A fitness enthusiast & retired U.S. Marine, Kevin enjoys teaching others about body composition, military fitness & sports conditioning.
There are some basic concepts that should be followed to build strength. Depending on the individual’s fitness goals, he or she may want to do specific things. Bodybuilders focus on muscle size and symmetry. Endurance athletes desire to develop muscular endurance and stamina. Explosiveness is the objective for power athletes. Powerlifters attempt to lift the maximal weight possible. Each has specific goals which will be developed in very different training routines. Those who desire to develop a sound general fitness base should focus on the health-related fitness components of muscular endurance and muscular strength.
This article outlines the basic concepts of how individuals can improve their fitness and performance by training their muscles for power, strength or endurance. Identifying fitness goals allows one to implement a training plan to address those goals which follow principles of strength development.
Basic Concepts of Strength Training
Before jumping in and starting a strength training program, it is important to have an understanding of the basic concepts and terminology that are used. The following sections present an overview of strength training terms and different goals of strength training. This information serves as the foundation upon which well-designed strength training plans are built.
Terms Used in Strength Training
Bodybuilding. The goal of bodybuilding is physique improvement; focusing on reducing body fat while enhancing muscle shape, size, and symmetry.
Calisthenics. Calisthenics are exercises which generally can be completed without equipment. Used extensively by the armed forces, calisthenics are also known as body-weight exercises.
Circuit Training. Circuit training is accomplished by performing different exercises with little to no rest between each. Circuit training is designed to develop muscular endurance.
Compound Exercise. Compound exercises work more than one muscle group. The bench press, military press and squats are examples of compound exercises.
Compound Sets. Compound sets are performed by doing two or more exercises back-to-back which work the same muscle group. Conducting dumbbell flyes immediately following the bench press, both of which work the chest, is an example of a compound set.
Frequency: Frequency describes how often an individual engages in strength training. Frequency is normally expressed as number of times per week. This may be total number of training sessions, number of sessions by body part or number of session by type of training (endurance workout, power workout, strength workout).
Isolation Exercise. Isolation exercises primarily work only one muscle or muscle group. The barbell curl, which predominately works the biceps, is an isolation exercise.
Muscular Endurance. Muscle endurance is the ability of a muscle to contract for a long period of time, or repeatedly for a extended duration, against a light to moderate resistance.
Muscular Strength. The greatest amount of force that a muscle can produce defines muscular strength. Muscular strength is the goal of powerlifters.
Olympic Weightlifting. Olympic Weightlifting is an athletic competition whose participants strive to obtain maximum power. Olympic Weightlifting includes two events; the clean and jerk, plus the snatch.
One Repetition Maximum (1RM): 1RM is the maximum amount of weight that can be lifted one time by the individual. The 1RM will vary from exercise to exercise (Bench press 1RM will be different from military press 1RM which will be different from squat 1RM). Bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters and Powerlifters use this term often and the amount lifted while programming workouts are expressed as a percentage of 1RM. For instance; 5 x 5 @ 50%. Someone whose 1RM is 400 pounds would lift 200 pounds while someone whose 1RM is 300 pounds would lift 150 pounds. This percentage of 1RM is also known as intensity.
Power. Power is the ability to move a weight or overcome a resistance quickly. Speed is the critical factor in producing power. Maximal power wins Olympic Weightlifting competitions.
Powerlifting. Powerlifting is a competitive sport whose goal is to obtain maximal strength. Powerlifting competitions include three lifts; the bench press, deadlift, and squat.
Repetition: A repetition is one cycle of an exercise movement from start to finish. For example; a repetition of a dumbbell biceps curl begins when the weight is lifted towards the shoulders and is not complete until the weight is back hanging at your sides, the starting position.
Rest: Rest is the time taken between sets or workouts to allow muscles to recover.
Set: A set is a series of repetitions completed in succession. For instance; eight repetitions of an exercise, each performed one after another, would be one set of eight repetitions. In a training log this would be noted as 1 x 8.
Superset. Two exercises performed consecutively without rest and each for different muscle groups forms a superset. Conducting dumbbell curls immediately following triceps extensions is a example of a superset.
Volume: Volume is a measure of the amount of work done. The volume is calculated in the weight training as the number of sets multiplied by the number of repetitions multiplied by the amount of weight lifted. Volume is used to judge the difficulty of a weight training workout.
