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High-Intensity Resistance Training for Beginners

You might wonder if strength training is for you. Whether you’re new or it’s been a while…
Man doing bicep curls

 

If you haven’t strength trained for a while — or ever — the thought of trying it may seem intimidating.

What kind of strength training do I do?
How much weight should I be lifting?
How do I know if I’m doing it right?
What if I hurt myself?
What muscles does this machine work?

So many variables. So many unknowns.

And for a lot of us, that can be enough to keep us from ever trying it.

So, if you are brand new to strength training or are looking to get back into it, this article is for you.

 

Jump to a Topic:
Should I Strength Train?
High-Intensity Resistance Training
What Muscles Am I Working?
Example HIT Workouts

 

 

Should I Strength Train?

You might wonder if strength training is appropriate for your specific circumstances. Maybe you have never strength trained before, or lifting weights makes you nervous. Or perhaps you have injuries or limitations that make exercise feel complicated.

Commonly, we find one of the following is what slows people down from getting started in strength training.

Is Strength Training Safe?

Strength training is extremely safe.

Injuries generally come from broken equipment, unstable exercises, or dropped weights (Gray & Finch, 2015).

However, none of these are issues at The Perfect Workout, being that we don’t use broken equipment or unstable equipment, and any free weights are used under the careful guidance of an expert coach.

Even if you have injuries or are not currently fit, strength training can help in making joints stronger and slowly improve your physical condition (Gray & Finch, 2015; Maestroni et al., 2020).

And as long as you maintain good, proper form, the exercise becomes safer as the muscles become more deeply fatigued. In fact, when using slow-motion strength training, the last reps are the most productive reps performed, and they are also the safest since your muscles are physically unable to produce enough force to strain (assuming form is not broken).

Am I “Too Old” To Start Working Out?

Strength training is safe and beneficial…at all ages. There is no such thing as being “too old” to participate. In fact, a study showed strength training is safe and beneficial for men and women between 85 and 97 years of age (Kryger & Andersen, 2007)!

Not only did no injuries occur in that study, but the participants became substantially stronger and gained muscle.

Is Strength Training Worth It?

Do you want to be healthier, happier, or more fit? We’re going to assume that you want at least one of those if not all three. Strength training can provide all of those benefits.

In fact, strength training can:

  • reduce the risk of common chronic diseases (cancer, diabetes, and heart disease)
  • reduce body fat
  • improve sleep quality
  • reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • build muscle and strength
  • enhance joint health, among other benefits (Maestroni et al., 2020).

 

 

High-Intensity Resistance Training

“Resistance training” is another phrase for strength training. For the most effective way to strength train, we recommend a unique style of training referred to as “high-intensity resistance training ” (HIT) or “slow-motion strength training.”

High-intensity refers to the relative effort you put forth. HIT offers a unique approach to training that fits people of all ages and adjusts to the individual’s fitness level while being time-efficient.

Traditionally, strength training includes several sets of several exercises. The most common version of this is performing three sets of 10-12 repetitions, for 8-10 exercises. A workout like this requires about 60 minutes, with at least half of that time spent resting between sets. HIT trains the same muscles to similar results, but in a fraction of the time.

Instead of performing three sets per exercise, HIT provides the same benefits with just one set per exercise.

HIT includes selecting a challenging weight (relative to your own strength level), and then performing as many reps as possible until you’re no longer physically able to (hence the “high-intensity” part of the name).

Here are a few other guidelines for how to perform HIT:

  • Pick a challenging weight. As noted, the weight should start at a challenging level and ultimately become impossible to move (when reaching complete fatigue, or “Muscle Success”). On a difficulty scale of 1-10 (1 = easy and 10 = extremely difficult), the weight should start in the 6-8 range.
  • Move in a slow and controlled manner. During each repetition, lift the weight in several seconds and lower the weight in several seconds. Move like a car on cruise control, with a constant speed and no acceleration.
  • Breathe freely. Breathe through your mouth several times on both the lifting phrase and the lowering phase of each repetition. As your muscles become fatigued and you near the end, breathe more frequently (instead of holding your breath).
  • Move quickly between exercises. After performing one set of an exercise to complete fatigue, move quickly to the next exercise. The hustle between exercises raises your heart rate while providing more health and fitness benefits.

