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Strength Training Basics

We've all heard what a necessary part it is of overall health improvement, so making sure you're doing it right is most important. Incorrect weight training can be more harmful than neglecting it altogether, so here are a few basic strength training strategies to get you going down the correct path.

Warm up

Spend at least 5 minutes before each workout warming up your muscles by walking, stairclimbing, biking, or jogging at a low intensity. This decreases your risk of injury and makes those first few minutes of your workout easier. You can progress gradually and more comfortably to higher intensities. Cold muscles feel stiff, and if you force them to work before getting the blood flowing, they can revolt, tighten up, and make your exercise session miserable. Warm muscles and gradual intensity progression will ensure memories of a pain-free workout, which will invite you back again and again.

Go light

When youíre trying to figure out how much weight you should be lifting, start with less than you think you should. The first few repetitions should feel easy. Concentrate on the specific muscles youíre working -- surrounding muscles sometimes butt-in and try to help out, but this contaminates your form, renders the exercise less effective, and causes bad posture and tightness. Stretch tall, keeping the line from your lower back, up your spine, through your neck and out the top of your head perfectly straight. This is the most important part of exercise. You should lift a weight that allows you to confidently maintain this form for 10 to 12 repetitions with the final 2 to 3 repetitions being challenging. Increase your weights just a little at a time (5% more) after a couple of weeks Ė only if the last few reps (using strict form) are no longer challenging.

For the first few weeks, beginners should attempt only 1 set of 10 to 12 repetitions for each muscle group. (Back, chest, butt, quadriceps, hamstrings, shoulders, triceps, and biceps). As you get stronger and feel up to more of a challenge, progress to 2 and 3 sets. For the record, if lack of time is a factor for you, 1 set is sufficient for increasing your strength and improving your appearance. The difference between 1 set and multiple sets is not drastic.


Omitting flexibility training after working out is a mistake I see all the time in the gym. Itís not a disposable task like making your bed, and itís one way to ensure injury-free recovery. In addition, it takes a minimum of 5 minutes a day. In fact, it would be better to chose stretching over strength training if you had to make a choice between the two of them. Without stretching, your muscles become shorter, unbalanced, and inflexible just because of the tightening nature of strength training.

Remember to stretch each muscle group you exercise and hold for at least 20 seconds. Make each stretch gentle, pushing yourself just until you feel a full stretch. Pushing your muscles into the pain zone will cause the muscles and tendons to reject the stretch and the risk of injury will increase.

Forget sit ups

Every exercise is an abs exercise. Standard crunches and sit ups arenít the best way to strengthen your abs properly: Think about the motion involved in a sit up. Your main emphasis is on shortening the rectus abdominus (the long muscle down the center of your ab cavity). This doesnít do much for your appearance or posture because I can almost guarantee you never perform that motion in your daily activities, unless youíre lifting objects off the ground, lying on your back, using your forehead. Try this: Before each exercise, lengthen your spine, pull your belly button in toward your spine and up toward your ribcage using your stomach muscles Ė continue to breath normally. All of your abdominal muscles will be activated and trained inward correctly. Connect proper ab contraction with other exercises and daily activities, and it will become second nature.

Consistency guarantees progress

Now you have a good idea of what it takes to safely make progress toward better health, so make a commitment to yourself to make it a part of your lifeís routine. Strength training works when you do it regularly because youíre building a strong fitness base and adding to it every time you work out. Frequent lulls and sporadic training mean starting at the base over and over again and progress is hard to see that way.

The gains you can make are truly exciting and will change your life, but it must become a part of your life.

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