In common with all exercise disciplines, strength training has evolved over the last few years. One of the key changes is that – in order to get results women are now encouraged to work just as hard as men in the weights room – the difference in outcomes being that they won’t build big muscles because women don’t have enough of the hormone testosterone to do so. Here are nine tips for effective strength training for men and women:
1. Lift heavy. Way too many people train within their comfort zones in the weights room. We are not suggesting that you engage in body building intensity (unless that’s your goal) but you will find you get better results if you reduce the reps and increase the weight.
2. Lift well. Another way of short-changing yourself is to lift heavy weights by cheating, which usually involves recruiting a bunch of muscles that aren’t supposed to be used. If you focus on correct technique and posture you will find you’ll get a much bigger bang for your buck.
3. Lift Slowly. A classic cheat is to lift so fast that you create your own momentum. By slowing down you will make the target muscles work much harder.
4. Work hard in both directions. Having performed the lifting part of movement, most people tend to forget the lowering part and let the weight drop back to the start position. Slowing this process down will help add intensity to your workout. Two up, four down is a good rhythm.
5. Work opposing muscle groups. Muscles work in tandem. If you are working biceps make sure you work triceps, if you are working quads make sure you work hamstrings and so on.
6. Use a combination of machines and free weights. Because they are totally under your control, dumbbells have the advantage of recruiting the stabilising muscles as well as the prime movers (this is what happens in real life). Machines on the other hand help you to isolate individual muscle groups safely and effectively.
7. Start big. Start with the larger muscle groups and work down to the smaller ones – this will help to ensure that you push each muscle group to its maximum. Try putting biceps and triceps at the end of your workout and you’ll see what we mean.
8. Focus on the core. There can’t be too many people who aren’t aware of the importance of training the muscles of the midsection. Use exercise balls, medicine balls and Bosu balls to help target these muscle groups.
9. Rest. In order to let the muscle repair – and therefore grow – you need to take time between strength workouts. For most people training three times a week works well with a day’s break in between. Strength training every day is counterproductive (unless you are doing a split body routine i.e. working different muscle groups on different days).