Strength Training

The A-B-C's of Strength Training for Clients

The benefits of strength training are abundantly obvious to trainers and fitness professionals. We know that the right program, designed for each individual, can have a tremendously positive impact on each and every training client. And yet, our clients tend to resist resistance training.

Here, we introduce the basics of resistance training and many of the benefits, so you have a resource to "break the ice" with those client's who may be nervous to start training.  

High Volume vs. Low Volume

Training volume is directly based on your resistance training goal. When your goal is to increase strength, for example, use a lower volume than you would if your goal were maximum hypertrophy (muscle growth).

If your goal is to improve power output, the volume is typically lower again than for overall strength; focus more on the quality of the exercise than the speed or quantity.

For hypertrophy, you need higher training volumes, including higher repetitions and sets.

And finally, when training for muscular endurance your programs will involve many reps per set, lighter loads, and fewer sets.

Takeaway: You always want to use the appropriate type of training for your specific goals.

Endurance vs. Strength

Muscular endurance is extremely important, but when you train specifically for endurance, that’s all you’ll get.

The intensity and load you use for endurance development put less stress on the entire body as compared to training with heavier loads.

The main goal of endurance training is for the muscle to be able to perform a high amount of repetitions throughout a longer period of time.

But, when you begin to increase the loads placed on your body with less emphasis on endurance, this is when the body begins to break down well beyond just the fascia tissue.

The central nervous system and bone structure are introduced to more stress because of the heavier loads being applied. When you start training like this, you will experience more hypertrophy and improvements in strength, after proper recovery of course.

Strength results from gradual increases in load over time, which causes an increase in the number and size of muscle fibers. If you are engaging in resistance training for the first time, you will see a greater improvement in hypertrophy and strength through almost any program because of neuromuscular facilitation. This is when your muscles begin to "wake up" and become more fully activated during movement.

But this effect only lasts so long and once you become more advanced, the intensity of resistance exercise needs to be increased to improve the benefits and results.

The higher the intensity, the greater the hypertrophic and strength gains become (Mangine, Gerald T., et al.). This is because more muscle fibers are activated when the load becomes heavier.

Takeaway: Endurance is important, but only increased loads will lead to increase strength.

Resistance Training and Neural Adaptations

Not only does resistance training provide physical strength and more muscle mass, it also triggers neural adaptations. Neural factors are important in discussions of developing muscular strength, especially if you are new to this type of training.

Neural adaptations are crucial factors that will enhance your health, fitness, and performance:

  • Increased central nervous system activation
  • Increased motor unit organization
  • Increased activation of contractile apparatuses
  • Lowered neural inhibitory reflexes

Sports science research has found that gray matter tissue, which is tissue found in the brain and spinal cord that is responsible for muscle control and sensory perception, becomes denser with resistance training.

This density is highly connected to the motor control and cognition in the elderly. So by increasing gray matter, you can effectively combat aging and improve quality of life (Fontes, E.B, Libardi, C.A., Castellano, G. et al.).

Takeaway: Strength training is good for the brain as well as the body, in people of all ages.

Type I and Type II Muscle Fibers

Finally, we need to consider muscle fiber hypertrophy and type when discussing strength training.

There are two major types of muscle fibers, type I and type II. Both fibers get bigger after heavy resistance training, but there is greater potential for hypertrophy in type II fibers.

The growth of both types of fibers occurs because of an increase in actin and myosin, the number and size of myofibrils, the amounts of connective tissue, and from enzymes and nutrients in the body. Here are some things you need to remember about each type of muscle fiber:

  • Type I muscle fibers are referred to as slow twitch fibers, which dominate during aerobic, endurance, and low-intensity training.
  • Type II muscle fibers are also called fast twitch muscle fibers, and they are commonly associated with higher intensity and shorter duration workouts. It is the fast twitch muscle fibers that are likely to produce greater amounts of hypertrophy, as compared to slow twitch, type I fibers.

So, in order to increase hypertrophy, you need to engage your type II muscle fibers. You can do this by training at a high intensity, training with heavy loads, and training with fewer reps.

Takeaway: To develop more muscle mass, you have to engage type II muscle fibers through higher intensity training programs.

The Many Benefits of Resistance Training

We are now well aware that resistance training and overloading muscles will induce strength, bone growth, and bigger muscles. It’s a simple idea: a bout of exercise involving pushing heavy things that cause muscle damage, which forces biological change and adaptation. 

Regardless of age, you will greatly benefit from this type of training. Resistance training has been proven to help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, lower back pain, hypertension, and diabetes. Resistance training also increases bone density, the strength of connective tissue, and increases or maintains lean muscle mass which can make a world of difference for your overall health, fitness, and well-being.

Strength training is very important for a functional and healthy body, for everyone, so talk to your personal trainer about adding some resistance training to your program!

Ronnie Nicastro

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