Different Goals of Strength Training
The type of training that is performed should be reflective of the goals and needs of each individual. Depending on one’s goals, specific training programs can target the desired results. In general, strength-training programs can be created to enhance the following general goals;
Muscle size: A principal goal of bodybuilders. While muscle size may be aesthetically pleasing, it does not necessarily help to enhance an individual’s performance.
Muscular endurance: The ability to execute movements repeatedly. A health-related benefit of fitness and the goal of athletes who participate in endurance sports.
Muscular strength: The ability to produce force. Another health-related benefit of fitness, strength improvement assists in making physical activities, particularly the movement of heavy objects, easier.
Power: The ability to quickly produce maximal force. A performance-related benefit of fitness and the goal of athletes who partake in sports involving explosive movements.
For the most part, the differences between the training programs designed to emphasize one of these goals involves manipulating the number of sets, repetitions, and rest intervals.
Quality of Training or Training Quantity?
The quality of training is how well the exercises are performed and is influenced by the technique and loads that are used when performing the exercise.
Training quantity or volume is the total amount of weight lifted. Many individuals often sacrifice the quality of their training in an effort to increase quantity.
In strength training, you should strive to train intelligently. In general, it is recommended that you perform exercises with quality rather than focus on volume. More is less: more volume is often less effective.
Choosing a volume approach also increases the risk of over-training. Over-training combines doing too much without enough rest which results in decreases in performance while increasing the risk of illness and injury.
Goal setting is an important part of any exercise program. It sets an end state which you desire to achieve and forms the basis for your plan for getting there.
Use the following principles when setting strength training and performance goals:
|Goal Setting Principle||Explanation|
Set goals using specific and measurable criteria. "Get stronger" or "doing my best" are not specific. Specific and measurable goals would include being able to bench press two hundred pounds, or being able to do fifty consecutive squats with one hundred pounds
Challenging and realistic
Goals should be something that you will be capable of accomplishing after putting in some demanding work.
Long- and short-term
The long-term goal is what you eventually want to achieve. A series of progressive short-term goals helps lead you to the ultimate goal by breaking it down into more immediately achievable, bit-size pieces. For instance, if the long-term goal is to be able to bench press two hundred pounds in one year, short term goals would include pressing fifty pounds in three months, one hundred in six months and one hundred fifty pounds in nine months.
Once your goals are set; place them in a conspicuously place where you will see and review them daily. These goals coupled with an exercise and nutrition plan then become your plan of action and milestones (POAM).
Records help chart your course as you work to achieve your goals. Record keeping is an important part of tracking the successes and shortfalls of your strength-training program. Often, results are not as expected. Record keeping allows you to analyze your training to see what works what does not work. You can then make the necessary modifications to your plan with the end result being the accomplishment of your goals.
The Training Log
Regardless of your individual goals, I highly recommend that you keep a training log. The training log is where you write out your training plan and note information about your workouts. Keep the training log and notes simple. Basic information for the training log can include the following information:
- Daily workout objective(s)
- Exercises or lifts scheduled and performed
- Number of sets and repetitions planned and performed
- Load or weight planned and actually lifted
You can get more advanced with your training log to can contain information about your diet, how you felt and suggestions for future workouts that are similar in nature. The value of this information will become apparent as you progress, analyze what you have completed and plan future training and individual goals.
Strength training has grown in popularity over the years among both the athletic and recreational fitness communities. Whether your goals be health-related or performance-related, strength training can significantly help you in reaching your goals.
Strength training is a science with are some basic concepts that should be followed to successfully engage in a strength building program. These basic concepts include; understanding the different types of strength training goals, set individual goals and keep records including a training log.
Still wondering if strength training is for you? Here are a few good reasons to strength train:
- Your muscles will get stronger and toned
- You’ll develop stronger bones
- You’ll reduce body fat while adding muscle
- You’ll look better
- You’ll feel better
- You’ll increase your mobility
- You’ll decrease your risk of injury
Keep checking back as I will continue writing strength training articles addressing fundamentals as well as goal=specific workout routines.
Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment with concerns, feedback or questions.
Until next time, be healthy and get fit!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2016 Kevin P McClernon