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Strength training, aka resistance training, involves exercises that target specific muscles to help build and strengthen muscle tissue. Thus any strength training workout aims to improve muscular strength, endurance, and physical performance.
A 7-day strength training workout program to help you build muscular strength
Reasons and benefits of a strength training workout
- Increasing Muscle Strength
Most strength training workouts aim to challenge your muscles with external resistance, such as weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises. The stimulus can lead to muscle fiber recruitment and adaptation, helping to build muscle strength and power.
- Improving Muscle Endurance
Strength training workouts can help improve muscle endurance, which is the ability of your muscles to sustain contractions over an extended period.
Continuously challenging your muscles through resistance exercises can enhance their endurance and delay the onset of fatigue during physical activities.
- Enhancing Bone Health
Strength training workouts can help improve bone health. The stress placed on bones during weightlifting stimulates the production of new bone tissue, leading to increased bone density and reduced risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
- Increasing Metabolic Rate
Strength training can increase resting metabolic rate (RMR), RMR is the number of calories your body burns at rest.
Building muscle through strength training workouts can help increase your calorie expenditure, even when you’re not exercising.
That is because muscle tissue is metabolically active and requires more energy to maintain than fat tissue.
- Weight Management
Strength training workouts can help with weight management and body composition.
They can help preserve and build lean muscle mass while reducing body fat.
As muscle tissue is denser than fat, increasing muscle mass can contribute to a leaner, more defined physique.
- Boosting Functional Fitness and Preventing Injury
Strength training workouts can improve functional fitness by enhancing your ability to perform daily activities and tasks.
They also strengthen the muscles and connective tissues, improving joint stability and reducing the risk of injuries during physical activities and sports.
- Mental and Emotional Benefits
Regular strength training workouts can positively affect your mental health and emotional well-being.
Exercise, including strength training, stimulates the release of endorphins, which can improve mood, reduce stress, and boost well-being.
You can adapt strength training workouts to suit various fitness levels and goals, irrespective of whether you’re a beginner starting with bodyweight exercises or an experienced lifter working with heavier weights.
Conditioning or Preparing Your Body for Strength Training Workout
Follow the guidelines below to help condition and prepare your body for a strength training workout.
Begin with a 5-10 minute warm-up to increase your body temperature and prepare your muscles for exercise.
The warm-up can include light cardio activities like jogging, cycling, or jumping jacks.
- Dynamic Stretching
Perform dynamic stretches to target the major muscle groups you’ll be working during your strength training session.
Dynamic stretches involve active movements that take your muscles through a full range of motion.
Examples include arm circles, leg swings, and walking lunges.
Dynamic stretching helps to improve flexibility, mobility, and muscle activation.
- Mobility Exercises
Incorporate mobility exercises that can address tight or restricted areas of your body.
That can include exercises like shoulder circles, hip openers, or ankle mobility drills.
Focusing on mobility can help ensure proper movement patterns and reduce the risk of injury.
- Activation Exercises
Perform activation exercises to activate and engage the muscles you want to target in your strength training workout.
Activation exercises can help establish a mind-muscle connection and ensure proper muscle recruitment during your workout.
Activation exercises include glute bridges, band pull aparts, and scapular retractions.
- Gradual Progression
Newbies and exercisers returning after a break can start with lighter weights and gradually increase the intensity and load over time. That will allow your body to adapt and reduces the risk of excessive soreness or injury.
- Proper Technique
Focus on using proper form and technique during your strength training workout. That can help target the intended muscles, prevent imbalances, and reduce the risk of injury.
Always consider working with a qualified fitness professional if necessary.
- Hydration and Nutrition
Stay hydrated before, during, and after your strength training workout.
Ensure you eat a balanced meal or snack with carbohydrates and protein about 1-2 hours before your strength training session.
That will supply your body with the necessary fuel and nutrients for optimal performance and recovery.
Warming up before strength training workouts
It is essential to begin any strength training workout with some light cardio.
What is light cardio?
Light cardio refers to low-intensity cardiovascular exercise that gets your heart rate up to a moderate level without pushing your body to its maximum capacity.
