Strength Training for Beginners—Are You Tired of Calisthenics Yet?


Strength training for beginners can be filled with a lot of misconceptions.  You might think that after 6 months you will look like a fitness model with rippling chest, back, and bicep muscles, legs like tree trunks and a washboard waist.  Then you think about it a while longer and think, “No, that’s not going to happen that soon.  I’ll train real hard and give it about two years.  Yea, that’s it.  I’ll do whatever it takes for two years of hard training using this or that method I heard about and then I’ll take it easy with my beach body.  By that time I’ll be strong and cut and so awesome.”

Hold on a minute there, Slick.  Strength is a skill.  Many people enthusiastic to the idea of getting strong and building muscle sometimes have the same mentality as those who want to get rich quick investing in real estate or Forex.  Resistance training is no different.  Many times, those who weight train get a bad rap for being just a bunch of “muscleheads” who live at the gym and drag their knuckles on the ground but in many ways it is no different than learning physical skills such as karate, sailing or mountain climbing.  Expertise in strength training is equivalent to attaining proficiency in many other physical disciplines in that it takes about two years to get to be good, and about five years to get to be an expert.  You must have your nutrition figured out because muscles are not made out of thin air.  You’ll need to religiously set aside time for a regular training schedule.  You would do well to educate yourself constantly about how the body works as to human kinetics and you must keep an open mind about trying new things.

Muscles are not made out of thin air

Years ago when I was in a book store thumbing through books on exercise, as I sometimes regularly do, I ran across a book that stated that muscles don’t really need anything to develop and get stronger except for exercise.  The author even made some kind of statement that you could even eat only candy for your nutrition but as long as you pumped iron, your muscles would grow.  I wish I had remembered the title of that book and the author but I forgot.  Your body needs certain amounts of macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates and fats to progress at an optimum level.  Do you know which foods are of the highest quality to satisfy the macronutrient needs of your body?

Training regularly is like a religion

All weight lifting programs work but there is one peculiar requirement for them:  You have to do each one of them for a certain period of time and on a regular basis.  You can’t just train off and on when you feel like it and expect great results.  If you went into a gym and willy-nilly started doing any exercises such as incline bench press for the chest, shoulders and triceps, rows and curls for the biceps and squats for the legs, and then for the next month you did cardio by running every day without any weight training whatsoever, there would be absolutely no progress.  You need to follow a workout routine and keep a logbook of how much weight you are handling along with the reps and sets.  You must develop the mentality of an athlete in training.

There are more than a few things to learn about physiology and kinesiology

Do you know which skeletal muscles perform what kinds of movements?  Do you know the difference between abducting or adducting an arm or leg (moving away or moving towards the body).  The concentric part of a lift is the part when the target muscle is contracting; the eccentric (pronounced ee-sen-tric) part of the lift is when it is lengthening (stretching).  Did you know that slow eccentric movements, with moderate to heavy weights, are what cause delayed onset muscle soreness?

How much weight is used in training?  How many repetitions should you perform?  If you learned and knew which muscles moved in which directions and how many pounds of weight to use to get certain results, you wouldn’t always be following the latest workout you read about, you would be designing your own.  You will need to learn the proper weight lifting exercises to get certain results from your sessions.

There is no one way to always train

There is more than one way to weight train than you can shake a stick at even when it comes to a beginner’s strength training workout.  Beware of anyone who tells you that this way or that is the only way to train for strength.  After weight training for awhile your motor units (motor neurons and muscle fibers) will acclimate very quickly to your latest workout which means you have to switch exercises every two or three months to still make progress.

There are also different ways to lift depending on your goals.  You cannot train for maximum strength and get cut or ripped at the same time.  Each goal requires a different way to train.  For instance, compare powerlifting to bodybuilding:  Powerlifters train to become brutally strong and tend to end up looking like muscle-bound farm boys. Bodybuilders tend to have larger muscles than powerlifters but they are usually not as strong because they train for hypertrophy (the enlargement of muscle cell size).

Conclusion

Anything is hard at first before you become familiar with it and if you are a beginner, every weight training routine will initially appear daunting.  Before you buy a weight set and flat bench for home training or purchase a gym membership, it might be better to start off doing only bodyweight exercises with reps and sets.  Most beginner strength training programs start off with bodyweight exercises.  This way, you would slowly immerse yourself into a scheme that is particular to strength training.  Then, if you think you are compatible with this type of exercise, it would be time to challenge yourself more and then hit the weights.

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