Muscular strength exercises can be a great complement to cardiovascular training. Not only does weight training make you stronger, but it can also help you to improve your overall body composition, boost bone health, improve posture, and support healthy joints.
But don't worry, you don't have to exercise every day to reap great results. Most people see a noticeable improvement with two to three workouts a week.
Basic Strength Training Tips
There are a few guidelines to follow to stay safe and make the most out of your strength training exercise program.
- Listen to your body. Pay attention to aches and pains during and after your workout. It's better to back off and take a few days off than push ahead with an aching elbow only to end up with a hard-to-heal joint injury.
- Learn correct form. Nothing derails a serious fitness effort more than an injury that puts you on the sidelines for a month. If you're not familiar with an exercise, research it online or enlist the help of a qualified trainer at your gym.
- More is not better. Only train each muscle group twice a week to allow for appropriate rest. Your muscles get stronger during the recovery process, so be sure you take enough time between workouts. Most experts recommend at least 48 hours for each muscle group.
- Use the right amount of weight. You want to lift enough weight to feel challenged, but not so much that you compromise form. If you can do 20-30 reps, you're not using enough weight and won't see much strength improvement. But, if you can only complete one or two reps (for a basic muscular strength routine), you're using too much weight. Use weights that allow you to perform 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise.
Two Muscular Strength Exercise Routines
When first starting out, try to master the circuit training workout first. It is an effective workout for the whole body. Once you've mastered circuit training, try the split routine that challenges you to work various muscle groups harder on three different days.
Circuit Training Routine
In this example, you'll train the entire body twice per week. Begin with a 5-10 minute warm-up on a stationary bike, treadmill, or another cardio machine. Then go through the exercises one by one, starting over at the end.
- Bench press/chest press machine - 8 to 10 reps
- Triceps dips/dip machine - 8 to 10 reps.
- Lat pulldown - 10 to 12 reps.
- Seated rows - 10 to 12 reps
- Dumbbell shrugs - 8 to 10 reps
- Barbell bicep curls - 8 to 10 reps
- Squats - 10 to 12 reps
- Leg press machine - 8 to 10 reps
- Calf press machine - 8 to 10 reps
- Abdominal crunches for one minute (include some side twists for extra burn)
Start from the top and repeat 2-3 times.
The Three-Day Split Routine
If you're a little more experienced and have more time to spend, you can divide the body into three parts and do more focused training. Unlike circuit training, you do multiple sets of one exercise before moving on. Remember to do a 5-10 minute cardio workout before each routine.
- Dumbbell chest press on flat bench - 2 sets, 8-10 reps.
- Dumbbell chest press on incline bench - 2 sets, 8-10 reps.
- Standing barbell military press - 2 sets, 10-12 reps.
- Dumbbell lateral raises - 3 sets, 10-12 reps.
- Dips - 2 sets, 8-10 reps.
- Skull crushers - 3 sets, 8-10 reps.
- Tricep pushdowns - 3 sets, 8-10 reps.
- Deadlifts - 3 sets, 8-10 reps
- Chin-ups - 3 sets, 10-12 reps
- Dumbbell rows - 2 sets, 8-10 reps
- Shrugs - 2 sets, 8-10 reps
- Barbell bicep curls - 3 sets, 8-10 reps
- Dumbbell concentration curls - 2 sets, 10-12 reps
- Dumbbell forearm curls - 2 sets, 10-12 reps
- Abdominal crunches - 3 sets to failure
- Ab machine of choice - 3 sets to failure
- Squats - 3 sets, 8-10 reps
- Lunges - 2 sets, 10-12 reps
- Leg press machine - 2 sets, 8-10 reps
- Seated hamstring curls - 3 sets, 10-12 reps
- Standing hamstring curls - 2 sets, 10-12 reps
- Seated calf raises - 2 sets, 8-10 reps
- Donkey calf raises - 2 sets, 8-10 reps
To improve your overall fitness, make sure to do a couple of cardiovascular workouts per week in addition to your muscular strength exercises. Also, remember that good nutrition will help you to be successful along your fitness journey.
Develop More Strength
Make sure you consume a balanced diet that includes protein, energy-boosting carbs, and healthy fats to fuel your daily needs. If you need help developing a meal plan to meet your goals, speak with a registered dietitian or fitness nutrition specialist to develop a plan that works for you.