 

What Muscles Am I Working?

Have you ever done an exercise and did not have a clue which part of the body you were working? Or maybe you’ve done an exercise to target your glutes, but felt it in your low back instead.

It’s important to know what areas of the body you’re working and how to target them. Here are some of our tips.

Most weight machines have a “cheat sheet” on the machine itself, showing you the target muscle group on that exercise. To answer the age-old question, “What muscle am I working?” Here is a comprehensive cheat sheet for you!

 

Updated Corresponding Exercises Chart

 

If you’re questioning whether or not you’re doing an exercise correctly, or you feel like you might not be, here are some additional tips:

  1. Know which muscle(s) you are working prior to doing an exercise. Use the cheat sheet above if needed.
  2. Practice the movement of the exercise before adding resistance while thinking about the targeted muscle. This will help strengthen your muscle-mind connection.
    Example: Bicep curls – practice the curling motion and intentionally squeeze the biceps throughout the range of motion.
  3. Once you feel like you can engage the correct muscle(s), perform the exercise with the appropriate resistance.

 

What Muscles Am I Working?

Strength training is safe and fits various fitness levels. HIT is an especially appealing option, being that it’s efficient, effective, and safe. If HIT is an appealing option to you, use the guidelines in the previous section.

A typical HIT workout includes 7-10 exercises and trains all major muscle groups: back, chest, shoulders, glutes, and thighs. Below are a few examples of HIT workouts:

 

Examples of HIT Workouts

 

Traditionally, free weights are the go-to tool to maximize strength and muscle growth. But are they proven to be the most effective equipment for reaching these goals? The research isn’t clear.

One study found that the barbell bench press and its machine equivalent, the chest press, were equally effective in activating the muscle fibers in the chest, shoulders, and triceps (McCaw & Friday, 1994).

However, a study comparing a barbell squat with a leg press (on a leg press machine) showed that the squat was more effective for activating muscle fibers in the quadriceps and hamstrings (Escamilla et al., 2001), indicating that the squats might be more effective for producing muscle growth over time.

A recent study dove further into the question of which is best for muscle growth and strength (Schwanbeck et al., 2020). Men and women trained 2-3 times per week with either the free weight or machine version of the same basic movements.

At the end, the researchers measured both groups’ progress. Which type of equipment led to better “gains?” Neither. The free weight and machine groups had similar increases in both strength and muscle size.

Summary

We probably didn’t need to tell you that, yes, you should be doing strength training of some sort. Hopefully, we’ve given you some tools (and a boost of confidence) to add HIT exercise into your routine – or even substitute it for less efficient methods.

Strength training is extremely safe when performed properly. Prioritize form, intensity, and controlled speeds to get the most effective workout.

It’s never too late and you’re never too old to get started with strength training. Check out one of our members in her 80s!

Although you can absolutely train on your own, working with a Personal Trainer has tremendous value. A Trainer’s supervision leads to more effective workouts. It helps us stick with a fitness program, and greatly increases the chances that we’ll reach our health and fitness goals.

To learn more about working with a Trainer at The Perfect Workout, start by finding a studio near you today.

References

  • Faigenbaum, A. D., Kraemer, W. J., Blimkie, C. J., Jeffreys, I., Micheli, L. J., Nitka, M., & Rowland, T. W. (2009). Youth resistance training: updated position statement paper from the national strength and conditioning association. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23, S60-S79.
  • Gray, S.E. & Finch, C.F. (2015). Epidemiology of hospital-treated injuries sustained by fitness participants. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 86, 81-87.
  • Kryger, A. I., & Andersen, J. L. (2007). Resistance training in the oldest old: consequences for muscle strength, fiber types, fiber size, and MHC isoforms. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 17(4), 422-430.
  • Maestroni, L., Read, P., Bishop, C., Papadopoulos, K., Suchomel, T. J., Comfort, P., & Turner, A. (2020). The benefits of strength training on musculoskeletal system health: practical applications for interdisciplinary care. Sports Medicine, 1-20.
  • Waller, M., Miller, J., & Hannon, J. (2011). Resistance circuit training: Its application for the adult population. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 33(1), 16-22.

To speak with a Personal Trainer about exercise, nutrition or any help with lifestyle adjustments please call us at (888) 803-6813.

 

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