Fundamentals of Strength Training (Getting Stronger)

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Fundamentals of Strength Training (Getting Stronger)

Hello everyone!

Strength training is the basis behind powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and many functional fitness programs. You have to be strong, fast, and have endurance enough be a strong lifter. This doesn't mean you have to be a marathon runner, but many types of fitness are involved when regarding strength sports.

There are numerous strength plans and routines out there if you search for them on the internet. This post will give you the no-nonsense fundamentals of improving your overall maximum strength. First let's define maximum strength; it's the maximal amount of force that a muscle or group of muscles can generate. This is trained with heavy workloads, based off of your one repetition maximum (1RM), and includes longer rest periods between sets. This type of training results in increased neural and physiological adaptations. Typically the neural adaptations will occur more quickly and more prominently. These adaptations include recruiting more fast-twitch muscle fibers, training them to contract faster and training the muscles to contract in larger groups and in unison, generating greater force.

First we'll start by determining the proper load and number of repetitions to accomplish these goals. There numbers, prescribed by the NSCA are not the end all be all for strength trainings, but they are a very good reference when putting together your workout plan.


Training Goal

Load (%1RM)






The first number here is the load or amount of weight you'll be pushing or pulling. With strength training, we're trying to create primarily neurological adaptations rather than simply muscle growth. Heavy loads in a lower repetition range creates this adaptation in the body, first by overloading your fast-twitch muscle fibers, and then by training your central nervous system to recruit larger muscle groups and having them contract together. The point I want to emphasize with these numbers, and a mistake I often see made, is when you pick a rep scheme you're going to follow for your workout, make it difficult and stick to that number. If you set your repetition goal at five reps, start to struggle a little at number three and end your set at the first little bit of discomfort, you are not going to see the positive effects you desire. Conversely, if that five reps is easy, go to six or seven plus; these are not rigid guidelines that must be followed. On the next set increase your load with the goal in mind being those last few repetitions should be difficult to complete. If you do not push yourself to your physical and mental limit during your training, you will just delay or never see your potential gains. 


Training Goal





2-5 minutes


The next chart tells you all about the sets and the recommended rest time between them. Once again these are just guidelines. With the sets you don't have to limit yourself to just six. Let's say we're doing six sets of six repetitions and that they may be done at the lower end of the load percentage; so 85% to make this explanation simple. Multiply those reps and sets and that's a total of 36 total repetitions. If you want to keep roughly that total number of repetitions but work at much higher load where six reps isn't feasible, you could change up your reps and sets to something like 8x4. Here we're still inside of our recommended repetition "window," we've increased the number of sets by a couple, but you're much more likely to be able to complete these sets rather than sets of six. When it comes to rest in between sets, base it off how you're feeling rather than these numbers. The point of the recommended rest time shown here is that it's much longer than something like hypertrophy or endurance work. It is much more important to rest however long you need to ensure you're going to complete the amount of repetitions you have set for yourself. If you need two minutes and you know you can complete the prescribed weight and reps, by all means do it. The same thing applies to the person who needs to stretch that out to six or seven minutes. As a refresher, strength training is much more taxing on the central nervous system rather than the musculoskeletal system; you need more recovery time between sets.

Thanks for sticking around until the end of our first post here at the Training Room. This should give you a basic understanding of how to design a strength program and see great results. Obviously we could go into much greater detail and get much more complex, but we'll get to discussions like that later on after we have developed a good foundation. Please comment or email any suggestions about the article and tips and tricks that have worked for you in the gym. As always you can email any of us directly with any suggestions about what you would like to see in the future or questions you may have!

This article was written by Marcel Blood with input from former Strength and Conditioning Coach, Joseph Peery. 

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