You will usually perform light cardio warm-up exercises at a comfortable pace. That will allow you to sustain the activity for an extended period without excessive fatigue.
Unlike moderate or high-intensity cardio exercises, the intensity of light cardio is much lower.
It focuses on improving cardiovascular endurance, increasing blood circulation, and warming the muscles before more intense activities.
Light cardio can also aid in the recovery process after intense workouts.
Why do light cardio before strength training
Performing light cardio before strength training offers several benefits:
- Increased Blood Flow
Light cardio raises your heart rate and increases blood circulation throughout your body.
That can help deliver oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, preparing them for the upcoming strength training workout.
Light cardio is an excellent warm-up exercise.
It gradually increases your body temperature and prepares your muscles, tendons, and joints for more intense exercises.
It helps to reduce the risk of injury during your strength training workout.
- Activation of Muscles
Light cardio helps activate and engage the major muscle groups you will target during your strength training workout.
It mentally and physically primes your body for specific movements and exercises.
- Energy and Focus
Engaging in light cardio can boost your energy levels and enhance mental focus.
It helps wake up your mind and body, making you more alert and ready to tackle your strength training routines with greater intensity and concentration.
- Reduction in Fatigue
Light cardio helps alleviate any initial muscle stiffness or soreness by increasing blood flow, which aids in the removal of metabolic waste products from the muscles.
That can lead to a smoother and more comfortable strength training session.
Examples of light cardio activities
Examples of light cardio exercises you can incorporate into your warm-up routine
- Brisk Walking
Walking at a much faster pace than your regular stroll can elevate your heart rate and warm up your muscles.
- Jogging in Place
Stand in one spot and jog lightly, lifting your knees up towards your chest. This exercise gets your blood flowing and prepares your lower body for the workout.
- Jumping Jacks
Start with your feet together and arms by your sides.
Jump, spreading your legs wider than hip-width apart and raising your arms overhead.
Jump again, returning to the starting position. Repeat the motion continuously.
- Jump Rope
Jumping rope is excellent for a light cardio warm-up.
Do the jump rope exercises at a moderate pace for a few minutes to get your heart rate up.
You can do that on a stationary bike or a regular bike.
A few minutes of cycling can warm up your leg muscles and increase your heart rate.
- Stair Climbing
Climbing up and down the stairs or using a stair climber machine for a few minutes can be an effective light cardio warm-up.
Other light cardio to try include
- Easy swimming or water aerobics
- Elliptical training at a low resistance
- Gentle dancing or low-impact aerobics
- Light hiking or leisurely biking
The light cardio warm-up aims to raise your heart rate and “warm up” your muscles slowly.
As stated earlier, start with 5-10 minutes of light cardio and gradually increase the intensity as you feel comfortable.
What are dynamic stretches?
Dynamic stretches are active movements that take your muscles and joints through a full range of motion.
Unlike static stretching, where you hold a stretch in one position for a prolonged period, dynamic stretches involve continuous movements as part of a warm-up routine before physical activity or exercise.
Dynamic stretches help increase blood flow, improve flexibility, and activate the muscles you’ll be using during your workout.
They prepare your body for physical activity, enhance joint mobility, and “warm up” the muscles functionally and dynamically.
Examples of dynamic stretches before a strength training workout include
- Arm Circles
Stand with feet at shoulder-width.
Extend your arms to the sides and make small circles with your arms, gradually increasing the width of the movement.
Reverse the direction after a few rotations.
- Leg Swings
Stand beside a wall or support for balance. Swing one leg forward and backward, keeping it straight, gradually increasing the range of motion.
Repeat with the other leg.
You can also do side-to-side leg swings.
- Walking Lunges
Step forward with your right leg into a lunge position, keeping your front knee above your ankle.
Push off with your back foot and bring it forward into the next lunge with the opposite leg. Continue alternating legs as you move forward.
- High Knees
Stand tall with your feet at hip-width.
Jog in place while lifting your knees as high as possible, alternating legs with each lift.
Engage your core as you perform the movement.
- Hip Circles
Stand with feet at hip-width.
