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Essential Strength Training Tips: Movements and Programming

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Essential Strength Training Tips: Movements and Programming

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The amount of force you apply to an external load determines your strength. As you increase the resistance of an exercise movement you put a demand on the musculoskeletal system. Increasing this demand or resistance over time influences strength.

Everyone wants to improve strength in some way. If a client’s goal is weight loss, they need to build muscle. Building muscle will help them burn body fat. But the stronger your client gets, the more muscle they can put on, which leads to even more fat burn.

This article explores the essential strength training tips your clients need to hit their goals. You can apply these tips to your training program and physical activity. 

What is Strength Training?

Overall strength gains occur by increasing muscle, bone, tendon, joint, and ligament strength. Increasing total body strength leads to improvements in overall health as well. Bone density, metabolism, and fitness levels are just a few factors influenced by strength exercise. 

Strength training is an anaerobic exercise that can include bodybuilding, weightlifting, and powerlifting. Anaerobic activity involves short and intense bursts of exercise, such as sprints or weight lifting exercises. 

These exercises are performed without oxygen. The goal of strength activities is to produce a large amount of energy in a small period of time. Oftentimes so fast that it skips over trying to use oxygen for fuel.

The most optimal forms of strength training include the following: 

  • Total body training
  • Split training
  • Ballistic or powerlifting
  • Muscular isolation

Strength training or resistance training should not be overlooked. Weight training benefits all clients. It can help them achieve their desired fitness goals and even improve neural adaptations. 

Essential Strength Training Movements

Strength training involves trying to induce muscular contractions using resistance or force. Try considering these compound exercises and movement patterns to do so.

Squat Pattern

The squat is one of the most popular exercise movements. Using a barbell squat for your main leg exercise allows you to use heavy weights. This is best for building strength and building lean muscle mass. You have the option to perform squat variations with a dumbbell, kettlebell, your own bodyweight, and TRX straps.

The barbell squat is best because you are not limited on how much weight you can add. The more weight you use, the higher the intensity. Perform 3-5 reps with heavy weight to create optimal muscle contractions in a short period of time.

When using equipment like dumbbells or kettlebells you can only go so heavy. Loading the body as efficiently as possible is crucial. The squat targets large muscle groups all at once. Whereas a leg extension targets mostly the quads. Try to avoid isolation exercises and just focus on compound exercises for optimal results. 

Hinge Pattern

The second most popular exercise movement is the hip hinge. The hip hinge movement involves the body bending down and in half. It is important to know that the hips should shift back as much as possible. This is essential to protecting the lower back and maximal muscle fiber activation.

The barbell deadlift is the most effective hip hinge exercise. The more load the body undergoes, the more type II muscle fibers you recruit. Type II muscle fibers are fast twitch fibers and optimal for strength movements.

Exercises like dumbbell Romanian deadlifts, good mornings, and machine curls only isolate certain muscles. With a barbell deadlift, you recruit more muscle fibers using large muscle groups. This includes the core, entire lower body, and back.

Push Pattern

Push movement patterns are essential to upper body development. They target the chest, shoulders, and triceps muscles all at once. Two essential push exercises are the barbell bench press and barbell shoulder press.

Both exercises use different muscle groups. The difference between the two is the angle at which you press. The barbell bench press is a horizontal press and the barbell shoulder press is a vertical press.

The more incline you create when pressing, the more the tension shifts up the chest into the shoulder region. Performing these movements in a strength training program ensures you target each area of the chest, triceps, and shoulders. 

Pull Pattern

Lastly, the best pulling exercises are going to be a pull-up and barbell bent over row. Like the push pattern, the pull pattern includes a vertical and horizontal pull. This allows the back musculature to be targeted at different angles. The pull-up targets more of the lats and the row targets more of the middle back.

Compound pulling movements help you avoid wasting time on isolation exercises. This includes lat pulldowns, back machines, and biceps curls. You can target all the same muscles with one movement and get more out of it. 

How Many Days Per Week Should You Strength Train?

To design the best strength training program, consider high intensity and low volume. To do this, perform heavy compound movements. Find balance between placing a high demand on the body and overtraining. Rest and recovery will be a big part of your strength training program.

Two ways to design an effective strength training program are to split your exercise days up between upper and lower body or do a full body split. 

Upper and Lower Body Split 

For an upper and lower body split, aim to complete four workouts per week.

  • Monday - Upper Body
  • Tuesday - Lower Body
  • Wednesday - OFF
  • Thursday - Upper Body
  • Friday - Lower Body
  • Saturday/Sunday - OFF

This is effective because you get to hit all upper and lower body muscles twice per week with three days of rest. The more stress you can accomplish in parallel to lots of rest, the better your results.


Compare this to a typical bodybuilding split of working one body part per day for six days per week. This split involves isolation exercises, high volume, moderate load, and targets one small body part each week.

By the time you get around to the next week, too much time has passed since the last time you have targeted a muscle. This makes it difficult to force strength adaptations.

Full Body Split

Another option for building strength is three full body workouts per week. Compared to the upper and lower body split, you will perform fewer exercise movements. Instead, focus on a few compound exercises.

  • Monday - Full Body
  • Tuesday - OFF
  • Wednesday - Full Body
  • Thursday - OFF
  • Friday - Full Body
  • Saturday/Sunday - OFF 

The goal is to achieve more intensity and volume through heavy lifting in fewer days per week. 

How Long Should Your Strength Workouts Last?

Your workouts will likely range from 45 minutes to 60 minutes. If you complete three full body workouts per week then your workouts might last 1 hour and 30 minutes. 

The longer your workout is, the more stress the body undergoes, which is what you want to a certain degree. Strength training increases testosterone and HGH levels. Although the more time that passes during a workout, the more cortisol levels rise. Aim to complete the same amount of work you do in 2 hours in 1 hour. This keeps muscle-building hormones high and fat-storing hormones low. 

These strength training tips are essential to getting started. But you can take your clients’ results to the next level by providing customized programs. Choose the ISSA’s Personal Trainer course to gain knowledge on the anatomy of the body and how to design an effective strength program. 

ISSA

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