If someone is interested in getting stronger, getting started is the most rewarding part. The initial adaptations to strength training are the most impressive. For beginners, a ten percent increase in strength can be seen in just a few workouts. That bumps up to a 20-30% increase over the first two to three months for most people and even as high as 70-100% in some studies.
The degree to which an individual’s strength will increase is subject to many factors in addition to working out. Having a healthy diet, routine sleep schedule and low stress levels are all ways to help get more out of your strength training, but in this article we will focus on what you should do in the gym.
Building a Foundation
Just because some of the strongest guys in the gym will routinely lift 80-100% of their one rep max doesn’t mean it’s the best way for everyone to get strong. Beginners should be focused on building a kinesthetic understanding of compound resistance training movement patterns like squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, pulldowns and rows. One would do that by moving slow, staying focused and doing as many reps in a set as you can while maintaining proper lifting mechanics. A typical set should consist of about 8-15 repetitions at around 40-60% of your one rep max. If you are a little younger or have some resistance training experience you can get away with starting at higher percentages, but if you’re a senior or have little or no experience, you’re probably better off starting with less weight and fewer reps.
A good rule of thumb is that more work leads to more results, but that only works to a point. It’s better to start slow and focus on staying consistent. Going to hard to fast can lead to lots of soreness and maybe even a long term setbacks if an injury occurs.
In order to keep getting stronger an individual will need to progressively increase the amount of weight lifted at certain rep ranges. This idea is referred to as the overload principle. Progress is easy at first, but requires more and more work to continue making strength gains.
It is very helpful to periodically test the one rep max, because it helps gauge progress as well as add a level of structure to a workout program. Testing should be done at the beginning of a program and about every four to twelve weeks. After testing a lifter should reevaluate goals to help maximize the effectiveness of a training program. Progress isn’t a straight line. It’s good to see where you’re at, but testing max effort lifts to often can increase the risk of injury and take away from progress.
For more information on gaining strength please utilize the resources provided in the sources cited section.
Colquhoun, Ryan J., Christopher M. Gai, Danielle D.M. Aguilar, Daniel I. Bove, Jeffrey Dolan, Andres Vargas, Kaylee Couvillion, Nathaniel Jenkins, and Bill Campbell. “Training Volume, Not Frequency, Indicative of Maximal Strength Adaptations to Resistance Training.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 32.5 (2018): 1207-213. Web.
Dankel, Scott, J. Buckner, Samuel Jessee, L. Grant Mouser, Matthew Mattocks, B. Abe, and Kevin Loenneke. “Correlations Do Not Show Cause and Effect: Not Even for Changes in Muscle Size and Strength.” Sports Medicine 48.1 (2018): 1-6. Web.