How To Create A Strength Training Program For Beginners – A Starter’s Guide To The Gym

How to Create a Strength Training Program for Beginners – A Starter’s Guide To The Gym

In this weeks post I’ll teach you how to build a gym strength program from scratch by understanding the processes involved when assessing your personal abilities and goals.

Find out how you can work smarter and more efficiently when it comes to strength training.

Joining the gym for some people can be one of the most daunting experiences they will ever have to face. Whether it may be the fear of being judged, not feeling good enough or having no idea what to do and how to start exercising. Getting started is by far the hardest step, but once knowledge beats fear and routine overtakes uncertainty in the gym only then can you start to see results

Strength training is defined as resistance exercises that are designed to increase the size and/or the maximal strength of a specific muscle or muscle groups. For significant adaptations to occur in both strength and muscle size, strength training must be conducted at a minimum of 2-3 times per week.

There are several excellent reasons to start strength training. Some of the benefits of training include the effects of:

  • Increased or maintained level of fitness

  • Increased body coordination and proprioception

  • Increasing and/or maintaining muscle mass

  • Preventing the accumulation of body fat

  • Maintaining functional mobility

  • Increase bone strength and density

  • Stop or slow muscular dystrophy – reduced muscle mass.

  • Decreasing the risk of metabolic diseases (Heart disease,/Diabetes)

Strength training is also known to increase muscular endurance, although this can only be achieved under certain types of training volumes and loads. Strength training through compound exercises where multiple joints and muscles are working together in one movement can also help with the co-activation other muscles by aiding in distributing the amount of work in each muscle evenly. This helps by increasing overall efficiency by allowing for weaker, unactivated muscles to create neural links to from the muscle to the brain.

Firstly, not every program is the same and should be personalized for each individual. The following should be considered when constructing an exercise program. This includes:

  • Needs Analysis (What are the major and minor goals of the client? What are you working toward improving? Do they have an injuries or metabolic conditions that contraindicate performing exercise?)
  • Exercise Selection (What types of exercises are going to be prescribed to the client? Are they safe enough to be performed? Are they specific to the goals of the client? Use of free weight exercises should be implemented as soon as possible with very good technique. Machine weights can be used to create a strength base prior to free weights but does not have the same positive effect on the stabilizing muscles in a specific exercise)
  • Training Frequency (How often is the client able to train? How many times should they be training to achieve their goals? How many times can they train to avoid over-training?)
  • Exercise Order (Important when improving on a particular exercise. Always undertake the exercise you want to improve on first while the body is less fatigued and able to output maximum force with acceptable technique)
  • Training Load and Volume (Exercise load and volume should be taken into account in regards to the fitness level and experience of the client, specific goals being met and ability to perform an exercise at a specific intensity)
  • Sets and Repetitions (In regards to the repetition maximum continuum, strength and power exercises require repetition ranges from 2-6 reps at 85-95% of 1RM (One repetition maximum). Hypertrophy is optimal between 8-12 reps at 65-75% 1RM and muscular endurance from 12-20+ repetitions at 50-65% 1RM)
  • Rest Periods (Specific to the type of training performed – Strength training with heavier weight require longer rest times of 2-3 minutes between sets. Hypertrophy or muscle building requires between 60-90 seconds and muscular endurance training strictly between 30-60 seconds)
  • Warm-up, cool-down (All clients should always be performing a warm-up and cool-down to reduce the risk of injury and soreness after each exercise program. Exercises that are specific to what will be performed in the program at a lighter resistance or body weight is acceptable)

There is no one size fits all program when it comes to training. When it comes to getting results you must work harder and smarter because quality training always beat quantity. Stay focused on your specific short term goals to keep your motivation up and work consistently and with intensity to get the results your looking for.

Marc Dressen, MSc
Personal Trainer London

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Aagaard, P., Simonsen, E. B., Magnusson, P., Andersen, J., and Dyhre-Poulsen, P., (1997). Enhanced motorneuron activation as effect of heavy-resistance strength training in man. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 29(5): S131.

Akima, H., Takahashi, H., Kuno, S., Masuda, K., Masuda, T., Shimojo, H., Anno, I., Itai, Y., and Katsuta, S., (1999). Early phase adaptations of muscle use and strength to isokinetic training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 31(4): 588-594.]

Bemben, D. A., & Bemben, M. G. (2010). Dose-response effect of 40 weeks of resistance training on bone mineral density in older adults. Osteoporosis International, 1-8.

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