Strength Training Tips For Beginners
We have recently been collaborating with House Of Chunk, providing their athletes with high protein snacks and drinks to fuel their workouts. One of their coaches, Mark has shared with us his tips for newbies getting into Strength Training.
Why should you get into strength training?
It can seem pretty daunting, intimidating and overwhelming when you’re not too sure what to do when strength training, these tips are here to make you feel a bit more confident in starting your journey.
Strength training is extremely useful for fat loss, sports of all kinds (including endurance sports) and it can also be utilised in training with/around an injury. You will also have mental health, confidence, quality of life and other physical health benefits too.
How do you get into strength training?
If you want quicker & more sustainable results whilst you learn a lot along the way, get a coach. This isn’t a MUST and there are a lot of free resources out there, but it is highly recommended it as it takes a lot of the trial and error out of the equation.
Nutrition requires a bit more attention, but here’s a few pointers.
The specific diet you do doesn’t matter. What does matter is calories and protein. You can make near enough any diet work in your strength journey so long as the calories and protein are there. You ideally want your nutrition to be based around your food preferences so it’s easier to stick to, all you need to do is alter it to meet your calorie and protein targets.
If you want to build strength, although it can be done in a deficit, maintenance or surplus is advised.
With protein ideally you want to consume 1.6-2g of protein per KG of lean body mass every day. Less than this isn’t ideal and more than this would be better utilised in the form of carbs.
Being a beginner is a good thing!
Chances are, if you’re new to strength training you’ve not been in much contact with the strength community. Surrounding yourself with those that have similar goals and are like-minded will definitely help you in your journey. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as you’ll have more of an understanding of different approaches.
When you are new to strength training, what you do isn’t as important as when you get more experienced. Meaning you can get a lot of good progress from very basic things. This is also where a lot of habits will be formed, so you want as many good habits as possible early on so that you have less to correct at a later date.
Putting a plan together…
The best frequency is whatever you can best adhere to, but I’ve found x2 per week per muscle group works for a lot of people. I personally like Upper/Lower/Upper/Lower splits. When programming clients some prefer Push/Pull/Legs/Push/Pull/Legs, and others prefer Full Body x2 per week, again it is completely down to you, what you can fit in and what you can recover from.
When you look at programming whether it’s one that has been made for you or one you’re putting together yourself, here is a typical set up…
Warm up: Increase heart rate, increase body temperature & start using muscles you’ll be using as well as supporting muscles.
Compound barbell movement(s): Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, Overhead Press.
Compound barbell variation(s).
Compound bodyweight movement(s) with assistance if needed: Pull Up, Dip, Push Up, Lunge, Split Squat.
Accessory: Everything else.
The warm up can be a walk on the treadmill, some muscle activation, mobility work or even the movement you are warming up for e.g. squats.
RANGE OF MOTION (ROM)
This will tie into the intensity point I’ll be making later, but if you have to sacrifice range of motion in order to lift more weight, chances are you aren’t ready for that weight yet.
I’m not against partial ROM, but I do think full ROM when you are first starting is important.
Only challenging part of your ROM means you will get stronger in said part. If ever there is a time that requires more ROM the difference in strength might be significant. It is why when people are used to doing a 1/4 squat then attempt more depth, that extra inch can feel like an extra 40kg on the bar.
In my approach I also find that doing full ROM in movements means there isn’t a need to spend 20mins doing mobility/stretching within your sessions (unless clients ask for it or could benefit from implementing some).
SETS x REPS
As a beginner, higher reps will be a good place to start. Less load for higher reps is easier on your body as well as it’ll give you more practice in the movement patterns 3sets of 10reps is 30reps worth of practice, but 2sets of 20 sets is 40reps worth of practice. That said, the load should reflect the rep range.
The main compound lifts you’ll hear 5 reps as a standard, it’s quite a good place to start as it gives you some practice in lifting heavier loads. As you won’t be doing as many reps it’s worth implementing a slower tempo. It gives your muscles more time under tension, your technique tends to be better as it isn’t rushed and I find it makes people more consistent with positioning over time. 3secs down, 2sec pause, quick up works good for most movements.
Warm up sets around 60seconds, working sets of compound movements/variations anything between 2-4mins depending on intensity, bodyweight & accessories around 1.5-2.5mins depending on intensity.
In short, start by picking a variation you are comfortable doing. If I was to work with someone who has never barbell squatted in a session we’d do a box squat, barbell box squat and then barbell squat. Most of the time we’d cover this in the first few minutes of the session with the client squatting proficiently but if you wanted to do smaller jumps to match your confidence here is what I’d recommend for squatting…
Box Squat, Goblet Box Squat, Goblet Squat, Barbell Box Squat, Barbell Squat.
So how this may look in a day might be…
Warm up w. 60secs rest
Single Leg RDLs 3x15per side
Walking Lunges 3x15per side
Main Lift w. 2-4mins rest
Tempo Barbell Back Squats 3x5
Accessories w. 1.5-2.5mins rest
1.Dumbbell RDLs 3x8-12
2a.Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats 3x8-12
2b.45° Hip Extensions 3x8-12
3.Sled Drags 3x30m
This is something that a lot of people tend to fall short on. I’m not saying everything should be to failure but it’s quite common for people to hit the rep number and stop before getting to any fatigue. It is why having a rep range can be quite useful to push the extra reps out. If you hit the top end of the rep range, maybe it’s time to increase the difficulty of the exercise. And on the other end, if you are barely making the lower end of the rep range, maybe the weight you have chosen is too much for now.
Push yourself, make yourself feel like you have accomplished something in your session. This is one of those good habits I talked about earlier. A lot of the beginners I have worked with feel so much more sure of themselves and confident in their own abilities at the end of their first session, all based on how hard they worked, you’ve got this.
So in summary, start with the basics and don’t be afraid to ask for help.