060816 Beginning a Strength Program
Often times a person thinks long and hard before beginning a strength program. Along the way these questions invariably arise:
- How do I start?
- Where do I begin?
- What do I do?
- What exercises should I be doing?
- How do I do them?
Women generally ask how do I flatten my stomach, get rid of the flab on the backs of my arms or strengthen my bones. Men are asking how to get a six pack and want to know how to bench press more weight.
These questions can be answered by a certified and competent trainer. Notice I did not say just a certified trainer but a competent one as well. A certification from a recognized source such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association implies the trainer has demonstrated superior knowledge, is competent to coach and is well up to the training task. Competency and results are the ‘proof in the pudding’ as the saying goes.
A needs analysis from each participant starts out the process in helping to identify health issues, goals, and previous exercise experience.
Next will be the first strength training session. During this phase each individual is shown the exercises in the correct fashion. The trainee will practice the exercises with little to no weight until the technique is correct.
Properly designed exercise protocols start with a dynamic warm up; not static stretching. Static stretching, as seen with many runners standing on one leg while pulling the other up towards the buttocks, is NOT the way to begin an exercise session. Static stretches relax the joints and the nervous system. This is exactly the opposite desired outcome of a strength program.
Engaging in static stretching before any explosive sport such as gymnastics, sprinting or wrestling is even worse. It opens these athletes up to injury due to the neuromuscular confusion resulting from the relaxation and opening up of the joints.
Dynamic warm ups, on the other hand, involve moving the body and its limbs around the joints range of motion, getting the pulse up and raising the respiration rates in preparation for the resistance exercises. Skipping rope is an excellent way to start because it helps develop coordination and endurance with the use of minimal equipment.
A beginning routine is made up of large muscle group exercises featuring balanced applications of sets and repetitions for both agonist and antagonist groups. After a movement specific warm up where each exercise is performed ten to twelve times do eight to ten repetitions for two to four sets. A set is one group of eight to ten repetitions.
Follow each set with a rest period of sixty to ninety seconds, depending on your present conditioning status and then begin the next set of the same exercise. Move through the list at a steady pace. You should not be in the weight room much longer than forty five to fifty minutes.
Not all exercises will be performed each session but these are the essential ten and form the foundations of any strength program.
Consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.
- Military presses
- Chin ups or pull downs
- Bench presses
- Barbell rows
- Squats-only with your doctor’s full knowledge and consent
- Deadlifts- only with your doctor’s full knowledge and consent
- Curl ups or full range sit ups- only with your doctor’s full knowledge and consent
- Back extensions- only with your doctor’s full knowledge and consent
- Laterals- only with your doctor’s full knowledge and consent
- Calf raises
Keep a log book of your progress.