Place your hands on your waist and make circular motions with your hips, rotating clockwise and counterclockwise.
- Torso Twists
Stand with feet shoulder-width.
Extend your arms out in front of you.
Twist your torso to the right, allowing your arms to swing with the movement. Return to the center and then twist to the left.
Why do dynamic stretches before a strength training workout
You usually perform dynamic stretches before a strength training workout for several reasons.
- Increased Range of Motion
Dynamic stretches take your muscles and joints through a full range of motion. That can help improve flexibility and mobility, benefiting exercises like squats or overhead presses,
that require a wide range of motion.
Dynamic stretches can enhance your movement capacity and optimize your performance during strength training workouts.
- Muscle Activation
Dynamic stretches involve active movements that engage and activate the muscles you will use in your strength training workout.
That can help “wake up” those muscles and prepare them for the upcoming exercises.
Priming the muscles beforehand can improve responsiveness and ensure optimal muscle recruitment during your strength training workout.
- Injury Prevention
Dynamic stretching helps to “warm up” the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, increasing their elasticity and reducing the risk of injury.
They enhance blood flow to the muscles, helping to improve their flexibility and resilience.
- Mental Preparation
Dynamic stretches can help you to mentally focus and get into the right mindset for your strength training workout.
- Enhancement in Performance
Dynamic stretches before strength training workouts can enhance your overall performance. They can optimize your strength, power, and stability during the session.
That can lead to improved exercise technique, more strength gains, and better workout outcomes.
What are mobility exercises?
Mobility exercises are movements and exercises that focus on increasing joint mobility, flexibility, and range of motion.
They target the mobility and function of joints, muscles, and connective tissues, helping to improve movement quality and overall physical performance.
Examples of mobility exercises before your strength training workout include:
- Shoulder Circles
Stand tall with feet at hip-width.
Extend your arms to the sides at shoulder height. Make small circles with your shoulders, gradually increasing the size of the rings.
Reverse the direction after a few rotations.
- Hip Openers
Stand with feet at hip-width.
Place your hands on your waist and make circular motions with your hips, rotating clockwise and counterclockwise.
The exercise helps improve hip mobility and flexibility.
- Cat-Cow Stretch
Start on all fours with hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
Arch your back and lift your chest as you inhale while lowering your belly towards the floor (cow position).
Round your back towards the ceiling and tuck your chin to your chest (cat position) as you exhale.
Repeat the movement, flowing smoothly between the two positions.
- Ankle Circles
Sit or stand with one foot lifted off the floor. Rotate your ankle in circles, first clockwise and then counterclockwise.
Perform the movement for a few repetitions and then switch to the other ankle.
The exercise helps improve ankle mobility and flexibility.
- Wrist Rolls
Extend your arms in front of you with palms facing down.
Roll your wrists in a circular motion, first in one direction and then the other.
The exercise targets wrist mobility and can help with gripping or lifting activities.
- Neck Rolls
Stand tall with feet at shoulder-width.
Slowly roll your head in a circular motion, starting from one side and moving to the other. Be gentle and avoid any jerking or sudden movements.
The exercise helps improve neck mobility and helps to release tension in the neck and upper back.
Example 7-Day Strength Training Workout Program
The 7-day strength training workout program suggested here focuses on different muscle groups each day.
Please consult a fitness professional or doctor before starting, if necessary.
Day 1: Chest and Triceps
- Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Dumbbell Flyes: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Tricep Dips: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Overhead Tricep Extension: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Push-ups: 2 sets of maximum reps
Day 2: Back and Biceps
- Deadlifts: 3 sets of 6-8 reps
- Lat Pulldowns: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Seated Cable Rows: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Barbell Bicep Curls: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Hammer Curls: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Day 3: Legs
- Squats: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Leg Press: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Lunges: 3 sets of 10-12 reps per leg
- Leg Extensions: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Hamstring Curls: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Day 4: Shoulders and Abs
- Overhead Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Lateral Raises: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Front Raises: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Upright Rows: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Plank: 3 sets, hold for 30-60 seconds each
Day 5: Chest and Triceps (NB: Different exercises from Day 1)
- Incline Bench Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Chest Dips: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Cable Crossovers: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Skull Crushers: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Tricep Pushdowns: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Day 6: Back and Biceps (Different exercises from Day 2)
- Barbell Rows: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Pull-ups or Assisted Pull-ups: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Dumbbell Rows: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Concentration Curls: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Preacher Curls: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Day 7: Legs (Different exercises from Day 3)
- Romanian Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Goblet Squats: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Step-ups: 3 sets of 10-12 reps per leg
- Calf Raises: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Seated Leg Curls: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Warm up before starting the exercises with some light cardio and dynamic stretches.
