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What is strength training?

Strength training is a transformative practice which is incredibly beneficial to add into your workout routine, whether you’re a complete gym novice, a marathon runner or a football player. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore what strength training truly is, its benefits, essential principles, and how to integrate it into your fitness routine for lasting results.

Equipment set up for a deadlift

What is strength training?

Strength training, often known as resistance training or weightlifting, is a form of exercise designed to enhance muscular strength, power, and endurance. Unlike cardio exercises that primarily focus on improving your cardiovascular fitness, strength training targets the musculoskeletal system, engaging your muscles against resistance to stimulate growth and development.


Strength training exercises can take various forms, including free weights (dumbbells, barbells), resistance machines, bodyweight exercises, and functional movements. It's a versatile approach that caters to individuals of all fitness levels, from beginners to advanced athletes so anyone can do it. 


What are the benefits of strength training?

Strength training is unparalleled in promoting muscle growth and development. It targets specific muscle groups, leading to increased muscle mass and improved definition. What’s more, building lean muscle through strength training contributes to a higher resting metabolic rate, making it an effective tool for fat loss and weight management. 


Weight-bearing exercises in strength training, such as squats and deadlifts, also promote bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, especially important as we age making strength training a great tool for over 60s. These exercises strengthen the supporting muscles around joints too, enhancing stability and promoting better posture. This can alleviate discomfort and reduce the risk of injuries. It can overall improve your functional fitness, enhancing your ability to perform daily activities with ease and reducing the risk of injury during routine tasks.


Females performing strength training exercises

Does strength training burn fat?

Yes, strength training can be an effective method for burning fat and promoting weight loss. While cardiovascular exercises like running or cycling are often associated with burning calories during the workout, strength training offers several mechanisms that contribute to fat loss and improved body composition. For example, strength training can lead to an Increased Metabolic Rate (RMR), improve insulin sensitivity and entirely change your body composition regardless of whether you’re losing weight on the scale.


Will strength training make me bulky?

The concern about becoming "bulky" is a common misconception of strength training, but the idea that strength training will make you bulky is often based on outdated beliefs and myths. If you want to ‘bulk up’ you will need to tailor your training schedule and nutrition to align with this goal, but simply adding a few strength training workouts can certainly improve your overall fitness levels without you gaining significant muscle mass. 


Personal trainer demonstrating a strength training exercise

How to use strength training effectively

To reap the maximum benefits from strength training, here are a few fundamental principles for you to follow:


  • Progressive overload: You want to continuously challenge your muscles by gradually increasing the resistance or intensity of your workouts, we recommend upping your weights or repetitions weekly. This principle stimulates ongoing muscle adaptation and growth.

  • Form and technique: Focus on maintaining proper form during each exercise to target the intended muscles and minimise the risk of injury. After all, an injury is only going to hinder your progress. If you're unsure or lacking in confidence, why not consider working with one of our personal trainers in Barnstaple? 

  • Rest and recovery: Muscles need time to recover and grow stronger which is why sleep is incredibly important, particularly when strength training. We recommend you allow sufficient time between working the same muscle group to optimise recovery and prevent overtraining.

  • Fuel your body: It is important to also monitor your nutrition if you want to get the best out of your training. This will include making sure you’re drinking enough water, eating enough protein and fuelling yourself throughout the day. Check out our guide to nutrition for more information.

  • Consistency: Consistency is key to seeing results in strength training. Establish a regular workout routine and stay committed to your fitness journey.


Client starting strength training exercises

Where to start with strength training

Now that you understand the essence of strength training, here's a beginner-friendly guide to getting started:


  • Gauge your fitness level: Evaluate your current fitness level and identify any specific goals you want to achieve through strength training.

  • Learn the basics: Familiarise yourself with fundamental strength training exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, and rows. Start with bodyweight to master proper form before adding any additional weights. At the early stages of your strength training journey, we highly recommend working with a personal trainer, whether that’s online or in person so that they can help you to work on your form and prevent injury.

  • Create a balanced routine: Develop a well-rounded strength training routine that targets all major muscle groups that you can stick to from week to week. This ensures comprehensive muscle development and reduces the risk of imbalances.

  • Progressive overload: Begin with a weight that challenges you but allows for controlled and proper execution. As your strength improves, progressively increase the resistance. A good general rule of thumb is that if you can do 12-15 reps comfortably at the current weight, you can up your weight for the exercise by up to 10% knowing that this will reduce the number of reps you are able to complete. 

  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body's signals. If you experience pain (not to be confused with the normal discomfort of a challenging workout), modify your routine or talk with a personal trainer to get to the route of the issue before you injure yourself. 


If you’re wondering how many times a week you should be training, this will depend on your fitness goals, schedule, and personal preferences. If you’re aiming to improve your fitness, two to three sessions per week from zero is a good place to start. Then, as your goals and confidence levels develop, you’ll be able to build a routine that works for you. This will also depend on the length of your session, and typically, sessions last between 30 and 90 minutes but again, this entirely depends on your goals.


Remember, consistency is your ally, and every lift takes you one step closer to a stronger, healthier you. If you want to know more about strength training, get in touch with our team of personal trainers and we’ll see how we can help you take the next step in your fitness journey.


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