Strength training is done purely to improve strength and can either be used on its own, such as by power lifters and other strength athletes, or combined with other training methods, most often muscle building. It is most different to other training methods in that the health and fitness benefits are minimal due to the low rep, high rest periods involved.
How To Train
Of all training methods, strength training is the one most likely to cause injury if not done with good technique after a thorough warm-up and stretching routine. This is because the greater the resistance and the fewer the reps done the better. In fact any more than 6 reps and it is no longer classed as strength training. Ideally a single repetition done with maximum resistance is most effective (commonly known as the one-rep max), but it also brings with it the greatest risk of injury due to the intense stress placed upon muscles, joints and the body overall. Strength training forces the body to engage the whole of the muscles involved in the exercise to complete the repetition. Then while resting, the muscles are repaired and their size increases to better cope with the demands next time. Though this is nothing like the increase gained by training for muscle building.
Generally 2 or 3 reps is recommended with 3 sets per exercise.
Adenosinetriphosphate, or ATP for short, is stored in the body and is what fuels muscle contraction. There isn’t a large amount available however, so it must be made on demand by the phosphocreatine system (which is where creatine supplements can help). This is also stored in the body and like ATP, it is ready and waiting to be used for energy. But these stores are also limited and after the first 10 seconds or so of exercise they’re exhausted and take a while to recover. This is why strength training involves low reps and longer rests between sets. The minimum is 3 minutes, but if you’re serious about training only for strength, 5 or more is better.
Most weight training exercises can be for strength training, but compound exercises involve the most muscles and should form the core of any strength training program. Especially Squats, Deadlift and Bench Press. The other exercises involved depend on the individual goal but will almost always involve split routines, where different muscle groups are worked separately on different days.
For pure strength training, do 2 or 3 reps per set and 3 sets per exercise, with 3 to 5 minutes rest period between each set. As I said earlier however, strength training can be combined with other training methods to produce less specific results.
Pyramid Training involves increasing the resistance of each set as the number of reps decreases, or can be done the opposite way, decreasing the resistance of each set as the number of reps increases. This creates a more rounded workout but the result depends on the amount of reps. For example, increasing the reps up to a maximum of 10 will sacrifice some gains in strength, but will cause a greater increase in muscle mass. While increasing the amount of reps to 15 and beyond will have more of a general conditioning effect, defining the muscle more but with much less benefit to strength or muscle size.
This is similar to pyramid training but mostly used by people who have a specific goal and time frame, such as a bodybuilder who is training for a competition or a sportsman who wants to maintain fitness in the off season without over training. For example, a bodybuilder might spend 6 weeks training with a maximum of 3 reps per set to increase strength, which he would then use to build muscle by doing 10 reps per set for another 6 weeks. Finally he would increase his reps to 15 or more per set for 6 weeks for greater muscle definition, which would be complete on the day of a competition.
There are many other ways to train, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, which is why it’s so important to know your strength training goal before you begin.