- Ensure you rest for at least one day a week to allow your body to recover and adapt to the training stimulus.
- Adjust the weights and reps according to your fitness level, gradually increasing them as you progress.
- Pay attention to your pre-workout foods, what you eat and drink during the strength training workout, and your post-workout meals. They are as vital as the exercises.
Tips to help you get the most out of your strength training workout
Consider implementing the following to help you get the most out of your strength training workout.
- Set Clear Goals
Define your goals and objectives for your strength training workout.
Decide whether you want to build muscle, increase strength, improve athletic performance, or enhance overall fitness.
Having or setting clear goals will help you structure your workouts and track your progress.
- Plan and Follow a Structured Program
Design or follow a well-structured strength training program that aligns with your goals.
The program should include exercises that target all major muscle groups, incorporate progressive overload, and allow for adequate rest and recovery.
- Focus on Proper Form and Technique
Prioritize focusing on form and technique during each exercise.
That will ensure you effectively target the intended muscle groups and reduce the risk of injury.
Consider working with a qualified fitness professional or trainer if necessary.
- Warm Up Appropriately
Warm up your muscles and prepare your body before starting your strength training exercises. Include light cardio activities, dynamic stretches, and activation exercises to increase blood flow, improve joint mobility, and activate the muscles you intend to target during your workout.
- Gradually Increase Intensity
Gradually increase the intensity of your strength training workouts over time.
That can involve adding more weight, increasing the number of repetitions, or challenging yourself with advanced variations of the exercises.
Progressive overload is the key to stimulating muscle growth and strength gains.
- Focus on Compound Exercises
Incorporate compound exercises into your routine.
These exercises target and work multiple muscle groups and joints.
Compound exercises are efficient and effective for building overall strength and muscle mass.
- Vary Your Routine
Incorporate variety into your routine to keep you motivated.
Alternate between different exercises, training methods, equipment, and rep ranges. That can help prevent plateaus, keep your muscles engaged, and maintain your level of motivation.
- Listen to Your Body
Pay attention to your body’s signals and adjust your workouts accordingly.
Modify the exercise or seek guidance from a professional if you feel pain or discomfort. Make room for adequate rest and recovery days to avoid overtraining and help your muscles to repair and grow.
- Fuel Your Body Properly
Maintain a balanced diet, and eat foods that can supply the necessary nutrients for muscle recovery and growth.
Ensure you consume enough protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to support your training goals.
Stay hydrated throughout your strength training workout as well.
- Track Your Progress
Record your workouts, including the exercises, sets, reps, and weights.
Tracking your progress will allow you to monitor improvements, identify areas for adjustment, and stay motivated as your strength and fitness levels increase.
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- Schoenfeld B. J., Ogborn D., Krieger J. W. 2016. Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2016 Nov;46(11):1689-1697. doi: 10.1007/s40279-016-0543-8. National Library of Medicine
- Suchomel T. J., Sophia Nimphius S., et al. 2018. The Importance of Muscular Strength: Training Considerations. Sports Med. 2018 Apr;48(4):765-785. doi: 10.1007/s40279-018-0862-z. National Library of Medicine
- Luca Maestroni L., Read P., Bishop C., et al. 2020. The Benefits of Strength Training on Musculoskeletal System Health: Practical Applications for Interdisciplinary Care. Sports Med. 2020 Aug;50(8):1431-1450. doi: 10.1007/s40279-020-01309-5. National Library of Medicine