastics Strength Training, Calisthenics, or even Climbing could be thought of in this area.  Examples of typical exercises:

  • Pull Ups (all variations)
  • Climbing Ropes
  • Press Ups, Dips
  • Muscle Ups
  • Planks, Levers and other Bodyweight Holds
  • Leg movements @ Bodyweight – Air Squats, Lunges, Step Ups, Pistol Squats etc.

Weight Training – Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, Kettlebell, and other Weight Training movements.  Examples of these exercises:

  • Squats (Back Squat, Front Squat, Overhead Squat etc.)
  • Deadlift (all variations)
  • Bench Press/Dumbbell Chest Press
  • Bent Row/Dumbbell Single Arm Row
  • Power Clean
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Other weighted leg movements – Lunges, Step Ups etc.

Programming:

You will find endless examples of different programmes telling you varying ways of performing Strength Training.  Each will tell you that the rep scheme it’s prescribing is the ultimate way to make progress.  However, I don’t think there’s one perfect programme for everyone. 

There are some general rules that should be followed:

  • Train all six major movement patterns – Upper Body Push, Upper Body Pull, Squat, Bend, Single Leg, Core.
  • Vary the movements – change the exercises you’re performing regularly (every 3-6 weeks)
  • Vary the rep ranges – change how many reps you’re doing as well (every 3-6 weeks)
  • Your Training Age will determine effective rep ranges – if you’re a beginner to strength training you will benefit from doing more reps than someone who has been doing for longer:
    • Beginners: 10-20 (e.g. vary between 10-12, 12-15, 15-20 ranges)
    • Intermediate: 4-12 (e.g. vary between 4-6, 6-8, 9-12 ranges)
    • Advanced: 1-8 (e.g. vary between Singles, 2-3, 4-6, 6-8 ranges)

I believe the programme needs to be individualised for a person’s experience, current abilities (strengths and weaknesses) and goals.  There is a real art to this and finding a great coach to programme for you is essential.