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How Do I Plan A Strength Workout? A Beginner’s Guide
28 February 2018


Weight training is the single best thing you can do for your body. Not only will weight training transform your physique, giving you tone and reduced fat mass, but it will also strengthen connective tissue, muscles and tendons, as well as boost your metabolism, energy and immune system. Possessing a strong body builds super confidence.

Despite the buzz around weight training for women, many new gym-goers are unsure how to get started. Here’s a basic guide to putting together a full body strength workout:

1. Warm up the muscles with five minutes on a cardio machine such as a stationary bike, cross trainer or treadmill. Follow with some dynamic stretches such as squats, arm circles, hip circles and torso twists.

2. Select one exercise from each of the following categories and two abdominal exercises. For the pushing and pulling exercises, select either one horizontal or one vertical pushing exercise and one horizontal or one vertical pulling exercise. It’s best to perform horizontal exercises together in one workout and vertical exercises on another day. A sample workout might look like the photo above.

A. Quad dominant exercises
* Squats (any variation, such as bodyweight only, box squats, wide leg squats or split squats)
* Lunges (any variation, such as walking lunges or reverse lunges)
* Step ups (any variation, such as side step ups or low step ups)

B. Hip dominant exercises
* Deadlifts (any variation, such as Romanian deadlifts, single leg deadlifts or sumo deadlifts)
* Glute bridges (any variation, such as bodyweight only, single leg glute bridges or elevated glute bridges)
* Kettlebell swings (any variation, such as two-handed swings, single arm swings or hand-to-hand swings)

C. Pulling exercises
C1. Horizontal pulling exercises:
* Rows (any variation such as single arm rows, bent over rows, seated rows or inverted rows)

C2. Vertical pulling exercises:
* Lat pulldowns (wide or narrow grip)
* Pull ups (any grip, can be assisted)

D. Pushing exercises
D1. Horizontal pushing exercises:
* Push ups (can use easier variations such as wall push ups or box push ups)
* Bench presses
* Incline bench presses

D2. Vertical pushing exercises:
* Push presses
* Shoulder presses
* Tricep dips (on a bench or dip station – can be assisted)

E. Abdominal exercises
* Crunches
* Plank (all variations, such as modified plank or side plank)
* Leg lifts
* Side bends
* Russian twists

Stick to a rep range of 15 to 20 and perform three sets of each exercise. Rest for 30 seconds to one minute between sets. Planks are for time.

3. Finish with five minutes of static stretches, such as quad stretches, single leg hamstring stretches and tricep stretches.

A few pointers:

1. Perfect your technique. Many of these exercises will be new, so enlist the help of a trainer or fitness instructor to get you started. A good trainer will give you pointers on form, as well as exercise progressions. You can also find some excellent tutorials on YouTube or fitness sites such as Men’s Health or Livestrong.

2. Use the right weight. If the weight is too heavy, you risk injury and compromised form. If the weight is too light, your muscles will not be challenged sufficiently to see desired results. When you reach your final rep you should feel that you could perform only one or two more reps before reaching failure. Complete beginners may start with bodyweight only exercises while they master correct form. If you cannot do 15 to 20 bodyweight reps yet, do as many as you can and work your way up.

3. Aim for two to three strength workouts per week. Regular workouts are necessary to ensure progress, but never exceed five in any week. Rest is crucial for muscle growth and repair. Devise two or three workouts which you can cycle for eight weeks before changing up your routine and adding new exercise variations.

4. Track progress. Try to lift a little more weight every time you work out. If you continue to challenge the muscles you will see progress in your fitness, as well as body composition.

5. Expect to ache. DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness is a normal response to strength training and indicates that you have provided the necessary stress to strengthen your muscles. It is most acute 24 to 72 hours after exercise.


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