The goal of weight training is to cause adaptations in your muscles through weight overload. The muscle develops its ability to generate tension to be able to overcome a resistance or to oppose to it. In order to develop an adequate plan, athletes do: exercises that increase their muscle abilities; eat adequate foods, high in carbs, protein, fiber and vitamins and rest properly (an essential factor). There’s no secret: only discipline. Weight training requires a low number of reps, with high intensity and constant challenges. As soon as the muscle adapts and is able to lift a specific amount of weight, you need to increase the load to defy your muscles to develop strength.
What are the benefits of specific strength workouts for those whose long-term goal is hypertrophy?
The myth of weight training is long gone, because it is no longer a synonym of an exaggeratedly pumped up body that damages the good technique that athletes need to reach. However, it is inevitable to do weight training without increasing muscle consistency. Even so, the methods for those who want to train their strength and for those who want to increase muscle mass are different, in spite of being connected. A workout focused on the increase of strength should have a low number of sets and low number of high resistance reps, with bigger resting periods. A workout focused on the increase of muscle mass comprises a higher number of sets and reps and a shorter recovery break. If the long-term goal is hypertrophy, then this is the right path. The first stage is to dedicate yourself to strength training, and only after that should you focus thoroughly on the increase of muscle mass.
Strength training affects every sport, and it is necessary for athletes to better prepare themselves for competitions.
– It is a fact that many university studies have showed that, if you have no body strength (compared to your weight), you won’t be able to run faster, jump higher, kick or hit harder or have a quicker mobility to any purpose.
– Besides that, strength training prevents injuries. Individuals who work their strength have a lower tendency to injure themselves because this type of workout strengthens muscle connections and increases bone intensity. If the athlete gets an injury, it probably won’t be that bad and the recovery time will be faster.
– Strength exercises expend more calories during and after the workout.
– Two months of regular strength exercises usually imply an increase of 50% in muscle strength.
– Avoids the loss of muscle mass. Without regular weight training we lose about 250g of muscle mass for each year of our adult life.
– Increases the Basal Metabolic Rate. Creating 1.3kg of muscle mass increases the BMR in about 7%. While resting, 0.45kg of muscle needs about 35kcal a day for maintenance, a value that dramatically increases during exercise. Therefore, an adult whose muscle mass increases spends more calories during the day and reduces the chances of fat storage.
– Increases the bone mineral density. A few studies point out that, after 4 months of strength training there’s a significant increase in bone mineral density.
– An increase in strength will make it possible for you to lift heavier loads, making your hypertrophy workout more intense which will subsequently allow you to obtain bigger gains of muscle mass.
How can it be applied to a workout routine?
If you want to start working on your strength, cardio exercises shouldn’t be your priority and can be performed at the end of the workout, for about 10-20 minutes of interval training. You should use classic strength training movements: squats, elevations, bench press and dead lift. You can add other exercises like bicep curl or military press (to work the shoulders). The important is to perform the movements slowly and in a controlled way, always using the same muscles to relocate the weight, in order to avoid sudden movements that may cause injuries. You should take into account the fact that, when performing an exercise, you need 2 seconds to lift the weight and 4 seconds to get back to the initial position.
Tip: The best way to increase strength is to work with free weights. Machines are appropriate for those who want to work the shape of their muscles.
1. Prep workout (8 weeks for beginners, 4 weeks for advanced athletes).
Prep training is good for you to develop the execution of the exercises and to prevent injuries when you have to add more weight. For those starting, 35 minutes of exercises should be enough to improve performance.
At this point, perform 3 exercises (2 for the bigger muscle groups and 1 for the little muscle groups) of 4 sets (8/12 reps per set). Stipulate which part of your body you will be working on in a specific day, taking into account that you won’t use classic strength training exercises.
Day 1: Chest/Shoulder
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: Back/Abs
Day 4: Arms
You can also choose to combine chest with triceps, back with biceps and shoulder with abs. The important thing is to avoid that the bigger muscle group influences the littler muscle group.
2. Start with a strength routine.
At this point we don’t try to force muscle growth, instead we want it to be able to answer to heavier loads throughout the time, that’s why it doesn’t matter if you work out for a longer time and adopt a pyramid scheme, with more sets and reps in the first week and a progressive decrease throughout the time. As you decrease the number of sets and reps, you increase the weight. On the last day, go back and repeat the first week’s scheme, except with a heavier load. Each one can adjust the workout the way they want. Even so, to get the best results, the best is to always use 3 to 6 reps per set.
Once the goal is to have the body develop strength, the resting period between sets should be 3 to 5 minutes so the body can rest.
Example of a plan to work on leg strength:
These are reference numbers, so try them and choose the number of sets/reps that best adapts to you.
Week 1 and 2
Squat – 6 sets of 6 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 4 reps
Squat – 5 sets of 5 reps
Good mornings – 5 sets of 4 reps
Squat – 4 sets of 4 reps
Good mornings – 5 sets of 4 reps
Squat – 3 sets of 3 reps
Good mornings – 5 sets of 4 reps
You can stay for about 3 weeks in the 3 sets scheme, but if you’re using a load near 90% of your 1RM (maximum amount of weight you can lift in a rep), you should get back to the beginning of the plan.
N/d, Treino para aumentar a força, 25th of April 2007, adaptation and translation of the original version
Joel DeFranco, Porque é que o treino de força é importante para os atletas?, adaptation and translation of the original version
Lucio Flavio, Treinamento de força, 19th of January 2011, adaptation and translation of the original version