The most obvious ‘do’ of strength training is to get stronger. But how does one go about doing that?
This article will show you the general ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of strength training to stop you making silly mistakes. Think of it as a ‘rookie’s guide’ to guide you away from the classic mistakes most people make when they start strength training.
Your muscles, joints, and central nervous system will be sensitive to new stimuli : resistance; fatigue; volume; intensity, or; frequency.
This doesn’t mean that just because it produces a good result it is optimal for you. As an example – a high volume training routine will certainly get you stronger, volume is a great
factor to base your training around, but too much volume you will burn out in a matter of weeks.
Burning out at some point in your training is always going to happen, particularly if you’re serious about strength training, and I know this sounds terrible, but it can be monitored and used to your advantage.
However, burning out repeatedly over a short space of time will burn out your central nervous system quicker and seriously affect how well you recover, both at this point in your training and in the future.
In this example, what you should do is start off with low volume and increase it slowly – if you’re able to handle more volume one week then you are stronger than the previous week.
So – don’t over shoot your volume. Do – start with your volume at a manageable (maybe slightly easy) level and then gradually push it week to week.
Recovery is a major factor in any style of training, but just like excessive volume, in strength training fatigue can lead you to burning out quickly.
In order to manipulate volume to a point where its challenging but also manageable means that you have to have your recovery protocols nailed on.
There are a number of ways to help you recover, the most simple is to make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
Lets have a little look at a list of other ways to achieve it proper recovery –
- Kinotherapy – this is where you rapidly discard of the waste products in your muscles, such as Lactic Acid. This would entail either some light aerobic work or stretching. More commonly known as ‘Active Rest’
- Complete rest – This is basically just sleep. It is recommended that you get 9-10 hours sleep when you are an active athlete. Not all of this sleep has to come at night, 10-20% can be made up in power naps throughout the day.
- Massage – by a properly sports trained masseuse/massuer … not a girl wearing suspenders
- Heat Therapy
- Contrast baths/showers – Beware though if you finish with cold you’ll feel more awake, but if you finish with warm you’ll feel drowsy quickly. Keep that in mind if you’re about to drive home!
Do – make sure you manage your recover. Don’t – let yourself get too overworked too often.
Make sure that you learn the proper movements. This includes how the pattern of the movement should look, what it does for you and how to vary it in order to fit it to your own body.
Varying a movement, such as changing the foot stance on a squat can be done for a variety of reasons.
For example, the stance could result in more quadriceps development (going a narrower stance), more glute development (wider stance), or simply just be done in order to find the best pattern for you.
Longer femurs relative to your height would generally mean a wider stance etc.
Do – learn how to do the movement correctly and efficiently for your biomechanics or for your specific goals. Don’t – just assume you’re doing it right and end up hurt. It is always worth having
someone check you’re doing it right, even if you just video your lifts and watch it back yourself.
Learning about nutrition will also help you on your path to getting as strong as possible.
In no way am I suggesting that you may need to understand nutrition down to the point where you could identify the different endocrinological effects of the different macronutrients upon your body – but you will definitely benefit from learning how to use food to help you recover and recharge you before a session.
[Editor: Yeah … like me].
However, it is the easiest way to judge if you’re eating enough for your current goals. You can’t get to your goals without adequate fuel. While on this point, food should be viewed as more than just food.
Don’t forget it should be a pleasurable experience and one often enjoyed with other people – it is not just fuel or something to feel guilty about!
Do – learn enough about nutrition to adequately sustain your programme and enjoy your life.
Don’t – ignore nutrition to the point where you can not possibly recover and then wonder why your hours in the gym aren’t getting you anywhere.
Also don’t – have such an unhealthy relationship with food that you can’t enjoy yourself at a family meal or out with a friend.
Setting manageable and achievable goals is a major part of any strength training programme. This can come down to goals to hit over the coming weeks, months, or years. These goals also don’t have
to focus on numbers – e.g – hit 200kg on squat etc, – they could also be based around nailing a particular movement pattern, or just generally feeling better.
However, if you go for a goal that is unlikely to be hit then you might find yourself struggling to adhere to your plan at all due to this disappointment. In this case it would be worth re-evaluating where you currently are and where you can get to.
Do – set goals, make them manageable and achievable within your given time frame.
Don’t – set goals that are too vague to achieve as this will definitely affect how well you stick to your plan when you fail to see improvements.
An often forgotten benefit of strength training is the effect it can have upon your posture.
In today’s world nearly everyone has a bit of a slouch in their shoulders thanks to laptops, mobile phones, driving and desk jobs. Strength training can help with this – by strengthening the rear shoulders and upper back you might find that your slouch starts to improve and you can stand a little taller.
However, there is a flip side to this coin and its actually quite common. A good deal of ‘gym bros’ will decide to only train the muscles they deem impressive – the chest and biceps.
If this happens then the tightening up and increase in size of the chest will draw the shoulders further forward, into more of a slouch, and weaken the back (in terms of an imbalance) and therefore further worsen this posture.
Do – use strength training to improve your posture.
Don’t – use an imbalanced training programme which exacerbates bad posture.
Strength training is fantastic, but there’s many common pitfalls.
You might not get it perfect straight away but you can at least put these points into action and then start yourself off on the right path.
Focus on the ‘dos’ and avoid as many of the ‘don’ts’ as possible and you will find that you start making gains quickly.